Major depressive disorder affects nearly one in four teenagers. Some characteristics of this disorder include irritability, fatigue, and low self-esteem. A major concern for this group in particular is suicide, especially since suicide is the third leading cause of death amongst teenagers. With traditional antidepressants, SSRIs, taking weeks to months to be effective and with over 40% of teenagers being non-responsive to traditional treatments, ketamine therapy may be a fast-acting treatment alternative.
A recent Yale study researched the effect of ketamine infusions on adolescents who had previously tried an antidepressant but were unresponsive. A significant, rapid decrease in depressive symptoms such as suicidality and feelings of hopelessness was observed among the group that was given ketamine compared to a placebo.
Another study conducted at Florida State University observed the effects of ketamine on adolescent rats. The rats were put through stressful situations to induce depression-like behavior. The ketamine reversed the depression-like behavior of the adolescent rats.
In a 2018 study, 13 adolescents with treatment-resistant depression were administered ketamine intravenously. Over two weeks, the participants were given six infusions. Five of the participants met the criteria for clinical response and of the five, three participants had sustained remission of depressive symptoms 6 weeks follow up, and two participants relapsed two weeks out. The results of this study highlight the potential of ketamine as a sustained treatment for depression.
Teenagers who have depression are at significant risk and may not respond to traditional antidepressants. Having another option for this population is important because changing the mindset and behaviour patterns early in life can impact the quality of their lives into adulthood.
Dwyer, Jennifer, et al. “1002. Ketamine as a Treatment for Adolescent Major Depressive Disorder.” Biological Psychiatry, vol. 81, no. 10, 2017, doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2017.02.729.
Parise, Eric M., et al. “Repeated Ketamine Exposure Induces an Enduring Resilient Phenotype in Adolescent and Adult Rats.” Biological Psychiatry, vol. 74, no. 10, 2013, pp. 750–759., doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2013.04.027.
Cullen, Kathryn R., et al. “Intravenous Ketamine for Adolescents with Treatment-Resistant Depression: An Open-Label Study.” Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, vol. 28, no. 7, 2018, pp. 437–444., doi:10.1089/cap.2018.0030.