Nearly one in four teens experience major depressive disorder (MDD), a disorder characterized by persistent low mood, irritability, low self-esteem, fatigue, and generalized psychic pain. Amongst this age group, suicide is of particular concern as suicide attempts can be made impulsively, without a full grasp of the act’s consequences or context. Suicide is, in fact, the third leading cause of teenage death.
Yet, unfortunately, traditional treatment methods for depression remain ineffectual for many. As in adults, traditional antidepressants often fail to improve depressive symptoms in adolescents. Recent data suggest that over 40% of teenagers with MDD fail to respond to initial treatment regiments of SSRIs (the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants). Of those treatment-resistant individuals, nearly half remain clinically depressed after subsequently failing to respond to alternative treatments, including psychotherapy. Even in the cases where traditional antidepressants are effective, medications can take weeks or months to take effect and can be associated with a laundry list of side effects, including nausea, insomnia, and weight gain (to name only a few).
For all of these reasons, there exists an urgent need for improved MDD treatment options— especially amongst teens. Intravenous (IV) Ketamine therapy has been repeatedly demonstrated in clinical studies to rapidly improve depressive symptoms in adults. Evidence to this effect has been published for over twenty years. However, to date, fewer studies have investigated ketamine’s antidepressant effect in minors, ages 12-18—and even fewer of these studies have employed the gold-standard of scientific investigation: the prospective, double-blinded, placebo-controlled research method design.
The Yale Medical School Study:
A recent study from Yale Medical School, published in Biological Psychiatry, proved to be groundbreaking in this regard. The researchers selected adolescents who had previously tried and failed at least one traditional antidepressant. They divided patients into two groups, a placebo group, and an IV ketamine group. Patients were followed throughout treatment and for 4 weeks post infusion.
Data showed a statistically significant effect observed between the IV ketamine and placebo groups. Much like the myriad of studies focused on adults, this study found that ketamine therapy rapidly decreased depressive symptoms, suicidality, and feelings of hopelessness in the majority of adolescent patients. It supposes that the same biochemical mechanisms operate in both age groups.
This exciting research details the potential benefits of ketamine’s therapeutic use in teenagers and serves as an impetus for future study of its application in this age group. This same group of Yale researchers are currently underway conducting an even larger study. As more research is published, it appears increasingly clear that in an appropriately supervised setting, with informed consent, ketamine offers a new hope for teens struggling with depression.
Here at Neuro Wellness Spa, we treat patients on a case-by-case basis, discussing closely with patients and referring healthcare providers whether ketamine treatment is appropriate. If you have any questions regarding the use and potential applications of IV Ketamine, please reach out to us here at Neuro Wellness Spa or set up a consultation.
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