More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
A Better Drug for Depression on the Way?
by Lynne Taetzsch
Friday, October 20th, 2006

While full-blown manic episodes are what some of us fear most, many of us with bipolar disorder suffer more from long-term depression and rarely experience mania or even hypomania. Several members of my bipolar support group have suffered all their lives with long bouts of depression, and have found little relief from available medication. I, too, have always found the depressions much more debilitating than the hypomania.

The only times I ever tried to get help were during deep depressions. That?s how I was first diagnosed as bipolar in my late forties, even though I had had the symptoms since I was a teenager. I remember telling my mother I needed a psychiatrist because I had chronic insomnia and thought of suicide all the time. Her response was to make me a cup of tea and tell me I?d feel better soon. We were poor and could barely afford a dentist no less a psychiatrist.

When I was young, I self-medicated with alcohol, illegal drugs, and other forms of stimulation. I did everything I could to jog myself into hypomania and out of the depression. When I was finally given a mood stabilizer and an anti-depressant for my bipolar disorder, it took a long time for the anti-depressants to work.

This summer the National Institute of Mental Health reported that a recent study of an experimental medication, ketamine, offered symptom relief to people with treatment-resistant depression in ?as little as two hours with a single intravenous dose.? This is pretty amazing, since most anti-depressants take weeks or months before they have any effect.

Ketamine itself will probably not be developed for use in treating depression because of its potential side effects at higher doses. But the good news is, ketamine works on our brains in a very different manner than current anti-depressants do. This means that other, safer drugs can be developed to do what ketamine does.

I?ve been fairly stable without medication these past few years, but I know that that could change at any time. It?s heartening to know that a better cure for depression might be developed soon.


It may sound hopeful however the article that I was reading states that the effect only lasted for approximately 1 week. I would have to wonder what kind of possible effects it could have on a person if they needed an injection each week of Ketamine considering what I have read about it. I guess that is why they are calling it experiemental medication.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
Yes, I don't think the point of the article is that ketamine is a miracle cure. It's more that if they can get faster results with a drug like ketamine, they can explore how it manages to do what it does and use that to develop faster or more effective antidepressants.

There was a similar article recently regarding antipsychotic medications. One of the troublesome side-effects of those medications can be excessive weight gain. What the study showed was that this seemed to be related to the way such medications stimulate or trigger the histamine system. What's exciting about that finding is it opens the door to further research which may target medications which do NOT trigger the histamine system.

It's all a process, an evolution. Every little piece of the puzzle leads us closer to better treatments - or perhaps one day a real cure.

A few years back, I had an outbreak of the viral illness shingles which was treated with an antiviral medication. What struck me about that was the fact that 20 or 30 years ago, there were no antiviral medications. We had antibiotics but if you got a virus there wasn't a whole lot anyone could do about other than treat the immediate symptoms. In a sense, it was really the emergence of HIV/AIDS and the research into trying to development treatments for that that gave rise to the drugs we now have that attack viruses.
i certainly didn't interpret it as a miracle cure, but as you say, as a lead that can help develop future, more effective drugs. some day hopefully no one will have to suffer with depression as people have to now.
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