June 20, 2024

Ketamine, other anesthetics show promise for depression, mental health treatment

Editor's Note

The advance of ketamine and other anesthetics as depression treatments is spurring collaboration among anesthesiologists and psychiatrists for further advances in mental health treatment, according to an article in the June issue of Anesthesiology, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

As the established experts in sedating patients, anesthesiologists are well positioned to investigate the biological mechanisms behind these drugs as psychotropic agents, the article claims. For example, the effectiveness of ketamine has shifted researchers’ focus from drugs that target the monoamine system, which tend to be slower, to those focused on glutamate and GABA neurotransmission imbalances. For example, ketamine works within minutes or hours rather than weeks when administered as an infusion or intranasal spray. Other anesthetics, such as nitrous oxide, propofol, and isoflurane, also show promise.

In addition to detailing on how ketamine, nitrous oxide and potentially other anesthetic drugs could change treatment protocols for depression and other mental health conditions, the article outlines how anesthesiologists and psychiatrists are working together via joint research, training programs and other initiatives. Overall, it calls for stronger interdisciplinary partnerships to further explore and utilize anesthetic drugs for mental health conditions.

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