Clinical Use of Ketamine in Suicide Prevention

Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.

Presented by Alan F. Schatzberg, MD, Stanford School of Medicine

Since acute prevention of suicide in people with mood disorders remains a major unsolved issue, ketamine, and more recently esketamine, has received much attention as an antidepressant treatment. In this talk, Schatzberg reviews the data on ketamine, and discusses the research he and his colleagues are conducting to effectively treat suicidal patients with the medication.

Watch now to learn more about:

  • Medications used to treat suicidal behavior
  • Ketamine’s potential and drawbacks in suicide prevention
  • How researchers are working to make ketamine more effective

Ketamine is an intravenous anesthetic agent used primarily for chronic pain and for anesthesia. Schatzberg points out that the medication has exciting implications for treating depression, but its associated challenges include misuse, short-term side effects, such as tachycardia and nausea, as well as the potential for dissociation.

According to Schatzberg, ketamine’s greatest drawback, however, is that its acute antidepressant efficacy is not sustained. A ketamine response typically only lasts for six to seven days after administration.

Schatzberg reviews several studies that largely illustrate the decline in ketamine’s efficacy over time. He discusses work that he, his colleagues, and other researchers have done to determine ketamine’s antidepressant effect.

He describes a current, ongoing study that he and his colleagues are conducting. In their research, they are investigating if it is effective to give patients an IV infusion of ketamine followed by very low doses of buprenorphine for three to four weeks.