For some of us, it seems as though we have literally tried everything and the list is long Prozac, Zoloft. We try the well-known medications and then we begin to try the harder stuff. Yet nothing quenches that darkness, nothing eliminates the numbness to life that we feel.
13% of Americans were on antidepressants in America, at last count. The revue for antidepressants globally is projected to grow to nearly $17 million by 2020. Of the nearly 6.7 million people affected in the United States, about 30% do not respond adequately to the basic treatments available.
In the past scientists studied a new idea in the first place, depleted levels of the brain’s neurotransmitters, namely noerepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. were responsible for depression.
The largest and longest studied on treatments to end depression and quality of life, called STAR*D found that 70% went into remission. It ended at a place where 3 out of 10 people were stuck in the land of depression.
The newest kid on the block to try and treat treatment resistant depression is a club drug known as Special K. or it’s proper name ketamine. It is best known as a psychedelic drug. Now many experts and drug companies are in a race to produce a new drug with ketamine hydrochloride, the only legal psychedelic drug legally available in the United States.
“Ketamine, interestingly enough, has shown promise in putting an end to suicidal thoughts” says Cristina Cusin, a clinician and researcher who runs the ketamine clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital.
In 2017, a task force made up clinicians formed the American Psychiatric Association (APA) concluded in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry that ketamine wasn’t ready to be a widely-used medication for treatment resistance depression.
“I think it is the most exciting treatment to come around for mood disorders, probably in the last 50 years,” says Sanacora, who worked on the APA statement. “But the reality is , there is still a lot we don’t know about the treatment.”
Janssen, part of the mega corporation Johnson & Johnson, has created a new drug called ketamine called esktamine which has already been patented. The medication would be given as a nasal spray. The FDA is excited about esketamine and has called it a “breakthrough therapy,” which means it can get through the typically lengthy process and get to the people who need it faster.
Allegren is also in on the ketamine drug race. Their new drug is called Rastinel which is an intravenous medication. It acts on the same receptors as ketamine and it is simply a 30 second stick. It doesn’t seem to cause the hallucinogenic effects.
Ketamine or “Special K” seems like a promising, though expensive, treatment for depression. Unfortunately insurance will not cover the drug or procedure. Currently each treatment is $400 – $800, making it an impossible mission for some. Ma.ybe after some time and success the price will come down. But if you are like me, you know how the system works.
I there were a cure for those of us with treatment resistant depression, but it is always dark or the numbness seems to go on forever. Maybe ketamine will be that light at the end of our tunnel.