According to a report from Yale University, Yale researchers have discovered how a novel anti-depressant can take effect in hours, rather than the weeks or months usually required for most drugs currently on the market. The findings should speed development of a safe and easy-to-administer form of the anti-depressant ketamine, which has already proven remarkably effective in treating severely depressed patients.
The Yale scientists found that ketamine in rats not only quickly improves depression-like behaviors but actually restores connections between brain cells damaged by chronic stress.
“It’s like a magic drug—one dose can work rapidly and last for seven to 10 days,” said Ronald Duman, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at Yale and senior author of the study.
Ketamine traditionally has been used as a general anesthetic for children, but a decade ago researchers at the Connecticut Mental Health Center found that, in lower doses, the drug seemed to give patients relief from depression, Duman said.
An estimated 40 percent of people suffering depression do not respond to medication. And many others only respond after many months or years of trying different treatments. The authors of the research note that ketamine also has been tested as a means to rapidly treat people with suicidal thoughts, a benefit usually not seen until weeks of treatment with traditional antidepressants.