Faster-Acting Antidepressants Closer to Becoming a Reality
Scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health, are discovering new ways to develop faster-acting antidepressant medications, ones that may start working in just a few hours.
Waddell: In the past, those who suffer from depression have often had to wait many weeks, or even months, for their antidepressant treatment to start kicking in. Now, scientists at the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health, are discovering new ways to develop faster-acting antidepressant medications, ones that may start working in just a few hours. The most recent treatment is a drug called ketamine. Though it is not on the market due to certain side effects, researchers believe it holds great potential in the search for faster-acting anti-depressants. The rewards of having faster-acting treatments would be immense, both on a personal and public health level, according to Dr. Carlos Zarate, Chief of the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Research Unit at the NIMH, who worked on the study that developed and researched ketamine.
Zarate: The problems with the delay in onset of antidepressant action is people suffer tremendously. People may be bedridden; they may have disruption in their personal, professional lives. For example they can't hold their job, they might have problems with marriage, raising their children because if you're away for six weeks, eight weeks, literally unable to function adequately, that really disrupts your life. Not only that, there's an increase risk of suicide during the first month until our antidepressant takes effect. So, imagine if you could have an antidepressant effect within hours, or even one day, you would minimize the disruption in the personal, professional life of that individual, and in theory, one could argue that you would decrease the risk for suicide, in a sense that you are relieving depression symptoms very rapidly, in hours or a day, as opposed to weeks or months.
Waddell: Dr. Zarate suggested that as researchers come closer to developing faster-acting antidepressants, minus the difficult side effects present in ketamine, the true magnitude of these treatment options will become apparent. For more information on depression and current treatment options, visit NIMH on their Web site at www.nimh.nih.gov/healthinformation. From the National Institutes of Health, I'm Lauren Waddell in Bethesda, MD.
About This Audio Report
Reporter: Lauren Waddell
Sound Bite: Dr. Carlos Zarate