A Test of Ketamine in Adolescents With Resistant Depression

A Test of Ketamine in Adolescents With Resistant Depression

Posted: September 17, 2018
A Test of Ketamine in Adolescents With Resistant Depression

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A small study suggests intravenous ketamine could be effective and safe in some teens with treatment-resistant depression.


A small study of intravenous ketamine treatment for adolescents with treatment-resistant depression indicates that the drug may be an effective treatment for at least some teens, according to a new study.

The research published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology also suggests that it will be important to work out the exact dosage of intravenous ketamine in this population of patients, if further studies confirm that the treatment regimen is useful and safe.

Ketamine has been studied as a fast-acting antidepressant drug in adults with treatment-resistant depression and suicidal behaviors, but there has been little information on how the drug might act in adolescents. To address this, a research team led by Kathryn R. Cullen, M.D., a 2009 BBRF Young Investigator at the University of Minnesota, studied intravenous ketamine treatments in 13 adolescents with depression who had failed to respond to two previous antidepressant treatments.

The study participants received six doses of the drug given over 2 weeks, with a 6-week follow-up period for those who responded to the infusions. Five of the patients had their depression symptoms decrease to a level that indicates a clinical response to the drug, and three of these patients were considered in remission after the treatment. In general, the drug was well-tolerated, with only passing symptoms of dissociation (a sense of detachment from reality) and changes in blood pressure among the patients.

Dr. Cullen and her colleagues did note that higher doses of ketamine appear to be more beneficial, but they caution that more work is needed to learn what the optimal dose would be for teens.

The research team included Scientific Council Member Kelvin O. Lim, M.D., a 1999 BBRF Independent Investigator and 1989 Young Investigator at the University of Minnesota, and Susannah J. Tye, Ph.D., a 2009 BBRF Young Investigator at Mayo Clinic.

If you found this article interesting, you may find this Meet the Scientist Webinar interesting: Ketamine: Why Now? How? Where Do We Go from Here?