Ketamine May Be Effective in Major Depression

HealthDay News — Low doses of ketamine may quickly reduce suicidal thoughts in patients with treatment-resistant depression, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

All of the study volunteers were being treated for major depressive disorder with current, stable (at least 3 months) suicidal thoughts. Eleven of the 14 volunteers were female, and their mean age was 50 years. Two weekly intravenous infusions of ketamine were given over 3 weeks. After initial treatment, the dose was increased. Patients were checked before, during, and after treatment, and every other week during 3 months of follow-up.

The researchers found that of the 7 patients who stopped having suicidal thoughts, 2 continued to be free of both thoughts of suicide and symptoms of depression during the 3-month follow-up. No serious side effects from the drug were seen. Two patients dropped out of the study. One dropped out because of the drug’s side effects, and the other had a scheduling conflict.

“In this preliminary study, repeated doses of open-label ketamine rapidly and robustly decreased suicidal ideation in pharmacologically treated outpatients with treatment-resistant depression with stable suicidal thoughts,” the authors conclude.


Ionescu D, Swee M, Pavone K et al. Rapid and Sustained Reductions in Current Suicidal Ideation Following Repeated Doses of Intravenous Ketamine. J Clin Psychiatry. 2016. doi:10.4088/jcp.15m10056.