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Ketamine reduces suicidality in depressed patients

Drug treatment options for depression can take weeks for the beneficial effects to emerge, which is clearly inadequate for those at immediate risk of suicide. However, intravenous (IV) ketamine, a drug previously used as an anesthetic, has shown rapid antidepressant effects in early trials.

Researchers have now explored ketamine's effects on suicidality in patients with treatment-resistant depression, and are publishing their results in the September 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry.

Ketamine acutely reduced suicidal thoughts when patients were assessed 24 hours after a single infusion. This reduction in suicidality was maintained when patients received repeated doses over the next two weeks.

Corresponding author Rebecca Price commented on these encouraging findings: "If these findings hold up in larger samples of high-risk suicidal patients, IV ketamine could prove an attractive treatment option in situations where waiting for a conventional antidepressant treatment to take effect might endanger the patient's life."

Since this was a preliminary study in a small group of depressed patients, further research is needed to replicate these results. However, the findings are promising and could result in improved treatment for suicidal patients in the future.

Notes to Editors:

The article is "Effects of Intravenous Ketamine on Explicit and Implicit Measures of Suicidality in Treatment-Resistant Depression" by Rebecca B. Price, Matthew K. Nock, Dennis S. Charney, and Sanjay J. Mathew. Price, Charney, and Mathew are affiliated with the Department of Psychiatry, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York. Charney is also with the Departments of Neuroscience, and Pharmacology & Systems Therapeutics, also at Mount Sinai. Price is also from the Department of Psychology, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey. Nock is affiliated with the Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. The article appears in Biological Psychiatry, Volume 65, Issue 5 (September 1, 2009), published by Elsevier.

The authors' disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available in the article.

John H. Krystal, M.D. is Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine and a research psychiatrist at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. His disclosures of financial and conflicts of interests are available at

Full text of the article mentioned above is available upon request. Contact Jayne M. Dawkins at to obtain a copy or to schedule an interview.

About Biological Psychiatry

This international rapid-publication journal is the official journal of the Society of Biological Psychiatry. It covers a broad range of topics in psychiatric neuroscience and therapeutics. Both basic and clinical contributions are encouraged from all disciplines and research areas relevant to the pathophysiology and treatment of major neuropsychiatric disorders. Full-length and Brief Reports of novel results, Commentaries, Case Studies of unusual significance, and Correspondence and Comments judged to be of high impact to the field are published, particularly those addressing genetic and environmental risk factors, neural circuitry and neurochemistry, and important new therapeutic approaches. Concise Reviews and Editorials that focus on topics of current research and interest are also published rapidly.

Biological Psychiatry ( is ranked 4th out of the 101 Psychiatry titles and 14th out of 219 Neurosciences titles on the 2008 ISI Journal Citations Reports® published by Thomson Scientific.

About Elsevier

Elsevier is a world-leading publisher of scientific, technical and medical information products and services. The company works in partnership with the global science and health communities to publish more than 2,000 journals, including the Lancet ( and Cell (, and close to 20,000 book titles, including major reference works from Mosby and Saunders. Elsevier's online solutions include ScienceDirect (, Scopus (, Reaxys (, MD Consult ( and Nursing Consult (, which enhance the productivity of science and health professionals, and the SciVal suite ( and MEDai's Pinpoint Review (, which help research and health care institutions deliver better outcomes more cost-effectively.

A global business headquartered in Amsterdam, Elsevier ( employs 7,000 people worldwide. The company is part of Reed Elsevier Group PLC (, a world-leading publisher and information provider. The ticker symbols are REN (Euronext Amsterdam), REL (London Stock Exchange), RUK and ENL (New York Stock Exchange).

Jayne Dawkins | EurekAlert!
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