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Bipolar Depression

A Single Dose of Ketamine Erases Bipolar Depression within Minutes

posted 10:13 AM EST, Fri June 01, 2012

Researchers at the National Institute of Health say that a single dose of Ketamine eliminates depressive symptoms within minutes of administration for people with bipolar depression.

It can take weeks for antidepressant medications to work, and in many cases people with bipolar need to try out several medications before finding an effective option – if they ever do

But maybe now there’s a medication that might work a whole lot faster.

The Study

A group of bipolar patients experiencing depression were given either a single dose of Ketamine or a placebo at two intervals, two weeks apart.

The patients then rated their depression and suicidal feelings at intervals over the days following the administration of Ketamine or placebo.

The Results

  • 79% of patients taking Ketamine experienced a reduction in depressive symptoms but none of the patients given a placebo reported any reduction
  • On average, Ketamine started to reduce symptoms of depression within 40 minutes of administration
  • Patients given Ketamine also reported a reduction in suicidal thoughts within an hour of administration


Lead researcher Dr. Carlos Zarate commented on the significance by saying, "Our finding that a single infusion of ketamine produces rapid antidepressant and antisuicidal effects within one hour and that is fairly sustained is truly exciting. We think that these findings are of true importance given that we only have a few treatments approved for acute bipolar depression, and none of them have this rapid onset of action; they usually take weeks or longer to have comparable antidepressant effects as ketamine does."

The full study results are available for viewing in this week’s Biological Psychiatry.

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Story Highlights
  • Ketamine: A low dose of this medication (better known as a club drug) reverses bipolar depression within minutes
  • Suicide Prevention: People with bipolar are at high risk of suicide. Ketamine also reduced suicidal thoughts within minutes
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