Major depression affects more than 16 million American adults each year, nearly a third of whom don’t find relief from antidepressants and other traditional treatments. When depression isn’t treated, it increases the chance of alcohol and drug dependence, as well as suicide.
The anesthetic ketamine could offer hope for people who don’t have other depression treatment options. The most recent research on ketamine, as well as a statement from experts on its use published in April, finds the drug works quickly, makes dramatic improvements in mood, and can work on people who haven’t gotten better with other depression treatments.
The evidence is so enticing that the FDA has granted two ketamine-based drugs breakthrough therapy status and fast-tracked them to market. Yet the studies done so far on ketamine have been small, and its availability is so far limited mainly to ketamine clinics and research studies.