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Health Beat: Ketamine works on treatment-resistant depression | Health Beat

Health Beat: Ketamine works on treatment-resistant depression | Health Beat

HOUSTON, Tx. – Treatment-resistant depression affects 15 percent of Americans.

“What depression has left for them is the feeling of being stuck,” said Dr. Sanjay Mathew, vice chair of research at Baylor College of Medicine.

Traditional anti-depressant meds just don’t work, even after several rounds.

“Treatment-resistant depression signifies when a patient has not responded optimally to at least two conventional treatments,” explained Dr. Mathew. 

At that point, experts say patients may undergo electroconvulsive therapy.

“The brain’s seizure and the brain’s response to having that seizure is what is therapeutic. One of the challenges with ECT is, it is often associated with memory loss,” said Dr. Mathew.

But this study at Baylor College of Medicine tested a viable alternative to ECT: intravenous ketamine, a common anesthetic drug. Some of the 400 participants with major depressive disorder received several infusions over three weeks.

“The overall results suggested ketamine had a slightly elevated rate of response compared to ECT. It means that patients improved in their depression scores of about 50 percent,” Dr. Mathew further explained.  

Motivating them to live life again.

“We had one patient who reported that they want to finally sort through their laundry and sort through the mail that had been stacking up in their apartment,” Dr. Mathew expressed.

Dr. Mathew says depression still presents a challenge to physicians because there is not a complete understanding of its full biology.

Major depression remains a diagnosis, based on symptoms.