Ketamine has been known for some time for its ability to tackle depression. Now, however, researchers have found that oral doses of the substance can significantly reduce suicidal ideation in patients with chronic suicidal thoughts as well.
Most studies investigating the potential for ketamine against suicidality have been conducted on intravenous applications. While they show positive results, due to practical limitations of intravenous administration, researchers thought to see whether oral doses could offer benefits too.
As such, the researchers recruited 32 adults aged between 22 and 72, each with major depression and chronic suicidality- ongoing suicidal thoughts that linger in the mind over long periods. Each received 0.5mg of ketamine per kg of body weight, with doses gradually increasing to 3.0mg of ketamine per kg of body weight over a six week period.
At the end of the six weeks, the researchers noted that 69% of patients went from a high level of suicidal ideation to under the clinical threshold. At a 4-week follow-up after the end of the trial, this figure decreased somewhat to 50% of participants. This means that while orally dosed ketamine seems effective in reducing suicidal thoughts, these positive effects seem to fade over time. The researchers nevertheless noted improvements in secondary measures of depression and suicidality.
"To the best of our knowledge, the current study is the first to explore the feasibility, safety and tolerability of oral ketamine on chronic suicidality in patients who presented with a range of psychiatric conditions including mood, anxiety, and personality disorders," write the authors of the study.
"Overall, oral ketamine led to significant short-term and prolonged improvements in suicidal ideation, affective symptoms, well-being and socio-occupational functioning in this sample of adults with a history of chronic suicidality and [major depressive disorder]."