There’s a new anti-depressant treatment now available: Spravato. It’s related to Ketamine, and if it sounds familiar, there’s good reason for it: It’s biologically related to the party drug “Special K.”
Obviously there are major differences. This drug is a nasal spray and actually given in doctors offices – in other words, you won’t be taking this one home and having it in the morning like a standard anti-depressant. That is because, per this Vox article:
….because it can sedate patients and bring on out-of-body experiences, the FDA is only making it available through certified clinics, where patients are to be monitored for at least two hours after taking the drug.
This drug is meant for “treatment-resistant depression” – meaning those who have tried at least two other major depressant treatments and not had their depression ameliorated.
Operators of these clinics – no surprise – were overwhelmingly supportive of the FDA approval. From a USA Today article:
“This is an enormous deal in terms of access to care,” Levine said. “And the degree of advancement can’t be overstated. This is truly the best new option in over 60 years. And more will be coming down the pike.”
Treatment doesn’t work like standard medication. The same USA Today article told the story of Jonathan Herbst, who credited the drug with saving his life:
A financial services manager in Philadelphia, he began ketamine treatments in August – five or six treatments in the first two weeks, then one maintenance treatment every three or four weeks.
Are there side effects? You bet, and they sounds like a very fun time! They include: feeling disconnected from mind and body, dizziness, nausea, sedation, vertigo, decreased feeling or sensitivity, anxiety, lethargy, increased blood pressure, vomiting, and feeling drunk. Additionally:
The FDA warned that esketamine distribution will be tightly controlled due to the potential for abuse, suicidal thoughts and sedation along with possible problems with attention, judgment and thinking.
It’s also worth noting that this drug’s approval did not come without real controversy over its effectiveness. This drug was approved after four clinical trials – three of which lasted only four weeks – and two of those short-term studies “did not meet the pre-specified statistical tests for demonstrating effectiveness.”
What do I think? I honestly have no idea. As usual: I’m not a Doctor. Go talk to your Doctor if you are interested. All I’m trying to do here is update my readers about this new drug. If you have treatment-resistant depression (high five, fellow sad people!), it is certainly worth exploring this option. Just be aware, however, that it’s still a relatively new drug with real side effects and some questions about its effectiveness. At the same time, however, there is clearly enough evidence to warrant its approval by the FDA, and there are absolutely people who credit this drug with making major improvements to their life.
And, as always: If you’ve had any experience with ketamine (good or bad!) or any thoughts to share, please write them in the comments below!