The death is not a subject which people love to talk, especially when the topic is suicide. It is a tragic event and carries with it several debates regarding the person taking their own life.
The suicide affects not only the life of the person who take life, but also of the whole family and friends around you. And what may be surprising is that the cases that are successful are low. It is estimated that there are 25 attempts until the person manages to end his life.
This is a major threat to public health. In recent years, suicide rates have worsened in the US. And tragically, it is a phenomenon that is accelerating even among children.
However, there are reasons to be hopeful. And one of them comes from a very unlikely side. Ketamine, which is an anesthetic discovered in the 1950s, for many may just be a tranquilizer for horses or an illicit party drug. However, this powerful chemical can do much more.
According to a new study, oral doses of ketamine can dramatically decrease the idea of suicide in patients who have chronic suicidal thoughts. That was the latest finding in a series of experiments that forced researchers to re-evaluate the drug.
Ketamine’s reputation has had a reshaping in recent years thanks to these new scientific discoveries about the positive effects it can have on people with mental health problems.
According to several studies, ketamine appears to be able to treat severe depression and other conditions. And while the mechanisms behind these effects are still being studied, the FDA approved a ketamine-based nasal spray for depression in 2019.
The researchers also found that this substance also significantly and quickly decreases suicidal ideation in people who have these thoughts. Something that traditional antidepressants often cannot do, or it takes weeks to take effect.
However, researchers still don’t know much about the effectiveness of ketamine in decreasing suicidal thoughts.
“An oral form of ketamine that can be administered easily and potentially more often. It is an attractive option for the treatment of suicidal ideation. However, few studies have explored the feasibility of low-dose oral ketamine in the treatment of suicide,” wrote researchers from the University of Costa do Sol (USC) in Australia in their study.
To try to fill this knowledge gap, a team led by USC psychiatrist Adem Can conducted a study of 32 adult patients who received mild sub-anesthetic doses of oral ketamine over a six-week period. The dose was given mixed with orange juice and increased throughout the experiment.
All participants had what is known as chronic suicide, which is a level of suicidal thinking that stays in the mind for a period of time. But that doesn’t come with an acute or extreme risk.
“On average, patients experienced a significant reduction in suicidal ideation, from a high level before the trial to below the clinical threshold in the sixth week of the trial. In medicine, this response rate is significant, especially as it has been experienced by patients with chronic suicide, which can be difficult to treat,” said Can.
As much as researchers know that much remains to be learned about the impact ketamine has on suicidal behavior, the findings show important new trends.
“To our knowledge, this study is the first to explore the feasibility, safety and tolerability of oral ketamine in cases of chronic suicide in patients who have had a variety of psychiatric conditions, including mood, anxiety and personality disorders. Overall, oral ketamine led to significant short-term and prolonged improvements in suicidal ideation, affective symptoms, well-being and socio-occupational functioning in this sample of adults with a history of chronic suicide and major depressive disorder,” the authors concluded.