Anesthetizing against depression

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Aug. 28, 2006

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The anesthetic ketamine was found to relieve symptoms of depression quickly in cases resistant to other forms of treatment.

The finding could open the way to new treatments for debilitating depression, which each year affects 14.8 million people in the nation. However, treatment with ketamine is not likely to become widespread because of the side effects, which include hallucinations and euphoria. Study results were published in the August Archives of General Psychiatry.

The researchers assigned 18 treatment-resistant, depressed patients to receive either a single intravenous dose of ketamine or a placebo. Depression improved within one day in 71% of the patients and 29% went on to become nearly symptom-free within one day, said the researchers.

"These new findings demonstrate the importance of developing new classes of antidepressants that are not simply variations of existing medications," said Elias A. Zerhouni, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health. The study was conducted at the NIH's National Institute of Mental Health.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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