New drugs for depression?

This morning, NPR’s Morning edition ran a news report on some medicines that may help in the fight against depression. What makes this an interesting story is that the drugs are not typical (a street drug and a motion sickness drug) and that they work quite quickly–some even in one day! In addition, these drugs do not appear to work on the neurotransmitters serotonin or norepinephrine–the focus of most of our current antidepressants–but on glutamate, another neurotransmitter.

Listen to or read the story here.

Ketamine (known on the street at Special K) may have some capacity to form new connections between neurons. The assumption is that those who suffer with depression have had significant loss of neural connections.

Like with every drug, there may be some serious side effects with Ketamine: experiencing light trails (hence why clubbers use it) and foggy memories.

Findings, however initial, should (a) encourage us that better relief may be possible for millions of people, (b) remind us how little we really know about the brain, and (c) remember that those who suffer from serious depression and who seek medical treatment also must suffer with the experience of being a guinea pig of practitioners. This last point cannot be underscored enough. Medicines are never a panacea. And, we rarely can tell why one drug seems to work with some and doesn’t with others. In fact, much of what we know about drugs is shrouded in theory. Give a serotonin boosting compound to depressed people and they seem to get better suggests that the problem is that depressed people have too little serotonin in their synaptic clefts. Of course, this is mostly theory since some data may suggest that some have lower levels of serotonin and are not depressed at all.


Filed under Depression, Psychiatric Medications, Psychology

4 responses to “New drugs for depression?

  1. Armando D'Angelo

    As a former pharmaceutical representative who promoted antidepressants for most of his career, I view these latest “discoveries” with mixed emotions. I have never seen or heard of a patient “cured” of depression with pharmacotherapy. In training we would visit the most renowned centers for the treatment of intractable major depressive disorder where physiatrists were augmenting standard therapy with estrogen (for women) or amphetamines and seeing some symptom relief. Some physicians still swear by ECT as a treatment. All of this is in support of your caution to patients that they are all test subjects for the medical model. We do not know what is going on and it may be some time before technology allows us to view what is going on at the molecular level. Things like up or down regulation of receptors, transfer chemicals that communicate what is happening at the receptor with in a cell or even genetic alterations due to prolonged stress are open questions.

    We are fearfully and wonderfully made. The complexity of each individual defies the created beings capacity to comprehend. While pharmacotherapy continues to be a tool which will alleviate some suffering, restore a semblance of what we would call a productive life and may be even by time for the ministry of God’s word to take effect, I know that this sounds harsh and that God has granted us a creative intelligence in God’s own image but I believe that the day of “take a pill and be cured” is a mirage and that all of this continues to fool us into thinking we have a control that has not been granted to us.

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  3. We must reduce the use of sedative drugs to reduce stress or prevent depression. Use natural means, such as socializing with people who think positively, helping those poor people, or using essential oils, which has been known to help lower anxiety levels and make more sense of calm, based on study performed in some countries, such as Indonesia.

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