A recent study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry by researchers at National Institute of Mental Health showed that the medication Ketamine, given intravenously to a small group of people with bipolar depression, caused a rapid antidepressant response in a high percentage of those patients. Their responses were much better than patients given a placebo IV solution.

The purpose of this study was to look at a specific type of neurotransmitter – glutamate – that is different than any of the transmitters that our current medications target. The question being asked was whether targeting these particular receptors might provide more rapid relief of depressive symptoms specifically in people with bipolar depression. There have been several previous studies showing a rapid, strong antidepressant response to IV-administered Ketamine in people with depression, but this is the first study to look at these receptors in bipolar depression specifically.

The benefits from the Ketamine lasted an average of 6.8 days, and while one patient on Ketamine became manic, so did one patient on placebo. The side effects included some initial periods of dissociation and changes in perception – these effects were brief, and not everyone experienced them.

Ketamine is used recreationally (as the club drug known as Special K) to get these perceptual and dissociative feelings. This is not discussed in the study but is something to be considered if Ketamine is going to be further evaluated as a potential treatment for depression.

The study is valuable because it adds something to our understanding of the neurochemistry of bipolar disorder and possible new treatment approaches. This study isn’t suggesting that intravenous Ketamine be used in a clinical setting to treat bipolar depression, but it is expanding our knowledge of ways to treat it – and in particular – possibly ways to treat depression much more quickly than we do with our currently available medications. There is a lot of active research on the glutamate system and it is likely to be the next big wave of new interventions for depression.



View Comments / Leave a Comment

This post currently has 4 comments.
You can read the comments or leave your own thoughts.


From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (August 19, 2010)

From Psych Central's World of Psychology:
Best of Our Blogs: August 20, 2010 | World of Psychology (August 20, 2010)

From Psych Central's website:
FEAR of Heights and Arachnophobia [NEW Cartoon] | Mental Health Humor (August 23, 2010)

From Psych Central's Dr. Candida Fink & Joe Kraynak:
Scopolamine Effectiveness in Treating Bipolar Depression | Bipolar Beat (December 9, 2010)

    Last reviewed: 19 Aug 2010

APA Reference
Fink, C. (2010). Ketamine for Treatment-Resistant Bipolar Depression?. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/bipolar/2010/08/ketamine-bipolar-depression/


Bipolar Beat

Subscribe to this Blog:



Candida Fink, M.D. and Joe Kraynak are authors of
Bipolar Disorder for Dummies.

Best of the Web - Blog 2008

Subscribe to this Blog: Feed

Recent Comments
  • bipolarbear: I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder about 2 years ago. I’ve been overweight/obese my whole life,...
  • Grace: I have been taking propranolol (beta blocker) for performance/social anxiety for nearly 5 years. My anxiety...
  • Ellie: Help! I am Ellie, a treated and healthy Bipolar female, 36, frustrated over the lack of resources for someone...
  • Ellie: A hopeful story Lee is an incredible person with the biggest heart of any human I know. He and I met at a post...
  • Lil: so confused now
Find a Therapist
Enter ZIP or postal code

Users Online: 12240
Join Us Now!