Scientists find who will respond best to ketamine for severe depression

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In a study from the Baylor College of Medicine, scientists found a way to determine who will respond best to ketamine for severe depression.

While most patients did benefit from the drug, about one-third experienced a “rapid improvement” in their depression symptoms.

The team found that severely depressed people with a history of childhood trauma may have a better likelihood of a rapid and robust response to ketamine.

Ketamine has been seen as a wonder drug for some folks with hard-to-treat depression.

In 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a ketamine derivative called esketamine (Spravato) for depression that has failed to respond to at least two conventional antidepressants.

Given as a nasal spray, esketamine is different from ketamine, which is an injectable anesthetic that can have mind-altering effects.

In the current study, researchers tested nearly 300 people with major depression who were treated with three infusions of ketamine. Participants were 40 years old, on average, and most were men.

They had not responded to at least two antidepressants in the past. Mood changes were measured using a standardized depression scale over six clinic visits.

Among the study group, three distinct patterns of response to ketamine were found.

One group was severely depressed before treatment but experienced a rapid and significant symptom improvement.

A second severely depressed group received a minimal benefit, and the third group—which was less depressed than the other two before treatment—experienced a more gradual improvement in depression symptoms.

People with severe depression who reported a history of childhood abuse and trauma were among the most likely to respond quickly and robustly to ketamine.

The team says how past trauma affects the response to ketamine isn’t fully understood, but sensitization may play a role. Sensitization occurs when a person is exposed to a stimulus and grows more sensitive to it over time.

Ketamine may work well for some depressed individuals because the drug blocks the effects of sensitization. Ketamine may work as a barrier to prevent whatever stimulus is triggering the depression from having its effects.

Numerous studies have shown that ketamine infusions delivered in controlled environments by medical professionals are safe and not addictive.

If you care about depression, please read studies that vegetarian diet may increase your depression risk, and Vitamin D could help reduce depression symptoms.

For more information about mental health, please see the recent study about the key to depression recovery, and the MIND diet could improve cognitive health in older people.

The study was conducted by Brittany O’Brien et al and published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

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