This depression drug could reduce PTSD symptoms rapidly and persistently

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In a new study, researchers found that repeated intravenous (IV) ketamine infusions strongly reduce symptom severity in people with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The improvement is rapid and maintained for several weeks afterward.

The study is the first trial of repeated ketamine administration for chronic PTSD and suggests this may be a promising treatment for PTSD patients.

The research was conducted by a team from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

First approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as an anesthetic agent in 1970, ketamine acts as an antagonist of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NDMA) receptor, an ionotropic glutamate receptor in the brain.

In contrast, widely used antidepressants target different neurotransmitters—serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine—and can take weeks to even months to work.

These drugs are considered ineffective in at least one-third of cases, and only partially effective in an additional third.

In the study, participants were assigned to receive six infusions of ketamine, administered three times per week over two consecutive weeks, compared to six infusions of the psychoactive placebo.

People in this study had severe and chronic PTSD from civilian or military trauma, with a duration of 14 years and nearly half of the sample taking concomitant psychotropic medications.

The team found more participants in the ketamine group (67%) attained at least 30% or more reduction in symptoms at week two than those in the control group (20%).

Furthermore, ketamine infusions were linked to marked improvements across three of the four PTSD symptom clusters—intrusions, avoidance, and negative alterations in cognitions and mood.

In the subsample of ketamine responders, improvement in PTSD symptoms was rapid, observed 24 hours after the first infusion, and was maintained for a median of 27.5 days following the primary outcome assessment day.

In addition to PTSD symptom improvement, the ketamine group showed a greater reduction in comorbid depressive symptoms, which is notable given the high comorbidity of depression in individuals with PTSD.

These findings further suggested that repeated ketamine infusions are safe and generally well-tolerated in individuals with chronic PTSD.

The team wants people suffering from PTSD to know that hope is on the horizon and they are working diligently to collect the information that will help bring them the relief they desperately need.

One author of the study is Adriana Feder, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry.

The study is published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

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