Originally posted on bbrfoundation.org
By Samuel T. Wilkinson, M.D.
Yale University School of Medicine

  • Story highlights – The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation reports that a single dose of intravenous ketamine reduces suicidal thoughts within one day of treatment, based on data from 10 studies, and the drug’s beneficial effects on suicidal thoughts generally last for at least one week after treatment.

Samuel T Wilkinson, M.D., Yale School of Medicine, lead a team of researchers as they collected and analyzed date from past studies to better understand ketamine’s acute effects on patients with significant suicidal thoughts. The research team included physicians from Yale University, Baylor College of Medicine, and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

“The team found that both suicidal thoughts and overall depression were relieved significantly by ketamine; more than half were free of suicidal thoughts within 24 hours of their treatment. These benefits persisted for up to a week—the latest time point considered in the analysis.”

10 studies with participants who had been diagnosed with a range of psychiatric conditions, including major depression, were included in the meta-study. Of these psychiatric conditions Dr Wilkinson, and his colleagues, focused their analysis on study participants who reported suicidal thoughts at the time of their trial and ketamine’s effects upon both their suicidal thoughts and the scores on standard clinical depression scales. The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation article states, “The team found that both suicidal thoughts and overall depression were relieved significantly by ketamine; more than half were free of suicidal thoughts within 24 hours of their treatment. These benefits persisted for up to a week—the latest time point considered in the analysis.”

The research team found those participants whose depression was most reduced by ketamine also experienced the greatest reduction in suicidal thoughts. However, they also found ketamine’s effects on suicidal thoughts were significant even after controlling for changes in depression. This means those with the greatest reduction in depression also experienced the greatest reduction in suicidal thoughts, but those with less severe depression also demonstrated a significant reduction in suicidal thoughts. It was a very encouraging finding.

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