Thursday, August 10, 2006

faster treatment of depression

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The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the National Institute of Mental Health has made progress on an exciting development in the treatment of depression:

Injection May Treat Depression Much Faster

Instead of the weeks or even months it can take for currently available depression medications to have an impact, researchers have found that an injection of ketamine can treat the symptoms of depression within hours.

In the study, 18 patients were injected with a drug called ketamine, which has been used for a long time as an anesthetic. Patients briefly experienced a well-known side effect of the drug -- a mild feeling of dissociation, where they felt disconnected or found it difficult to put thoughts into words.

Ketamine is a controlled substance and can produce mild euphoria.

But the dissociative symptoms disappeared within a couple of hours, and shortly afterward patients and physicians reported a dramatic improvement in mood. Half the patients had a 50 percent decline in depression symptoms after two hours, and by the end of the first day, 71 percent reported a similar improvement. More than a third continued to report such a benefit after seven days, and nearly a third reported a complete end of symptoms. Conventional antidepressants approach those kinds of numbers only after eight to 10 weeks of treatment.

Ketamine has been used as an anesthetic and is commonly referred to by the name Special K when used recreationally.

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