Severe depression and bipolar disorder can be very difficult to treat. A new study suggests that an intravenous anesthetic may be surprisingly effective for relieving both conditions. Ketalar, known generically as ketamine, has been available since 1962. It Is a potent pain reliever and anesthetic used during surgery.
In this small investigation, 18 patients with bipolar disorder that had not responded to the usual treatment of lithium or valproate were given an injection of either ketamine or placebo. Within 40 minutes, the subjects who received ketamine noted significant improvement in their symptoms. Over the course of the study, almost three fourths got benefit from ketamine. Only 6 percent reported any improvement on placebo. The response was so rapid it was hard to ignore. Future research will address ways to maintain the benefit.
[Archives of General Psychiatry, August, 2010]