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Researchers study new ways to treat suicide risk, Ketamine

June 21, 2016
In an effort to find new ways of directly targeting suicidal thoughts and behaviors in at-risk individuals, researchers are looking to medications such as ketamine and clozapine. In addition, they are working to adjust some existing psychological treatments and develop new ones.

In an effort to find new ways of directly targeting suicidal thoughts and behaviors in at-risk individuals, researchers are looking to medications such as ketamine and clozapine. In addition, they are working to adjust some existing psychological treatments and develop new ones. A recent CDC report found that the rate of suicide death increased 24% from 1999 to 2014, from 10.5 to 13 per 100,000 people. For ketamine—a drug that has been used at higher doses as an anesthetic for decades—early depression studies indicated the drug alleviated suicidal thinking.

Researchers are also looking at ketamine’s direct effect on suicidal thoughts and behaviors in individuals at high risk for self-harm. “The hope would be that ketamine or something like it could eventually be used as a treatment to stop people from progressing to a suicidal act that could lead to death,” says Dawn F. Ionescu, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and the lead author of a recent small study of I.V. ketamine for depressed patients who had experienced suicidal thoughts for at least 3 months. The researchers are now working on a larger, placebo-controlled study of ketamine for suicidal thinking.

Wall Street Journal (06/20/16) Petersen, Andrea

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