Depression is a serious mental health condition that many people live with every day. It can have a number of symptoms. Treatment is essential to help keep a positive attitude and to have a healthy life. For the most part, depression drugs have been the same for decades.
Just a couple of months ago the FDA approved the release of a new drug, esketamine. More patients are suffering from treatment-resistant depression, meaning existing treatments are not effective. To help these patients, the FDA worked with the drug company to expedite the release of esketamine.
Those that received esketamine during clinical testing saw far better results. 70% of those involved in the study with treatment-resistant depression saw improvement. Those on the placebo who saw improvement was not much over 50%.
Esketamine is given as an internasal drug and comes from ketamine. Ketamine is normally used as an anesthetic. When people noticed it had a positive effect as an anti-depressant, people started to jump on it right away.
Most depression treatments work by taking regular medication to keep the chemicals in your body. If the medication isn’t in your system, you experience symptoms again. Treatment-resistant depression does not experience benefits when medications are administered to the body.
Ketamine works differently though. The simple fact that ketamine is in the body isn’t what makes it work. Instead, ketamine triggers growth in brain connections. Your brain actually starts to grow new connections in the cortex when the ketamine is there. These connections stay after the ketamine leaves your system.
Yale is responsible for discovering the major benefit of ketamine. When they were studying ketamine, they realized it triggered the production of glutamate. This chemical is what is responsible for the brain building new neural connections. While it may sound simple, this happens as a series of events.
Those who suffer from treatment-resistant depression often have a problem with the system in their brains that produces glutamatergic. That problem was what allowed Yale researchers to connect ketamine and depression.
The team at Yale has been spending decades working on Ketamine and its uses for depression. For now, doses of eskatamine have to be administered at a clinic. During the study, researchers administered ketamine to those who were having trouble treating their depression. What the studies saw was impressive. Some patients started to see marked improvements in a day.
An important note to using ketamine to treat depression is that it isn’t to be used alone. Eskatemine is designed to be used as part of a treatment plan. Psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy is required along with ketamine in order to help patients learn to develop positive behavior. It also needs to be combined with an oral antidepressant. So far, studies have shown that is the only way for it to be effective.
Esketamine is very similar to the ketamine that is used for surgery. It is a version of the same molecule but it is designed to bond with the glutamate receptors. This design makes it far more effective at treating depression. A higher effectiveness allows patients to receive lower doses.
Lower doses is important as ketamine has been abused for years a club drug. You may have heard it referred to as Special K. This is part of the reason that you can only get it from a clinic.
So far esketamine does have side effects. Those include:
- High blood pressure
- Disconnection from reality
The drug is still relatively new and there is always the chance that more side effects will appear.
Esketamine is not and will not be a first treatment option for people with depression. Because of its strength and abuse, the drug is primarily prescribed to those who have moderate or severe depression. Further, they must have tried at least two other prescriptions with no effect.
While not a miracle cure for depression, the development of esketamine is a big step forward for those who suffer from depression. Especially those who have not had luck with other treatments. That means people can have hope to live happier lives and doctors can have a new tool in their belts. Keep in mind though that due to the nature of ketamine it is a last resort treatment option.