Two reports about radical treatments for severe and treatment- resistant depression, one using the anesthetic ketamine and the other a sweat-lodge-like treatment with hyperthermia, have some challenging implications. One, reported by the Science Blog, “Ketamine lifts depression via a byproduct of its metabolism,” reports recent research on the use of ketamine, a powerful “dissociative anesthetic,” and findings that are identifying how it works. Ketamine has been found in studies funded by The National Institute of Mental Health to be a remarkably effective treatment for depression, but it also has serious side effects and considerable potential for abuse. The current study has found that it has two metabolites, one of which appears to provide the benefits for depression without the euphoria and other concerning side effects.
The article concludes with, “The researchers are now following up on their discovery with safety and toxicity studies of the metabolite as part of a drug development plan in advance of a NIMH clinical trial in humans for the treatment of depression.”
The other article about “out there” treatment for depression is scheduled for future publication by JAMA Psychiatry. “Whole-body Hyperthermia for the Treatment of Major Depression: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” reports on a study that found “whole-body hyperthermia” to result in significant reduction of depression symptoms in comparison to a sham treatment. The study also found that the results were sustained, with” a prolonged therapeutic benefit” and “generally mild” adverse events.
This research expands upon the initial research of Charles Raison, MD. His research has found that some people with depression tend to have higher than average body temperatures and to sweat less than average; he has theorized that they may have a mood disorder with a “thermoregulatory disorder” component. This led to experimental treatments in which the patient is temporarily placed in a warming environment similar to a sweat lodge. Dr.Raison’s research found that some patients with depression who seem to have problems regulating their temperature have a paradoxical response to hypothermia, with her body temperature decreasing rather than increasing, and also report improved mood. His research did not, however, have a control group and the current article reports on a creative approach that enabled the research team to provide a sham treatment to a control group.
MHconierge’s take: MHconcierge just reports, does not endorse, and this information may be of interest to those who treat patients/clients with treatment-resistant depression and are following treatment research.
The latter article comes to our attention courtesy of the prolific psychology posting service provided by Ken Pope, Ph.D.