(08/29/13) - A new study finds that, contrary to common belief, men are just as
likely to suffer depression as women. But, a surprising source may bring relief
to thousands of sufferers.
In hospitals, it's a commonly used anesthetic. In the clubs, ketamine is known as "Special K", a popular hallucinogenic drug. But what might make ketamine truly "special" for millions of people, is its potential to, quickly and effectively, treat chronic depression.
"It has been one of the major new findings in the field for at least a few decades," says Dr. Gerard Sancora, a Yale researcher.
Unlike standard anti-depressants, which can take weeks or months to work, Dr. Ron Duman says ketamine can improve mood in hours, "by reconnecting brain regions and allowing proper control of mood and emotion."
That appears to be the case, even for treatment-resistant patients. However, researchers are still figuring out how to safely administer ketamine as a routine treatment.
"It's not strongly addictive, but does have high abuse potential," Duman says.
While ketamine is currently not FDA approved for depression, a growing number of private clinics across the country are offering it "off label."
That has Dr. Sanacora concerned. "There are several very important questions that we still don't know about ketamine and probably the most important is what is the long term benefit? Is repeating dosing of this actually a good idea?"
His advice - talk to your doctor.
The ketamine infusions can cost thousands of dollars, and are typically not covered by insurance.
Right now, one in 10 adults suffers depression, and a study in today's Journal of the American Medical Association's Psychiatry, finds men are at just as much risk as women.
Women traditionally have been diagnosed with depression about twice as often as men, but U of M researchers say that may be because doctors have not been asking men the right questions.
While women may show their depression through symptoms such as crying or trouble sleeping, depression in men may come out as anger, aggression, substance abuse or other high risk behaviors.
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