A Better Drug for Depression on the Way?
While full-blown manic episodes are what some of us fear most, many of us with bipolar disorder suffer more from long-term depression and rarely experience mania or even hypomania. Several members of my bipolar support group have suffered all their lives with long bouts of depression, and have found little relief from available medication. I, too, have always found the depressions much more debilitating than the hypomania.
The only times I ever tried to get help were during deep depressions. That’s how I was first diagnosed as bipolar in my late forties, even though I had had the symptoms since I was a teenager. I remember telling my mother I needed a psychiatrist because I had chronic insomnia and thought of suicide all the time. Her response was to make me a cup of tea and tell me I’d feel better soon. We were poor and could barely afford a dentist, no less a psychiatrist.
When I was young, I self-medicated with alcohol, illegal drugs, and other forms of stimulation. I did everything I could to jog myself into hypomania and out of the depression. When I was finally given a mood stabilizer and an anti-depressant for my bipolar disorder, it took a long time for the anti-depressants to work.
This summer the National Institute of Mental Health reported that a recent study of an experimental medication, ketamine, offered symptom relief to people with treatment-resistant depression in “as little as two hours with a single intravenous dose.” This is pretty amazing, since most anti-depressants take weeks or months before they have any effect.
Ketamine itself will probably not be developed for use in treating depression because of its potential side effects at higher doses. But the good news is, ketamine works on our brains in a very different manner than current anti-depressants do. This means that other, safer drugs can be developed to do what ketamine does.
I’ve been fairly stable without medication these past few years, but I know that that could change at any time. It’s heartening to know that a better cure for depression might be developed soon.
Published On: October 20, 2006
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