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New Drug Combo Shows Promise for Treatment of Depression and Addiction

Drug Combo Shows Promise for Depression and Addiction
Ketamine Treatment for alcoholism | Call 703-844-0184 | Alexandria, Va 22306 | NOVA Health Recovery

The combination of naltrexone and ketamine can help treat both symptoms of addiction and depression, a preliminary study by Yale University researchers suggests.

Substance abuse and depression are common in many patients, and efforts to treat both conditions simultaneously have had limited success. One recent study suggested that the antidepressant effects of ketamine might blunted by administration of naltrexone, used to limit cravings of those addicted to opioid drugs and alcohol.

A preliminary study of five patients suffering from both depression and substance abuse disorders suggest that isn’t the case. The study was published Jan. 9 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

The results “raise the possibility that for people who have depression complicated by substance abuse disorders, the combination of ketamine and naltrexone may be a strategy to explore in the effort to optimally treat both conditions,” said senior author John Krystal, Yale’s Robert L. McNeil Jr. Professor of Translational Research; professor of psychiatry, neuroscience, and psychology; and chair of the Department of Psychiatry.

Krystal and lead author Gihyun Yoon, assistant professor of psychiatry, treated the five patients suffering from depression and alcohol use disorder with a long-lasting form of naltrexone and then administered ketamine. Four of the five responded to the first ketamine dose and all five found relief from depression after multiple doses.

The study also challenges the idea that ketamine might produce antidepressant effects by stimulating opiate receptors.

Krystal cautioned that larger studies are needed to confirm beneficial effects of the combination treatment.

Krystal and Yoon have provisional patents on the use of ketamine and naltrexone to treat comorbid depression and substance abuse.

The study was primarily funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Publication: Gihyun Yoon, et al., “Association of Combined Naltrexone and Ketamine With Depressive Symptoms in a Case series of Patients With Depression and Alcohol Use Disorder,” JAMA Psychiatry, 2019; doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.3990

At NOVA Health Recovery, we do use Ketamine and other combinations to treat Alcoholism and Opioid and Pain pill addiction using Ketamine Treatment. Dr. Sendi is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine. Call 703-844-0184 Today. Fairfax, Va 22304.



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From street drug to depression therapy

Ketamine offers a new option for people with stubborn depression that doesn’t respond to other medications.

703-844-0184 | Ketamine Treatment Center in Alexandria, Va 22306

 

Many people know of ketamine as a hallucinogenic and addictive street drug, which, when abused, can put people in medical peril. But today, doctors are increasingly looking to ketamine as a potentially lifesaving treatment for people with severe, treatment-resistant depression, who may be at high risk for suicide.

“Ketamine has been shown to be effective in people who have not responded to antidepressant treatment,” says Dr. Cristina Cusin, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. The fast-acting treatment has shown promise — sometimes improving depressive symptoms within hours of the first intravenous treatment.

While ketamine can offer hope to some, it’s not for everyone. The use of ketamine to treat depression is still controversial in some circles. “Some prescribers would never consider the use of a controlled substance for this purpose, because of the potential for abuse,” says Dr. Cusin. “But as with opiates, a drug is not good or bad, per se.” Still, ketamine does need to be carefully matched to the right patient for the right use to avoid harm, and treatment should be closely monitored over time.

A variety of uses

The use of ketamine in medicine isn’t new. It’s routinely used in hospitals both for anesthesia and for pain relief.

Currently, the use of ketamine for depression is “off label.” This means that although ketamine is approved by the FDA for some medical purposes, it’s not approved specifically to treat depression. However, that may soon change. Under its “fast track” drug approval process, the FDA is reviewing the results of clinical trials of esketamine, a ketamine-based nasal spray, to treat depression, says Dr. Cusin.

For now, people who undergo ketamine treatment for depression typically receive the drug at specialized clinics, either intravenously or as a nasal spray. Effects from the nasal spray last for a single day or a few days, while the intravenous treatment may last for a few weeks to a month. In both instances the dose is significantly lower than would be used for anesthesia or when used illicitly.

How ketamine works

Studies have shown that ketamine is effective in treating people whose depression has not responded to other interventions, says Dr. Cusin. Such treatment-resistant depression is estimated to affect from 10% to 30% of people diagnosed with the condition.

Experts believe that ketamine works through a unique mechanism, directly modulating the activity of a brain chemical called glutamate. Glutamate is believed to play a role in stimulating the growth of new brain connections that may help alleviate depressive symptoms.

People who have taken ketamine to treat their depression experience varying success, depending on their personal history—how long they’ve been depressed, how severe their symptoms are, and how many drugs they’ve tried without seeing improvement, says Dr. Cusin.

For people with less severe depression, ketamine may be effective in as many as 60% of those who try it. Among those with more persistent and significant disease, a smaller number, 30% to 40%, may experience relief, says Dr. Cusin. “The expectation should not be that it will magically cure depression in everybody,” she says. “Ketamine is not a perfect fix. It’s like any other medication.” In other words, it works for some people, and it won’t work for others.

To be effective, treatment with ketamine must typically continue indefinitely and involve careful monitoring. Clinicians who prescribe ketamine for depression should screen patients carefully to ensure the drug is appropriate for the individual, says Dr. Cusin. “Not everybody who wishes to try ketamine will be a good candidate,” she says.

Among those who should not use ketamine are people with

  • a history of substance abuse
  • a history of psychosis
  • elevated blood pressure
  • an uncontrolled medical condition.

Who can benefit?

Because ketamine is a newer treatment, there are still a lot of questions surrounding its use, says Dr. Cusin. For instance:

  • Which people respond best to treatment?
  • How much should be given, and how often?
  • What are the long-term effects of treatment?

Because the medication is being used off label for depression, there are no clearly defined safety recommendations either for home use or for its use in specialized clinics, she says. This means that it’s up to individual providers to guide the patient in making informed decisions about treatment. Choosing a qualified provider is essential. JAMA Psychiatrypublished a statement in 2017 outlining best practices for doctors to follow in ketamine treatment, such as performing a comprehensive assessment, obtaining informed consent, and documenting the severity of depression before starting the medication. These guidelines are aimed at increasing the safe use of ketamine for depression, and providers can use them to help ensure that the treatment is a good match for your condition.

As with any other medical intervention, anyone considering ketamine should also consider the drawbacks of treatment along with the potential benefits. Ketamine’s drawbacks include these:

Cost. It’s expensive and not covered by insurance. “The cost ranges from $400 to $1,200 per dose for the intravenous drug, and you may need as many as 12 to 18 doses a year,” says Dr. Cusin.

Unknowns. Ketamine hasn’t been used to treat depression for long enough for doctors to know whether there are any harmful long-term consequences of taking the medication. More time and study are needed to truly understand how it affects people over the long term.

Treatment failure. Many people with treatment-resistant depression view ketamine treatment as their last option, so if this therapy fails to improve their depression, they can be emotionally devastated. Realistic expectations and follow-up support are essential.

Even if ketamine does produce results, it’s still important to understand what it can and can’t do. “-Ketamine isn’t going to eliminate all frustrations and stress from your life. While it may lift some symptoms of depression, the life stressors will still be there,” says Dr. Cusin. You’ll still need support to help you manage them.

Side effects. While ketamine is viewed as safe in a controlled setting, it can frequently increase blood pressure or produce psychotic-like behavior, which may result in delusions or hallucinations. Serious adverse events are rare because the drug is used at such low doses, says Dr. Cusin.

However, provided you are an appropriate candidate for the treatment and your doctor monitors you closely, you could find that it improves your mood. “Ketamine could make a huge difference in the quality and duration of life and can be very effective for people who are thinking about suicide,” says Dr. Cusin.

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Ketamine and Psychedelic Drugs Change Structure of Neurons

ummary: A new study reveals psychedelics increase dendrites, dendritic spines and synapses, while ketamine may promote neuroplasticity. The findings could help develop new treatments for anxiety, depression and other related disorders.

Source: UC Davis.

A team of scientists at the University of California, Davis is exploring how hallucinogenic drugs impact the structure and function of neurons — research that could lead to new treatments for depression, anxiety, and related disorders. In a paper published on June 12 in the journal Cell Reports, they demonstrate that a wide range of psychedelic drugs, including well-known compounds such as LSD and MDMA, increase the number of neuronal branches (dendrites), the density of small protrusions on these branches (dendritic spines), and the number of connections between neurons (synapses). These structural changes suggest that psychedelics are capable of repairing the circuits that are malfunctioning in mood and anxiety disorders.

“People have long assumed that psychedelics are capable of altering neuronal structure, but this is the first study that clearly and unambiguously supports that hypothesis. What is really exciting is that psychedelics seem to mirror the effects produced by ketamine,” said David Olson, assistant professor in the Departments of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, who leads the research team.

Ketamine, an anesthetic, has been receiving a lot of attention lately because it produces rapid antidepressant effects in treatment-resistant populations, leading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fast-track clinical trials of two antidepressant drugs based on ketamine. The antidepressant properties of ketamine may stem from its tendency to promote neural plasticity — the ability of neurons to rewire their connections.

“The rapid effects of ketamine on mood and plasticity are truly astounding. The big question we were trying to answer was whether or not other compounds are capable of doing what ketamine does,” Olson said.

Psychedelics show similar effects to ketamine

Olson’s group has demonstrated that psychedelics mimic the effects of ketamine on neurons grown in a dish, and that these results extend to structural and electrical properties of neurons in animals. Rats treated with a single dose of DMT — a psychedelic compound found in the Amazonian herbal tea known as ayahuasca — showed an increase in the number of dendritic spines, similar to that seen with ketamine treatment. DMT itself is very short-lived in the rat: Most of the drug is eliminated within an hour. But the “rewiring” effects on the brain could be seen 24 hours later, demonstrating that these effects last for some time.

Fairfax | NOVA Ketamine IV Ketamine for depression | Fairfax, Va 22306 | 703-844-0184
Fairfax | NOVA Ketamine IV Ketamine for depression | Fairfax, Va 22306 | 703-844-0184

Ketamine and Psychedelic Drugs Change Structure of Neurons

Summary: A new study reveals psychedelics increase dendrites, dendritic spines and synapses, while ketamine may promote neuroplasticity. The findings could help develop new treatments for anxiety, depression and other related disorders.

Source: UC Davis.

A team of scientists at the University of California, Davis is exploring how hallucinogenic drugs impact the structure and function of neurons — research that could lead to new treatments for depression, anxiety, and related disorders. In a paper published on June 12 in the journal Cell Reports, they demonstrate that a wide range of psychedelic drugs, including well-known compounds such as LSD and MDMA, increase the number of neuronal branches (dendrites), the density of small protrusions on these branches (dendritic spines), and the number of connections between neurons (synapses). These structural changes suggest that psychedelics are capable of repairing the circuits that are malfunctioning in mood and anxiety disorders.

“People have long assumed that psychedelics are capable of altering neuronal structure, but this is the first study that clearly and unambiguously supports that hypothesis. What is really exciting is that psychedelics seem to mirror the effects produced by ketamine,” said David Olson, assistant professor in the Departments of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, who leads the research team.

Ketamine, an anesthetic, has been receiving a lot of attention lately because it produces rapid antidepressant effects in treatment-resistant populations, leading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fast-track clinical trials of two antidepressant drugs based on ketamine. The antidepressant properties of ketamine may stem from its tendency to promote neural plasticity — the ability of neurons to rewire their connections.

“The rapid effects of ketamine on mood and plasticity are truly astounding. The big question we were trying to answer was whether or not other compounds are capable of doing what ketamine does,” Olson said.

Psychedelics show similar effects to ketamine

Olson’s group has demonstrated that psychedelics mimic the effects of ketamine on neurons grown in a dish, and that these results extend to structural and electrical properties of neurons in animals. Rats treated with a single dose of DMT — a psychedelic compound found in the Amazonian herbal tea known as ayahuasca — showed an increase in the number of dendritic spines, similar to that seen with ketamine treatment. DMT itself is very short-lived in the rat: Most of the drug is eliminated within an hour. But the “rewiring” effects on the brain could be seen 24 hours later, demonstrating that these effects last for some time.

image shows neurons under psychedelics and ketamine

Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and ayahuasca change the structure of nerve cells, causing them to sprout more branches and spines, UC Davis researchers have found. This could help in “rewiring” the brain to treat depression and other disorders. In this false-colored image, the rainbow-colored cell was treated with LSD compared to a control cell in blue. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Calvin and Joanne Ly.

Behavioral studies also hint at the similarities between psychedelics and ketamine. In another recent paper published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, Olson’s group showed that DMT treatment enabled rats to overcome a “fear response” to the memory of a mild electric shock. This test is considered to be a model of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and interestingly, ketamine produces the same effect. Recent clinical trials have shown that like ketamine, DMT-containing ayahuasca might have fast-acting effects in people with recurrent depression, Olson said.

These discoveries potentially open doors for the development of novel drugs to treat mood and anxiety disorders, Olson said. His team has proposed the term “psychoplastogen” to describe this new class of “plasticity-promoting” compounds.

“Ketamine is no longer our only option. Our work demonstrates that there are a number of distinct chemical scaffolds capable of promoting plasticity like ketamine, providing additional opportunities for medicinal chemists to develop safer and more effective alternatives,” Olson said.

 

Psychedelic drugs, ketamine change structure of neurons

Psychedelic drugs, ketamine change structure of neurons

Psychedelics as Possible Treatments for Depression and PTSD

A team of scientists at the University of California, Davis, is exploring how hallucinogenic drugs impact the structure and function of neurons — research that could lead to new treatments for depression, anxiety and related disorders.

In a paper published on June 12 in the journal Cell Reports, they demonstrate that a wide range of psychedelic drugs, including well-known compounds such as LSD and MDMA, increase the number of neuronal branches (dendrites), the density of small protrusions on these branches (dendritic spines) and the number of connections between neurons (synapses). These structural changes could suggest that psychedelics are capable of repairing the circuits that are malfunctioning in mood and anxiety disorders.

“People have long assumed that psychedelics are capable of altering neuronal structure, but this is the first study that clearly and unambiguously supports that hypothesis. What is really exciting is that psychedelics seem to mirror the effects produced by ketamine,” said David Olson, assistant professor in the departments of Chemistry and of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, who leads the research team.

Ketamine, an anesthetic, has been receiving a lot of attention lately because it produces rapid antidepressant effects in treatment-resistant populations, leading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fast-track clinical trials of two antidepressant drugs based on ketamine. The antidepressant properties of ketamine may stem from its tendency to promote neural plasticity — the ability of neurons to rewire their connections.

“The rapid effects of ketamine on mood and plasticity are truly astounding. The big question we were trying to answer was whether or not other compounds are capable of doing what ketamine does,” Olson said.

Psychedelics show similar effects to ketamine

Olson’s group has demonstrated that psychedelics mimic the effects of ketamine on neurons grown in a dish, and that these results extend to structural and electrical properties of neurons in animals. Rats treated with a single dose of DMT — a psychedelic compound found in the Amazonian herbal tea known as ayahuasca — showed an increase in the number of dendritic spines, similar to that seen with ketamine treatment. DMT itself is very short-lived in the rat: Most of the drug is eliminated within an hour. But the “rewiring” effects on the brain could be seen 24 hours later, demonstrating that these effects last for some time.

Behavioral studies also hint at the similarities between psychedelics and ketamine. In another recent paper published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience, Olson’s group showed that DMT treatment enabled rats to overcome a “fear response” to the memory of a mild electric shock. This test is considered to be a model of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, and interestingly, ketamine produces the same effect. Recent clinical trials have shown that like ketamine, DMT-containing ayahuasca might have fast-acting effects in people with recurrent depression, Olson said.

These discoveries potentially open doors for the development of novel drugs to treat mood and anxiety disorders, Olson said. His team has proposed the term “psychoplastogen” to describe this new class of “plasticity-promoting” compounds.

“Ketamine is no longer our only option. Our work demonstrates that there are a number of distinct chemical scaffolds capable of promoting plasticity like ketamine, providing additional opportunities for medicinal chemists to develop safer and more effective alternatives,” Olson said.

Additional co-authors on the Cell Reports “Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional Neural Plasticity.” study are Calvin Ly, Alexandra Greb, Sina Soltanzadeh Zarandi, Lindsay Cameron, Jonathon Wong, Eden Barragan, Paige Wilson, Michael Paddy, Kassandra Ori-McKinney, Kyle Burbach, Megan Dennis, Alexander Sood, Whitney Duim, Kimberley McAllister and John Gray.

Olson and Cameron were co-authors on the ACS Chemical Neuroscience paper along with Charlie Benson and Lee Dunlap.

The work was partly supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional
Neural Plasticity

Below is the Intro and Discussion for the article:

Psychedelics Promote Structural and Functional neural Plasticity

Authors:

Calvin Ly, Alexandra C. Greb,
Lindsay P. Cameron, …,
Kassandra M. Ori-McKenney,
John A. Gray, David E. Olson
Correspondence
deolson@ucdavis.edu

In Brief
Ly et al. demonstrate that psychedelic
compounds such as LSD, DMT, and DOI
increase dendritic arbor complexity,
promote dendritic spine growth, and
stimulate synapse formation. These
cellular effects are similar to those
produced by the fast-acting
antidepressant ketamine and highlight
the potential of psychedelics for treating
depression and related disorders.

  • Highlights
     Serotonergic psychedelics increase neuritogenesis,
    spinogenesis, and synaptogenesis
  •  Psychedelics promote plasticity via an evolutionarily
    conserved mechanism
  •  TrkB, mTOR, and 5-HT2A signaling underlie psychedelicinduced
    plasticity
  •  Noribogaine, but not ibogaine, is capable of promoting
    structural neural plasticity

SUMMARY
Atrophy of neurons in the prefrontal cortex (PFC)
plays a key role in the pathophysiology of depression
and related disorders. The ability to promote
both structural and functional plasticity in the PFC
has been hypothesized to underlie the fast-acting
antidepressant properties of the dissociative anesthetic
ketamine. Here, we report that, like ketamine,
serotonergic psychedelics are capable of robustly
increasing neuritogenesis and/or spinogenesis both
in vitro and in vivo. These changes in neuronal structure
are accompanied by increased synapse number
and function, as measured by fluorescence microscopy
and electrophysiology. The structural changes
induced by psychedelics appear to result from stimulation
of the TrkB, mTOR, and 5-HT2A signaling
pathways and could possibly explain the clinical
effectiveness of these compounds. Our results underscore
the therapeutic potential of psychedelics
and, importantly, identify several lead scaffolds for
medicinal chemistry efforts focused on developing
plasticity-promoting compounds as safe, effective,
and fast-acting treatments for depression and
related disorders.

INTRODUCTION
Neuropsychiatric diseases, including mood and anxiety disorders,
are some of the leading causes of disability worldwide
and place an enormous economic burden on society (Gustavsson
et al., 2011; Whiteford et al., 2013). Approximately
one-third of patients will not respond to current antidepressant
drugs, and those who do will usually require at least 2–4 weeks
of treatment before they experience any beneficial effects
(Rush et al., 2006). Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD), and addiction share common neural circuitry (Arnsten,
2009; Russo et al., 2009; Peters et al., 2010; Russo and
Nestler, 2013) and have high comorbidity (Kelly and Daley,
2013). A preponderance of evidence from a combination of
human imaging, postmortem studies, and animal models suggests
that atrophy of neurons in the prefrontal cortex (PFC)
plays a key role in the pathophysiology of depression and
related disorders and is precipitated and/or exacerbated by
stress (Arnsten, 2009; Autry and Monteggia, 2012; Christoffel
et al., 2011; Duman and Aghajanian, 2012; Duman et al.,
2016; Izquierdo et al., 2006; Pittenger and Duman, 2008;
Qiao et al., 2016; Russo and Nestler, 2013). These structural
changes, such as the retraction of neurites, loss of dendritic
spines, and elimination of synapses, can potentially be counteracted
by compounds capable of promoting structural and
functional neural plasticity in the PFC (Castre´ n and Antila,
2017; Cramer et al., 2011; Duman, 2002; Hayley and Litteljohn,
2013; Kolb and Muhammad, 2014; Krystal et al., 2009;
Mathew et al., 2008), providing a general solution to treating
all of these related diseases. However, only a relatively small
number of compounds capable of promoting plasticity in the
PFC have been identified so far, each with significant drawbacks
(Castre´ n and Antila, 2017). Of these, the dissociative
anesthetic ketamine has shown the most promise, revitalizing
the field of molecular psychiatry in recent years.
Ketamine has demonstrated remarkable clinical potential as a
fast-acting antidepressant (Berman et al., 2000; Ionescu et al.,
2016; Zarate et al., 2012), even exhibiting efficacy in treatmentresistant
populations (DiazGranados et al., 2010; Murrough
et al., 2013; Zarate et al., 2006). Additionally, it has shown promise
for treating PTSD (Feder et al., 2014) and heroin addiction
(Krupitsky et al., 2002). Animal models suggest that its therapeutic
effects stem from its ability to promote the growth of dendritic
spines, increase the synthesis of synaptic proteins, and
strengthen synaptic responses (Autry et al., 2011; Browne and
Lucki, 2013; Li et al., 2010).

Like ketamine, serotonergic psychedelics and entactogens
have demonstrated rapid and long-lasting antidepressant and
anxiolytic effects in the clinic after a single dose (Bouso et al.,
2008; Carhart-Harris and Goodwin, 2017; Grob et al., 2011;
Mithoefer et al., 2013, 2016; Nichols et al., 2017; Sanches
et al., 2016; Oso´ rio et al., 2015), including in treatment-resistant
populations (Carhart-Harris et al., 2016, 2017; Mithoefer et al.,
2011; Oehen et al., 2013; Rucker et al., 2016). In fact, there
have been numerous clinical trials in the past 30 years examining
the therapeutic effects of these drugs (Dos Santos et al., 2016),
with 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) recently
receiving the ‘‘breakthrough therapy’’ designation by the Food
and Drug Administration for treating PTSD. Furthermore, classical
psychedelics and entactogens produce antidepressant
and anxiolytic responses in rodent behavioral tests, such as
the forced swim test (Cameron et al., 2018) and fear extinction
learning (Cameron et al., 2018; Catlow et al., 2013; Young
et al., 2015), paradigms for which ketamine has also been shown
to be effective (Autry et al., 2011; Girgenti et al., 2017; Li et al.,
2010). Despite the promising antidepressant, anxiolytic, and
anti-addictive properties of serotonergic psychedelics, their
therapeutic mechanism of action remains poorly understood,
and concerns about safety have severely limited their clinical
usefulness.
Because of the similarities between classical serotonergic
psychedelics and ketamine in both preclinical models and clinical
studies, we reasoned that their therapeutic effects might
result from a shared ability to promote structural and functional
neural plasticity in cortical neurons. Here, we report that serotonergic
psychedelics and entactogens from a variety of chemical
classes (e.g., amphetamine, tryptamine, and ergoline) display
plasticity-promoting properties comparable to or greater than
ketamine. Like ketamine, these compounds stimulate structural
plasticity by activating the mammalian target of rapamycin
(mTOR). To classify the growing number of compounds capable
of rapidly promoting induced plasticity (Castre´ n and Antila,
2017), we introduce the term ‘‘psychoplastogen,’’ from the
Greek roots psych- (mind), -plast (molded), and -gen (producing).
Our work strengthens the growing body of literature indicating
that psychoplastogens capable of promoting plasticity
in the PFC might have value as fast-acting antidepressants
and anxiolytics with efficacy in treatment-resistant populations
and suggests that it may be possible to use classical psychedelics
as lead structures for identifying safer alternatives.

DISCUSSION
Classical serotonergic psychedelics are known to cause
changes in mood (Griffiths et al., 2006, 2008, 2011) and brain
function (Carhart-Harris et al., 2017) that persist long after the
acute effects of the drugs have subsided. Moreover, several
psychedelics elevate glutamate levels in the cortex (Nichols,
2004, 2016) and increase gene expression in vivo of the neurotrophin
BDNF as well as immediate-early genes associated with
plasticity (Martin et al., 2014; Nichols and Sanders-Bush, 2002;
Vaidya et al., 1997). This indirect evidence has led to the
reasonable hypothesis that psychedelics promote structural
and functional neural plasticity, although this assumption had
never been rigorously tested (Bogenschutz and Pommy,
2012; Vollenweider and Kometer, 2010). The data presented
here provide direct evidence for this hypothesis, demonstrating
that psychedelics cause both structural and functional changes
in cortical neurons.

Prior to this study, two reports suggested
that psychedelics might be able
to produce changes in neuronal structure.
Jones et al. (2009) demonstrated that DOI
was capable of transiently increasing the
size of dendritic spines on cortical neurons,
but no change in spine density was
observed. The second study showed
that DOI promoted neurite extension in a
cell line of neuronal lineage (Marinova
et al., 2017). Both of these reports utilized
DOI, a psychedelic of the amphetamine
class. Here we demonstrate that the ability
to change neuronal structure is not a
unique property of amphetamines like
DOI because psychedelics from the ergoline,
tryptamine, and iboga classes of compounds also promote
structural plasticity. Additionally, D-amphetamine does not increase
the complexity of cortical dendritic arbors in culture,
and therefore, these morphological changes cannot be simply
attributed to an increase in monoamine neurotransmission.
The identification of psychoplastogens belonging to distinct
chemical families is an important aspect of this work because
it suggests that ketamine is not unique in its ability to promote
structural and functional plasticity. In addition to ketamine, the
prototypical psychoplastogen, only a relatively small number of
plasticity-promoting small molecules have been identified previously.
Such compounds include the N-methyl-D-aspartate
(NMDA) receptor ligand GLYX-13 (i.e., rapastinel), the mGlu2/3
antagonist LY341495, the TrkB agonist 7,8-DHF, and the muscarinic
receptor antagonist scopolamine (Lepack et al., 2016; Castello
et al., 2014; Zeng et al., 2012; Voleti et al., 2013). We
observe that hallucinogens from four distinct structural classes
(i.e., tryptamine, amphetamine, ergoline, and iboga) are also
potent psychoplastogens, providing additional lead scaffolds
for medicinal chemistry efforts aimed at identifying neurotherapeutics.
Furthermore, our cellular assays revealed that several
of these compounds were more efficacious (e.g., MDMA) or more potent (e.g., LSD) than ketamine. In fact, the plasticity-promoting
properties of psychedelics and entactogens rivaled that
of BDNF (Figures 3A–3C and S3). The extreme potency of LSD
in particular might be due to slow off kinetics, as recently proposed
following the disclosure of the LSD-bound 5-HT2B crystal
structure (Wacker et al., 2017).
Importantly, the psychoplastogenic effects of psychedelics in
cortical cultures were also observed in vivo using both vertebrate
and invertebrate models, demonstrating that they act through an
evolutionarily conserved mechanism. Furthermore, the concentrations
of psychedelics utilized in our in vitro cell culture assays
were consistent with those reached in the brain following systemic
administration of therapeutic doses in rodents (Yang
et al., 2018; Cohen and Vogel, 1972). This suggests that neuritogenesis,
spinogenesis, and/or synaptogenesis assays performed
using cortical cultures might have value for identifying
psychoplastogens and fast-acting antidepressants. It should
be noted that our structural plasticity studies performed in vitro
utilized neurons exposed to psychedelics for extended periods
of time. Because brain exposure to these compounds is often
of short duration due to rapid metabolism, it will be interesting
to assess the kinetics of psychedelic-induced plasticity.
A key question in the field of psychedelic medicine has been
whether or not psychedelics promote changes in the density of
dendritic spines (Kyzar et al., 2017). Using super-resolution
SIM, we clearly demonstrate that psychedelics do, in fact, increase
the density of dendritic spines on cortical neurons, an effect
that is not restricted to a particular structural class of compounds.
Using DMT, we verified that cortical neuron spine
density increases in vivo and that these changes in structural
plasticity are accompanied by functional effects such as
increased amplitude and frequency of spontaneous EPSCs.

We specifically designed these experiments
to mimic previous studies of ketamine
(Li et al., 2010) so that we might
directly compare these two compounds,
and, to a first approximation, they appear
to be remarkably similar. Not only do they
both increase spine density and neuronal
excitability in the cortex, they seem to
have similar behavioral effects. We have
shown previously that, like ketamine,
DMT promotes fear extinction learning
and has antidepressant effects in the
forced swim test (Cameron et al., 2018). These results, coupled
with the fact that ayahuasca, a DMT-containing concoction, has
potent antidepressant effects in humans (Oso´ rio et al., 2015;
Sanches et al., 2016; Santos et al., 2007), suggests that classical
psychedelics and ketamine might share a related therapeutic
mechanism.
Although the molecular targets of ketamine and psychedelics
are different (NMDA and 5-HT2A receptors, respectively), they
appear to cause similar downstream effects on structural plasticity
by activating mTOR. This finding is significant because ketamine is
known to be addictive whereas many classical psychedelics are
not (Nutt et al., 2007, 2010). The exact mechanisms by which these
compounds stimulate mTOR is still not entirely understood, but
our data suggest that, at least for classical psychedelics, TrkB
and 5-HT2A receptors are involved. Although most classical psychedelics
are not considered to be addictive, there are still significant
safety concerns with their use in medicine because they
cause profound perceptual disturbances and still have the potential
to be abused. Therefore, the identification of non-hallucinogenic
analogs capable of promoting plasticity in the PFC could
facilitate a paradigm shift in our approach to treating neuropsychiatric
diseases. Moreover, such compounds could be critical to
resolving the long-standing debate in the field concerning whether
the subjective effects of psychedelics are necessary for their therapeutic
effects (Majic et al., 2015  ). Although our group is actively
investigating the psychoplastogenic properties of non-hallucinogenic
analogs of psychedelics, others have reported the therapeutic
potential of safer structural and functional analogs of ketamine
(Moskal et al., 2017; Yang et al., 2015; Zanos et al., 2016).
Our data demonstrate that classical psychedelics from several
distinct chemical classes are capable of robustly promoting the
growth of both neurites and dendritic spines in vitro, in vivo, and across species. Importantly, our studies highlight the similarities
between the effects of ketamine and those of classical serotonergic
psychedelics, supporting the hypothesis that the clinical
antidepressant and anxiolytic effects of these molecules might
result from their ability to promote structural and functional plasticity
in prefrontal cortical neurons. We have demonstrated that
the plasticity-promoting properties of psychedelics require
TrkB, mTOR, and 5-HT2A signaling, suggesting that these key
signaling hubs may serve as potential targets for the development
of psychoplastogens, fast-acting antidepressants, and anxiolytics.
Taken together, our results suggest that psychedelics
may be used as lead structures to identify next-generation neurotherapeutics
with improved efficacy and safety profiles.

Also below is a great article on DMT and neuroplasticity:

 

Dark Classics in Chemical Neuroscience N,N-Dimethyltryptamine DMT

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Ketamine has much support in the use of hard-to-treat depression and suicidal behaviors. Below are studies and their links, including a meta-analysis, which demonstrate the effect of Ketamine. Also a recent trial by Carlos Zarate shows the heterogenous nature of response to Ketamine . It is difficult to say who is going to be lifted from their depression completely or partially respond, but in the study, Dr. Zarate showed that patients with a long history of suicidal thinking and self-harm will have less of a response in some cases.

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Intravenous ketamine may rapidly reduce suicidal thinking in depressed patients << Article link 

Intravenous ketamine may rapidly reduce suicidal thinking in depressed patients

Repeat intravenous treatment with low doses of the anesthetic drug ketamine quickly reduced suicidal thoughts in a small group of patients with treatment-resistant depression. In their report receiving Online First publication in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, a team of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators report the results of their study in depressed outpatients who had been experiencing suicidal thought for three months or longer.

“Our finding that low doses of ketamine, when added on to current antidepressant medications, quickly decreased suicidal thinking in depressed patients is critically important because we don’t have many safe, effective, and easily available treatments for these patients,” says Dawn Ionescu, MD, of the Depression Clinical and Research Program in the MGH Department of Psychiatry, lead and corresponding author of the paper. “While several previous studies have shown that ketamine quickly decreases symptoms of depression in patients with treatment-resistant depression, many of them excluded patients with current suicidal thinking.”

It is well known that having suicidal thoughts increases the risk that patients will attempt suicide, and the risk for suicide attempts is 20 times higher in patients with depression than the general population. The medications currently used to treat patients with suicidal thinking — including lithium and clozapine — can have serious side effects, requiring careful monitoring of blood levels; and while electroconvulsive therapy also can reduce suicidal thinking, its availability is limited and it can have significant side effects, including memory loss.

Primarily used as a general anesthetic, ketamine has been shown in several studies to provide rapid relief of symptoms of depression. In addition to excluding patients who reported current suicidal thinking, many of those studies involved only a single ketamine dose. The current study was designed not only to examine the antidepressant and antisuicidal effects of repeat, low-dose ketamine infusions in depressed outpatients with suicidal thinking that persisted in spite of antidepressant treatment, but also to examine the safety of increased ketamine dosage.

The study enrolled 14 patients with moderate to severe treatment-resistant depression who had suicidal thoughts for three months or longer. After meeting with the research team three times to insure that they met study criteria and were receiving stable antidepressant treatment, participants received two weekly ketamine infusions over a three-week period. The initial dosage administered was 0.5 mg/kg over a 45 minute period — about five times less than a typical anesthetic dose — and after the first three doses, it was increased to 0.75 mg/kg. During the three-month follow-up phase after the ketamine infusions, participants were assessed every other week.

The same assessment tools were used at each visit before, during and after the active treatment phase. At the treatment visits they were administered about 4 hours after the infusions were completed. The assessments included validated measures of suicidal thinking, in which patients were directly asked to rank whether they had specific suicide-related thoughts, their frequency and intensity.

While only 12 of the 14 enrolled participants completed all treatment visits — one dropped out because of ketamine side effects and one had a scheduling conflict — most of them experienced a decrease in suicidal thinking, and seven achieved complete remission of suicidal thoughts at the end of the treatment period. Of those seven participants, two maintained remission from both suicidal thinking and depression symptoms throughout the follow-up period. While there were no serious adverse events at either dose and no major differences in side effects between the two dosage levels, additional studies in larger groups of patients are required before any conclusions can be drawn.

“In order to qualify for this study, patients had to have suicidal thinking for at least three months, along with persistent depression, so the fact that they experienced any reduction in suicidal thinking, let alone remission, is very exciting,” says Ionescu, who is an instructor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “We only studied intravenous ketamine, but this result opens the possibility for studying oral and intranasal doses, which may ease administration for patients in suicidal crises.”

She adds, “One main limitation of our study was that all participants knew they were receiving ketamine. We are now finishing up a placebo-controlled study that we hope to have results for soon. Looking towards the future, studies that aim to understand the mechanism by which ketamine and its metabolites work for people with suicidal thinking and depression may help us discover areas of the brain to target with new, even better therapeutic drugs.”

 

Rapid and Sustained Reductions in Current Suicidal Ideation Following Repeated Doses of Intravenous Ketamine: Secondary Analysis of an Open-Label Study  << Article in Clinical Psychiatry

Ketamine for Rapid Reduction of Suicidal Thoughts in Major Depression: A Midazolam-Controlled Randomized Clinical Trial Article link for below:

Ketamine was significantly more effective than a commonly used sedative in reducing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients, according to researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC). They also found that ketamine’s anti-suicidal effects occurred within hours after its administration.

The findings were published online last week in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates in the U.S. increased by 26.5 percent between 1999 and 2015.

“There is a critical window in which depressed patients who are suicidal need rapid relief to prevent self-harm,” said Michael Grunebaum, MD, a research psychiatrist at CUMC, who led the study. “Currently available antidepressants can be effective in reducing suicidal thoughts in patients with depression, but they can take weeks to have an effect. Suicidal, depressed patients need treatments that are rapidly effective in reducing suicidal thoughts when they are at highest risk. Currently, there is no such treatment for rapid relief of suicidal thoughts in depressed patients.”

Most antidepressant trials have excluded patients with suicidal thoughts and behavior, limiting data on the effectiveness of antidepressants in this population. However, previous studies have shown that low doses of ketamine, an anesthetic drug, causes a rapid reduction in depression symptoms and may be accompanied by a decrease in suicidal thoughts.

The 80 depressed adults with clinically significant suicidal thoughts who enrolled in this study were randomly assigned to receive an infusion of low-dose ketamine or midazolam, a sedative. Within 24 hours, the ketamine group had a clinically significant reduction in suicidal thoughts that was greater than with the midazolam group. The improvement in suicidal thoughts and depression in the ketamine group appeared to persist for up to six weeks.

Those in the ketamine group also had greater improvement in overall mood, depression, and fatigue compared with the midazolam group. Ketamine’s effect on depression accounted for approximately one-third of its effect on suicidal thoughts, suggesting the treatment has a specific anti-suicidal effect.

Side effects, mainly dissociation (feeling spacey) and an increase in blood pressure during the infusion, were mild to moderate and typically resolved within minutes to hours after receiving ketamine.

“This study shows that ketamine offers promise as a rapidly acting treatment for reducing suicidal thoughts in patients with depression,” said Dr. Grunebaum. “Additional research to evaluate ketamine’s antidepressant and anti-suicidal effects may pave the way for the development of new antidepressant medications that are faster acting and have the potential to help individuals who do not respond to currently available treatments.”

Ketamine for Rapid Reduction of Suicidal Thoughts in major depression – A midazolam controlled trial PDF article

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______________________________________________________________________

Ketamine as a Potential Treatment for Suicidal Ideation A Systematic Review of the Literature 2015

Abstract
Objective To review the published literature on the efficacy
of ketamine for the treatment of suicidal ideation (SI).
Methods The PubMed and Cochrane databases were
searched up to January 2015 for clinical trials and case
reports describing therapeutic ketamine administration to
patients presenting with SI/suicidality. Searches were also
conducted for relevant background material regarding the
pharmacological function of ketamine.
Results Nine publications (six studies and three case
reports) met the search criteria for assessing SI after
administration of subanesthetic ketamine. There were no
studies examining the effect on suicide attempts or death
by suicide. Each study demonstrated a rapid and clinically
significant reduction in SI, with results similar to previously
described data on ketamine and treatment-resistant
depression. A total of 137 patients with SI have been
reported in the literature as receiving therapeutic ketamine.
Seven studies delivered a dose of 0.5 mg/kg intravenously
over 40 min, while one study administered a 0.2 mg/kg
intravenous bolus and another study administered a liquid
suspension. The earliest significant results were seen after
40 min, and the longest results were observed up to
10 days postinfusion.
Conclusion Consistent with clinical research on ketamine
as a rapid and effective treatment for depression, ketamine
has shown early preliminary evidence of a reduction in
depressive symptoms, as well as reducing SI, with minimal
short-term side effects. Additional studies are needed to
further investigate its mechanism of action, long-term
outcomes, and long-term adverse effects (including abuse)
and benefits. In addition, ketamine could potentially be
used as a prototype for further development of rapid-acting
antisuicidal medication with a practical route of administration
and the most favorable risk/benefit ratio.
Key Points
Preliminary data from randomized controlled trials
have demonstrated that ketamine may rapidly and
effectively control treatment-resistant depression,
though the effects are transient.
A small subset of studies has demonstrated similar
results in the effects of ketamine on suicidal ideation.
Ketamine has potential as a rapid treatment for
suicidal ideation and/or a possible model compound
for future drug development.

4 Discussion
With an estimated prevalence of mood disorders ranging
from 3.3 to 21.4 % and the substantially increased risk of
suicide among patients with mood disorders, treatment is
certainly warranted [19]. Current treatment options for
suicidality are limited. They include brain stimulation
therapeutics, such as ECT, and pharmacological intervention
(lithium, clozapine). The efficacy of lithium in treating
suicidality has been documented [20, 21] and has recently been reviewed and pooled in a recent meta-analysis of 48
studies [22]. Clozapine has also been shown to reduce
suicide risk in patients with schizophrenia [23, 24]. The
limitations of both lithium and clozapine include a longer
time to efficacy in this psychiatric emergency/urgency,
compared with the early response to ketamine [25]. Ketamine
seems to be gaining substantial evidence as a pharmacological
option for depression with a fast onset of
action, but its long-term effects need further investigation.
In addition, ketamine probably offers a faster onset of
action in terms of SI, but further work is certainly needed
in this area. Given the risk of suicide and even the
increasing rates of suicide in certain subgroups, such as
soldiers and veterans [26, 27], there is an urgent need for
faster therapeutics for SI and TRD. Importantly, suicidality
and suicide pose a high global burden of patient suffering
to families and society. Although several small-to-moderate
sized studies, in addition to several reviews, have been
published that have examined the efficacy of ketamine in
TRD, there are considerably fewer published data
specifically examining ketamine in patients presenting with
SI. Notably, only three studies have directly examined SI
as the primary outcome [11, 16, 17], while the rest
examined SI as the secondary outcome [4, 15, 18], not
including case reports. This review summarizes the current
published literature regarding ketamine as a treatment for
SI. The data so far show promising trends of ketamine
being an effective and rapid treatment with minimal side
effects.
Pharmacologically, ketamine is an N-methyl-D-aspartate
(NMDA) receptor antagonist. It has been used for anesthesia
in the USA since the 1970s. At subanesthetic doses,
ketamine has been shown to increase glutamate levels [3].
This mechanism is relevant, as glutamate regulation and
expression are altered in patients with major depressive
disorder (MDD). Studies have also demonstrated an
abnormal glutamate–glutamine–gamma-aminobutyric acid
cycle in patients with suicidality [28]. Furthermore, ketamine
has also been shown to work on nicotinic and opioid
receptors [29]. No other class of antidepressant medication
works to modulate the glutamatergic system, and research
continues into this, with the goal of characterizing the full
mechanism of action of ketamine and perhaps developing
other compounds that would have similar effects. Thus,
even if the approval and marketing of ketamine as a rapidacting
antisuicidal and antidepressant medication is not
realized, it could well be a prototype for development of
other medication(s) that retain the mechanism of action
with more favorable qualities and a lesser adverse effect
profile (such as a longer duration of action or less or no
addictive potential). Although the mechanisms explaining
the antisuicidal effect and the NMDA receptor antagonism
of ketamine are still unclear, some of the initial evidence
points to an anti-inflammatory action via the kynurenic
acid pathway. Strong suggestions as to the causal relationship
between inflammation and depression/suicidality
has come from studies demonstrating that cytokines [30,
31] and interferon-b [32] induce depression and suicidality.
Other recent studies have added to the notion of implicating
brain immune activation in the pathogenesis of suicidality.
For instance, one study showed microglial
activation of postmortem brain tissue in suicide victims
[33]. Another study found increased levels of the cytokine
interleukin-6 in cerebrospinal fluid from patients who had
attempted suicide [34]. Higher levels of inflammatory
markers have been shown in suicidal patients than in nonsuicidal
depressed patients [33, 35]. Inflammation leads to
production of both quinolinic acid (an NMDA agonist) and
kynurenic acid (a NMDA antagonist). An increased
quinolinic acid to kynurenic acid ratio leads to NMDA
receptor stimulation. The correlation between quinolinic
acid and Suicide Intent Scale scores indicates that changes
in glutamatergic neurotransmission could be specifically
linked to suicidality [36].
Small randomized controlled trials have demonstrated
the efficacy of ketamine in rapidly treating patients with
both TRD and/or bipolar depression [4, 8, 9, 11, 16–18].
Some studies have also examined suicide items as a secondary
measure in their depression rating scales [4, 7]. In
total, the studies examining ketamine and TRD have nearly
consistently demonstrated that ketamine provides relief
from depressive and suicidal symptoms, starting at 40 min
and lasting for as long as 5 days. Questions still remain as
to the long-term effects of this treatment, how much should
be administered and how often, any serious adverse effects,
and the mechanism of action.
Pharmacologically, ketamine has poor bioavailability
and is best administered via injection [37]. In their landmark
study, Berman et al. [4] found that a subanesthetic
dose (0.5 mg/kg) rapidly improved depressive symptoms.
Most of the subsequent studies have delivered ketamine as
a constant infusion for 40 min at a rate of 0.5 mg/kg.
Others have examined its efficacy after multiple infusions
and observed similar results [8, 13, 16, 38]. Currently, it is
recommended that ketamine be administered in a hospital
setting [39].

______________________________________

Characterizing the course of suicidal ideation response to ketamine

Characterizing the course of suicidal ideation response to ketamine PDF

2018 article from Carlos Zarate discussing the variable course outcomes with Ketamine for suicidality and correlations to serum markers and behavior and longevity of self-harm prior to treatment:

 

Background: : No pharmacological treatments exist for active suicidal ideation (SI), but the glutamatergic
modulator ketamine elicits rapid changes in SI. We developed data-driven subgroups of SI trajectories after
ketamine administration, then evaluated clinical, demographic, and neurobiological factors that might predict SI
response to ketamine.
Methods: : Data were pooled from five clinical ketamine trials. Treatment-resistant inpatients (n = 128) with
DSM-IV-TR-diagnosed major depressive disorder (MDD) or bipolar depression received one subanesthetic
(0.5 mg/kg) ketamine infusion over 40 min. Composite SI variable scores were analyzed using growth mixture
modeling to generate SI response classes, and class membership predictors were evaluated using multinomial
logistic regressions. Putative predictors included demographic variables and various peripheral plasma markers.
Results: : The best-fitting growth mixture model comprised three classes: Non-Responders (29%), Responders
(44%), and Remitters (27%). For Responders and Remitters, maximal improvements were achieved by Day 1.
Improvements in SI occurred independently of improvements in a composite Depressed Mood variable for
Responders, and partially independently for Remitters. Indicators of chronic SI and self-injury were associated
with belonging to the Non-Responder group. Higher levels of baseline plasma interleukin-5 (IL-5) were linked to
Remitters rather than Responders.
Limitations: : Subjects were not selected for active suicidal thoughts; findings only extend to Day 3; and plasma,
rather than CSF, markers were used.
Conclusion: : The results underscore the heterogeneity of SI response to ketamine and its potential independence
from changes in Depressed Mood. Individuals reporting symptoms suggesting a longstanding history of chronic
SI were less likely to respond or remit post-ketamine.

1. Introduction
Suicide poses a serious threat to public health. Worldwide, suicide
accounts for approximately 1 million deaths, and 10 million suicide
attempts are reported annually (World Health Organization, 2014). In
the United States, the national suicide rate has increased by approximately
28% over the last 15 years (Curtin et al., 2016). At the same
time, relatively few interventions for suicide risk exist. While treatments
such as clozapine and lithium have demonstrated effects on
suicidal behavior over weeks to months, these effects may be limited to
specific diagnoses (Cipriani et al., 2005; Griffiths et al., 2014). Currently,
no FDA-approved medications exist to treat suicidal ideation
(SI), leaving those who experience a suicidal crisis with limited options
for a reprieve of symptoms. Consequently, a critical need exists for
rapid-acting treatments that can be used in emergency settings.
A promising off-label agent for this purpose is the rapid-acting antidepressant
ketamine, which past studies have suggested reduces suicidal
thoughts (Diazgranados et al., 2010a; Murrough et al., 2015; Price
et al., 2009). A recent meta-analysis of 167 patients with a range of
mood disorder diagnoses found that ketamine reduced suicidal
thoughts compared to placebo as rapidly as within a few hours, with
effects lasting as long as seven days (Wilkinson et al., 2017). These
results are reinforced by newer findings of reduced active suicidal
ideation post-ketamine compared to a midazolam control(Grunebaum et al., 2018). As the efficacy literature develops in the era
of personalized medicine, two important issues must be addressed.
First, little is known about the acute course of SI following ketamine.
The speed with which antidepressant response occurs, and how much
improvement can be expected on average, has been documented for
single administrations of ketamine (Mathew et al., 2012; Sanacora
et al., 2017); in the limited available literature, researchers have
emulated previous studies examining antidepressant effect, where a
cutoff of 50% improvement demarcated response (Nierenberg and
DeCecco, 2001). Nevertheless, it remains unknown whether this categorization
accurately reflects the phenomenon of suicidal thoughts.
Empirically-derived approaches to the description of SI trajectory after
ketamine may be useful in operationalizing “response” in future clinical
trials.
Second, identifying demographic, clinical, or biological predictors
of SI response to ketamine would allow researchers and clinicians to
determine who is most likely to exhibit an SI response to ketamine. A
broad literature describes clinical and demographic predictors for suicide
risk (Franklin et al., 2017), and a smaller literature connects suicidal
thoughts and behaviors to plasma markers such as brain-derived
neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and cytokines (Bay-Richter et al., 2015;
Falcone et al., 2010; Isung et al., 2012; Serafini et al., 2017; Serafini
et al., 2013). However, no biomarkers have been shown to predict SI/
behavior response to intervention, a finding reinforced by the National
Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Research Prioritization Task
Force’s Portfolio Analysis (National Action Alliance for Suicide
Prevention: Research Prioritization Task Force, 2015). Notably, predictor
analyses have the potential to reveal insights into personalized
treatments for suicidal individuals, as well as the neurobiology of SI
response. With respect to antidepressant response, for example, this
approach yielded the observation that individuals with a family history
of alcohol dependence may be more likely to exhibit an antidepressant
response to ketamine (Krystal et al., 2003; Niciu et al., 2014; PermodaOsip
et al., 2014).
The goals of this study were to elucidate trajectories of SI response
and identify predictors of that response, with the ultimate goal of
adding to the growing literature surrounding ketamine’s specific effects
on SI. In particular, we sought to determine whether the heterogeneous
patterns of change in SI after ketamine administration were better explained
by a model with two or more latent groups of trajectories rather
than a single average trajectory, using secondary analyses from previously
published clinical trials. These classes were then used to evaluate
potential clinical, demographic, and plasma biomarker predictors
of SI response to ketamine in order to generate hypotheses.. Discussion
This analysis used a data-driven approach to characterize SI response
to ketamine. The data were best explained by three trajectory
classes: one with severe average baseline SI and little to no response to
ketamine (Non-Responders), one with moderate average baseline levels
of SI and significant response to ketamine (Responders), and a third
with moderate average baseline levels of SI and complete remission of
SI by two days post-ketamine (Remitters). These findings suggest a
diversity of post-ketamine changes in SI that may not be captured under
traditional methods of categorizing response to treatment.
Furthermore, we found evidence that SI response and antidepressant
response could be distinguished from each other; one subset of participants
experienced improvement in SI that was partially explained by
improvements in Depressed Mood, while the other group’s improvements
in SI occurred independently of antidepressant response. With
regard to predictors of SI response trajectory, preliminary results suggest
the individuals least likely to experience improvement in SI postketamine
were those with the most severe SI and a history of self-injury.
Few plasma markers emerged as predictors of SI response in this study,
highlighting the limitations of connecting SI ratings of response with
biological markers.
The growth mixture modeling approach used here underscored the
heterogeneity of SI response to ketamine, which would not have been
captured by simply calculating the average trajectory. The class assignment
from this approach also differed from the definition of response
(50% reduction in symptoms) traditionally used in the antidepressant
literature, which often focuses on a specific timepoint rather
than the entire symptom trajectory. In comparing classification using a
50% response at Day 1 and Day 3 with the latent trajectory classes, we
found representation of almost every SI class across each responder
group, highlighting the potential limitations of the 50% response approach.
Further study is needed to determine which of these approaches
will prove more fruitful. Complete remission of SI has previously been
used as an outcome measure in clinical trials and in a meta-analysis of
ketamine’s efficacy (Grunebaum et al., 2017; Grunebaum et al., 2018;
Wilkinson et al., 2017), as well as in a study examining the relationship
between SI response to ketamine and changes in nocturnal wakefulness
(Vande Voort et al., 2017). One strength of the present study is that this
data-driven approach provides classifications that directly reflect the
phenomena under study as they are, as opposed to what they should be.
Especially when used in larger samples than the current study, this
approach is particularly promising in its ability to provide a more
nuanced understanding of the nature of SI response to ketamine.
Our results also support the idea that SI response in particular can target. First, it should be noted here that SI classes were not distinguishable
by baseline Depressed Mood scores; patients with the most
severe SI did not differ meaningfully in Depressed Mood scores from
those with the mildest SI. Second, while previous analyses of these data
documented that BMI and family history of alcohol dependence predicted
antidepressant response (Niciu et al., 2014), SI response was not
associated with these variables in the current analysis. Third, the antidepressant
response profiles of the SI classes suggest that SI response
and antidepressant response are not wholly redundant. This aligns with
previous clinical trials and meta-analytic reviews of the literature suggesting
that SI response to ketamine occurs partially independently of
antidepressant response (Grunebaum et al., 2018; Wilkinson et al.,
2017). Nevertheless, this independence did not hold true across both SI
response groups. Specifically, antidepressant and SI response were
clearly linked in Remitters, with depression accounting for half of the
changes in SI; however, in Responders, improvements in SI occurred
independently from improvements in Depressed Mood. These discrepancies
could be related to ketamine’s complex neurobiological
mechanisms or to the potentially low levels of clinical severity observed
in the Remitters.
Interestingly, the current analyses found no baseline demographic
variables that reliably distinguished Responders from Remitters. Some
phenotypic characteristics were uniquely associated with belonging to
the Non-Responder group, suggesting that a long-standing history of
self-injury or SI may indicate resistance to rapid changes in SI.
Relatedly, a recent, randomized clinical trial of repeat-dose ketamine
compared to placebo found that ketamine had no effect on SI in a
sample of patients selected for their longstanding, chronic history of SI
(Ionescu, 2017). These results highlight the importance of patient selection,
particularly for suicide risk. It should be stressed, however, that
SI does not necessarily translate to suicidal attempts or deaths; to our
knowledge, no study has yet linked ketamine with reduced risk of
suicidal behavior. Indeed, in the present study the SI Non-Responders
experienced limited antidepressant effects in response to ketamine, but
may nevertheless have improved on other, unmeasured symptoms that
could provide important benefit and relief. As the ketamine literature
develops, it will be important to identify which clinical symptom profiles
are most likely to have a robust anti-SI and anti-suicidal behavior
response to ketamine and which ones may benefit from other interventions.
While we evaluated a range of potential plasma markers previously
linked to suicidal ideation and behavior, in the present analysis only IL5
was associated with the SI Responder subgroup. Ketamine is known to
have anti-inflammatory effects (Zunszain et al., 2013), but the relationship
between antidepressant response and change in cytokine
levels remains unclear (Park et al., 2017). Cytokines have been linked
to suicidal behavior in the past; a recent meta-analysis found that lower
levels of IL-2 and IL-4, and higher levels of TGFbeta, were associated
with suicidal thoughts and behaviors (Serafini et al., 2013); however, toour knowledge IL-5 has not previously been linked to SI. Given the large
number of comparisons and lack of precedent in the literature, this
result may have been spurious and should be interpreted with caution.
A number of other results may reflect meaningful relationships, but the
high degree of variability—and the associated wide confidence intervals—suggests
that larger sample sizes are needed to better elucidate
the nature of any such relationships (e.g. baseline VEGF: χ2 = 6.13,
p = .05, but OR (95% CI) 13.33 (0.93–200.00)). Somewhat surprisingly,
plasma BDNF levels were not associated with responder class.
Previous studies of bipolar, but not MDD, samples found that plasma
BDNF levels were associated with SI response after ketamine
(Grunebaum, 2017; Grunebaum et al., 2017), suggesting that the mixed
diagnostic composition of this study may explain differences from
previous work. Studies exploring the relationship between BDNF and
antidepressant response to ketamine have also yielded mixed findings
(Haile et al., 2014; Machado-Vieira et al., 2009). Other data-driven
approaches have considered both biological and behavioral variables in
characterizing depression (Drysdale et al., 2017); a similar approach
might prove useful for predicting SI response.
The present study is associated with several strengths as well as
limitations. Strengths include the relatively large sample size of participants
who received ketamine, the use of composite SI scores from
previous exploratory factor analyses as opposed to individual items,
and the combination of clinical and biological markers as potential
predictors of class membership. Limitations include patient selection
methods, as these patients were part of an antidepressant trial and were
not selected for active suicidal thoughts, as well as the exploratory
nature of the analysis. As stated above, suicidal thoughts do not necessarily
equate to suicidal behavior, and class membership would thus
not necessarily correspond with an overall reduction in suicide risk.
Another limitation is that results were collapsed across several clinical
trials with slight variations in study design, and findings were thus only
extended to Day 3 rather than a week after ketamine administration. As
a result, only a subset of the sample could be used for predictive analyses.
In addition, plasma—rather than CSF—markers were used, and
the latter might better indicate underlying biology due to proximity to
the brain, though certain markers such as plasma BDNF may be related
to platelet storage, rather than the brain (Chacón-Fernández et al.,
2016). Comparison of results to trajectories of suicide-specific measures,
such as the Scale for Suicide Ideation (Beck et al., 1979), may also
give further insight into specific SI content. Finally, many clinical
predictors were collected upon hospital admission; future analyses
could use formal assessments, such as the Childhood Traumatic Questionnaire
(Bernstein et al., 1994), assessment of personality disorders,
or diagnoses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as potential
indicators of response.
Despite these limitations, the study demonstrates the utility of a
data-driven approach for characterizing the heterogeneity of SI response
to a rapid-acting intervention. This allows for a more finegrained
analysis of symptoms than would be permitted by traditionalapproaches, such as overall average response or dichotomization at
50% reduction in symptoms. This study identified several findings of
note. These included distinguishing at least three patterns of SI response
to ketamine and finding that subjects who exhibited more severe SI at
baseline were not likely to experience an SI response to ketamine.

 

____________________________________

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Science Article on how Ketamine may work rapidly

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In contrast to most antidepressant medications, which can take several weeks to reduce depressive symptoms, ketamine — a commonly used veterinary anesthetic — can lift a person out of a deep depression within minutes of its administration, and its effects can last several weeks. Researchers have long-wondered how ketamine can both act quickly and be so long-lasting.

Now, researchers led by Mark Rasenick, distinguished professor of physiology and psychiatry in the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, describe the molecular mechanisms behind ketamine’s ability to squash depression and keep it at bay. They report their findings in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Two-thirds of participants in clinical studies who did not respond to traditional antidepressants experienced fast and lasting resolution of their depressive symptoms after being given ketamine intravenously, Rasenick explained. The effects of ketamine typically lasted about a week — much longer than would be expected with ketamine’s six-hour half-life in the body.

Rasenick and his colleagues used a cellular model system to investigate how ketamine acted.

In previous research, Rasenick and his colleagues showed that SSRIs — the most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants, which includes Prozac and Zoloft — work in the brain by moving molecules called G proteins off of “lipid rafts” on the cell membrane, where the G proteins are held inactive. G proteins produce cyclic AMP, which nerve cells need to signal properly. People with depression, Rasenick found, tend to have a greater proportion of their G proteins packed into these membrane patches, along with dampened brain cell signaling, which may contribute to symptoms of depression, including a feeling of overall numbness.

In the earlier research, when Rasenick exposed rat brain cells to SSRIs, the drug accumulated in the lipid rafts, and G proteins moved out of the rafts. The movement was gradual, over the span of several days, which Rasenick thinks is the reason why SSRIs and most other antidepressants can take a long time to begin working.

In his current research, Rasenick and his colleagues performed a similar experiment with ketamine and noticed that the G proteins left the rafts much faster. G proteins began migrating out of the lipid rafts within 15 minutes. And the long-lasting effects of ketamine may be due to the fact that the G proteins were very slow to move back into the lipid rafts, Rasenick explained.

The finding contradicts the long-held idea that ketamine works solely by blocking a cellular receptor called the NMDA receptor, which sits on the surface of nerve cells and helps transmit signals.

In fact, when the researchers knocked out the NMDA receptor, ketamine still had the same effect on the cells — quickly moving G proteins out of lipid rafts on the cell membrane.

“When G proteins move out of the lipid rafts, it allows for better communication among brain cells, which is known to help alleviate some of the symptoms of depression,” Rasenick said. “Whether they are moved out by traditional antidepressants or ketamine, it doesn’t matter, although with ketamine, the G proteins are very slow to move back into the lipid rafts, which would explain the drugs long-term effects on depressive symptoms.”

“This further illustrates that the movement of G proteins out of lipid rafts is a true biomarker of the efficacy of antidepressants, regardless of how they work,” Rasenick explained. “It confirms that our cell model is a useful tool for showing the effect of potential new antidepressant drug candidates on the movement of G proteins and the possible efficacy of these drugs in treating depression.”

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Illinois at ChicagoNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nathan H. Wray, Jeffrey M. Schappi, Harinder Singh, Nicolas B. Senese, Mark M. Rasenick. NMDAR-independent, cAMP-dependent antidepressant actions of ketamineMolecular Psychiatry, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41380-018-0083-8

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____________________________________________________

Psychology Today Article: Ketamine: Old Drug, New Tricks

 

Ketamine has been used as an anesthetic for 50 years, and for decades the clinicians prescribing it have noticed sudden, appreciable anti-suicide and antidepressant effects in their patients. Case reports of desperate suicidal depressionrelieved within half an hour were discussed in the waning years of the 20th century, but actual research papers with small trials have only started trickling in within the last two decades.

Even after all this time, the research done thus far has not led to ketamine being mainstream FDA-approved as standard therapy for depression or suicidal ideation. For one thing, the kind of ketamine used in the US for most of the last 50 years is an IV drip requiring nursing and vital sign monitoring. In my neck of the woods, IV ketamine treatment is $3,000 (not covered by insurance or Medicare), usually completed in six treatments over two weeks. Not exactly within reach for many of my patients with resistant depression (who tend to decline in socioeconomic status over time).

In the case studies, folks’ depression rather notoriously rebounded back from ketamine therapy and then became resistant, though that didn’t happen to everyone. But how could we study how effective ketamine is? It’s generic, so there’s no pharmaceutical company with the millions to blow on state-of-the-art, beautiful randomized controlled trials to bring before the FDA. The patient population for ketamine is also a difficult one. Suicidal folks and depressed people with illness resistant to standard therapy or meds are more likely to give a drug company an expensive and public failure rather than profit, no matter that this is a population desperately in need of new ideas and new thinking. However, new formulations and the slow grind of publicly funded studies means new life for this elderly drug.

Before we talk about how ketamine works, let’s talk about how mental illness arises in terms of the actual pathology in the brain. (Note: This will necessarily be an oversimplification.) In short, most mental illness develops at the intersection of too much emotional or physical stress and genetic vulnerability leading to limitations in efficient brain functioning. This happens when brain becomes overwhelmed with excitatory signals: too much stress, too much activation of the fight-or-flight nervous system leading to specific over-activation of certain brain areas (like the left prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, or the amygdala) without compensatory time or resources for recovery and repair.

The emotional and physical stressors could be, for example, a death in the family, extended work stress, viral illness that affects the brain, medications that affect the brain, or traumatic brain injury. The genetic vulnerability could be an increased inefficiency in being able to make specific neurotransmitters or brain fertilizers that help in recovery and repair, or an increased genetic ability to send excitatory ions through cell membranes, or many more complex issues we haven’t yet figured out.

Under this theory, almost any intervention could decrease symptoms of mental illness if it increases general neuron recovery and repair—or the efficiency of neurotransmitter use in the recovery and repair pathway—or reduces neurotoxic activation of the excitatory pathway (or “excitotoxicity“). Interventions such as regular exercise, meditationpsychotherapy, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antipsychotics, lithium, magnesium, anti-seizure meds and many other treatment paradigms can be at least partially effective to decrease symptoms. Keep in mind, sometimes the disease is a tank, and the spear in your arsenal (regular exercise, for example) is never going to be enough to take out that tank. Sometimes you need anti-tank missiles (such as low dose antipsychotics for severe resistant depression).

Ketamine is, among many other things, an NMDA receptor antagonist(though even this characterization is complicated). This means that ketamine blocks the action at the NMDA receptor, normally turned on by the major excitatory neurotransmitter in the nervous system, glutamate. NMDA receptor over-activation is ground zero for excitotoxiticy, kind of like a gas pedal that is stuck in the downward position. So far, though, not a single FDA-approved psychiatric medication in general practice specifically unsticks that gas pedal. But ketamine does. (So will, to a much lesser extent, magnesium* and the supplement NAC, which decreases glutamate concentrations). This gas pedal unsticking is how ketamine can seemingly do the impossible: take a dangerously suicidal patient and make them feel much, much better in less than an hour.

Wikimedia Commons
Source: Wikimedia Commons

In 2016, a new formulation of ketamine, esketamine, was granted FDA “breakthrough therapy” designation for major depressive disorder with imminent risk of suicide. It’s a nasal spray used in Europe for anesthesia, but never used in the US before. It has three to four times the affinity for the NMDA receptor as ketamine and fewer intolerable side effects (such as hallucinations, dissociation, and dangerous fluctuations of vital signs). A phase two study of esketamine was published in April 2018, a randomized controlled trial of suicidal depressed patients. They agreed to be monitored on an inpatient unit for five days after the first administration of the medicine, followed by twice-a-week administration for four weeks in addition to standard antidepressant treatment. To empathize how ill the population in this study was, three (placebo) patients out of 68 made suicide attempts during the follow up period, and half needed additional suicide precautions during their inpatient stay (usually decreased time between nursing checks which is, at the low end, every 15 minutes on a standard inpatient unit). Esketamine results separated from those of placebo treatment by four hours and at 24 hours, with rapid relief from suicidal thoughts and depressive symptoms, but there seemed to be no difference with esketamine and placebo at 25 days.

This study seems to support the old case study observations, that ketamine can be amazingly helpful short term, but is not really a long-term intervention. But it’s hard to tell, and we need more data. No one really knows why there’s such a rapid ketamine poop-out, but from a clinical perspective, who cares? A fast intervention that decreases suicidal ideation could save lives while our other, proof-tested, slower interventions take their time to work. This could also shorten inpatient hospital stays for depression, freeing up precious resources and getting people back to their families, work, and communities. While the use in observed settings such as inpatient units and emergency rooms is likely to accelerate, we need way more-real world data before we start prescribing nasal spray in outpatient treatment, especially for dangerously suicidal patients.

Ketamine studies have also opened the doors for other NMDA receptor antagonist interventions. Some drugs in development include new formulations of dextromethorphan and rapastinel. Given that psychiatric drugs have been endless renditions of the same tricyclic antidepressants,  SSRIs, dopamine blockers, and dopamine partial agonists for decades, we could use a new approach.

And remember, there are plenty of ways to unstick that gas pedal early in the game, with proper self care and healthy living. Modern life, in America at least, doesn’t much incentivize vacation or sleep, both of which help that recovery and repair cycle. As a psychiatrist I’ll use whatever evidence-based intervention I can at any stage to treat the patient where he or she is to make them start getting better in the moment. As a health writer I can suggest eating a (mostly) home-cooked whole foods diet, avoiding a lot of alcohol and smoking, and getting enough physical movement, rest, and recharging time. In the brain, it’s all about reducing that excitotoxicity. In life, it’s all about a clear head, good energy, and serenity.

*Magnesium is also felt to work, in some respects, by antagonizing NMDA receptors “

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Traditional antidepressants may take weeks to work on individuals. There have been associations with increased suicidality in some studies. The need for a more rapidly acting antidepressant is important. The study below investigated the antidepressant effect of Ketamine by looking through an FDA database and observing associations of pain and depression reduction with the use of Ketamine. They were clearly present. Of note, minocycline and Diclofenac also seemed to be associated with improved depression parameters.

Ketamine provides both pain relief and anti-depression effects in refractory patients, who by definition, have failed multiple therapies.   ::

 

______________________________________________________________________________

Ketamine for Pain Management, Treatment of Depression << Article Link

Article below:

Ketamine may alleviate depression, pain, and adverse effects associated with opioid treatment, and may thus represent an attractive adjunct therapy for pain management, according to a novel population analysis recently published in Scientific Reports.1

Nearly half of all patients with depression taking conventional antidepressants discontinue their treatment prematurely.2 Researchers have sought alternatives to standard antidepressants, for which therapeutic effects are delayed by 2 to 10 weeks.3

Ketamine, an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist, was shown to provide acute benefits for treatment-resistant depression, bipolar depression, and major depressive disorder with suicidal ideation, when administered intravenously, however, those studies were conducted on limited samples (20 to 57 participants).4-7

The history of ketamine as an illicit drug favored for its hallucinogenic effects presents ethical obstacles to its use in large clinical trials. Researchers from the University of California San Diego in La Jolla, therefore employed an Inverse-Frequency Analysis approach to investigate whether ketamine, when administered in addition to other therapeutics, has antidepressant properties.

The team applied the inverse frequency analysis method, which looks for negative statistical patterns in the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) post-marketing database of more than 8 million patient records. They observed reductions in depression and pain in patients receiving ketamine, as indicated by negative log odds ratio (logOR) values (logOR, -0.67 ± 0.034 and logOR, -0.41 ± 0.019, respectively). “The data we analyzed are indirect and skewed by cases of bad or lethal adverse effects. Nevertheless the statistics were sufficient to notice the trends,” explained study co-author, Ruben Abagyan, PhD, in an interview with Clinical Pain Advisor.

According to Dr Abagyan, a study recently published by a British team indicates that ketamine might be effective in nearly 40% of patients with severe, treatment-resistant depression, results that are concordant with those from the current study.8

The IFA method was also used to evaluate ketamine efficacy and associated side effects reported in the FAERS database. The investigators found significant reductions in a number of side effects associated with opioid therapies, including constipation (LogOR −0.17 ± 0.023), vomiting (LogOR −0.16 ± 0.025), and nausea (LogOR −0.45 ± 0.034) compared with other drug combinations used for pain management.

The authors concluded that their findings are in line with those from smaller studies, indicating beneficial effects for ketamine as a monotherapy or adjunctive therapy for depression, particularly treatment-resistant depression, with particular indication for patients with suicide ideation, because of its rapid onset of action. “The results should serve as a motivation to conduct a proper clinical trial for the rapid onset treatment of severe depression,” Dr Abagyan noted.

The novel analysis employed in this study may help investigate off-label indications for other drugs. “Ideally the method we proposed should be applied to the actual clinical data rather than the somewhat biased set of un-normalized FAERS reports,” Dr Abagyan added. “The method [can be used] to observe unexpected effects of a treatment by looking at the reduction of the baseline of this effect upon treatment. It can be applied to any effect that is being recorded including cancer, viral diseases mortality, longevity.” he concluded.

 

References

  1. Cohen IV, Makunts T, Atayee R, Abagyan R. Population scale data reveals the antidepressant effects of ketamine and other therapeutics approved for non-psychiatric indicationsSci Rep 2017;7:1450.
  2. Sansone RA, Sansone LA. Antidepressant adherence: are patients taking their medications?. Innov Clin Neurosci. 2012;9(5-6):41-46.
  3. Frazer A, Benmansour S. Mol Psychiatry. Delayed pharmacological effects of antidepressantsMol Psychiatry 2002;7:S23-8.
  4. Price RB, Iosifescu DV, Murrough JW,  et al. Effects of ketamine on explicit and implicit suicidal cognition: a randomized controlled trial in treatment-resistant depressionDepress Anxiety 2014;31:335-343.
  5. DiazGranados N, Ibrahim LA, Brutsche NE, et al. Rapid resolution of suicidal ideation after a single infusion of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist in patients with treatment-resistant major depressive disorderJ Clin Psychiatry 2010;71:1605-1611.
  6. Alberich S, Martínez-Cengotitabengoa M, López P,et al. Efficacy and safety of ketamine in bipolar depression: A systematic reviewRev Psiquiatr Salud Ment 2017;10:104-112.
  7. Larkin, G. L. & Beautrais, A. L. A preliminary naturalistic study of low-dose ketamine for depression and suicide ideation in the emergency departmentInt J Neuropsychopharmacol 2011;8:1127-31.
  8. Singh I, Morgan C, Curran V, et al. Ketamine treatment for depression: opportunities for clinical innovation and ethical foresightLancet Psychiatry 2017;4:419-42

 

Population scale data reveals the antidepressant effects of Ketamine  ::  << Article below

Population scale data reveals the
antidepressant effects of ketamine
and other therapeutics approved
for non-psychiatric indications

Isaac V. Cohen, Tigran Makunts, Rabia Atayee & Ruben Abagyan

Current therapeutic approaches to depression fail for millions of patients due to lag in clinical response
and non-adherence. Here we provide new support for the antidepressant efect of an anesthetic
drug, ketamine, by Inverse-Frequency Analysis of eight million reports from the FDA Adverse Efect
Reporting System. The results of the examination of population scale data revealed that patients who
received ketamine had signifcantly lower frequency of reports of depression than patients who took
any other combination of drugs for pain. The analysis also revealed that patients who took ketamine
had signifcantly lower frequency of reports of pain and opioid induced side efects, implying ketamine’s
potential to act as a benefcial adjunct agent in pain management pharmacotherapy. Further, the
Inverse-Frequency Analysis methodology provides robust statistical support for the antidepressant
action of other currently approved therapeutics including diclofenac and minocycline.

We found that patients listed in the FAERS database who received ketamine in addition to other therapeutics
had signifcantly lower frequency of reports of depression than patients who took any other combination of drugs
for pain (LogOR−0.67±0.034)

Te analysis of the whole FAERS database revealed several other unintentional depression reducing drugs
among antibiotics, cosmeceuticals and NSAIDS.Our data supported previous studies that observed the
psychiatric polypharmacology of minocycline, a tetracycline antibiotic.The NSAID, diclofenac, was also
observed to have some antidepressant properties.It is theorized that both of these drugs may accomplish
antidepressant effects through an anti-inflammatory mechanism.Because of the antidepressant activity of several
NSAIDs, we further separated the non-ketamine pain cohort. Ketamine patients were then compared to
patients who received any other combination of drugs for pain excluding NSAIDs. It was observed that depression
event rates remained low (LogOR−0.56±0.035).As an important side note, we also evaluated efcacy and side efects with the use of ketamine for pain management.
We found that patients who were on ketamine had reduced opioid induced side effects including constipation, vomiting, and nausea. Our data supports ketamine’s
opioid-sparing properties and alludes to the fact that patients may receive benefts of improved pain, reduced
requirement of opioids, and ultimately less opioid reduced side effects.

References
1. Murray, C. J. & Lopez, A. D. Evidence-based health policy–lessons from the Global Burden of Disease Study. Science 274, 740–743,
doi:10.1126/science.274.5288.740 (1996).
2. Kessler, R. C. et al. Te epidemiology of major depressive disorder: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication
(NCS-R). JAMA 289, 3095–3105, doi:10.1001/jama.289.23.3095 (2003).
3. Bromet, E. et al. Cross-national epidemiology of DSM-IV major depressive episode. BMC Med 9, 90, doi:10.1186/1741-7015-9-90
(2011).
4. Andrade, L. et al. The epidemiology of major depressive episodes: results from the International Consortium of Psychiatric
Epidemiology (ICPE) Surveys. Int J Methods Psychiatr Res 12, 3–21, doi:10.1002/(ISSN)1557-0657 (2003).
5. Sansone, R. A. & Sansone, L. A. Antidepressant adherence: are patients taking their medications? Innov Clin Neurosci 9, 41–46
(2012).
6. Frazer, A. & Benmansour, S. Delayed pharmacological effects of antidepressants. Mol Psychiatry 7, S23–28, doi:10.1038/
sj.mp.4001015 (2002). Suppl 1.
7. Braun, C., Bschor, T., Franklin, J. & Baethge, C. Suicides and Suicide Attempts during Long-Term Treatment with Antidepressants:
A Meta-Analysis of 29 Placebo-Controlled Studies Including 6,934 Patients with Major Depressive Disorder. Psychother Psychosom
85, 171–179, doi:10.1159/000442293 (2016).
8. Seemüller, F. et al. Te controversial link between antidepressants and suicidality risks in adults: data from a naturalistic study on a
large sample of in-patients with a major depressive episode. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol 12, 181–189, doi:10.1017/
S1461145708009139 (2009).
9. Rush, A. J. et al. Acute and longer-term outcomes in depressed outpatients requiring one or several treatment steps: a STAR*D
report. Am J Psychiatry 163, 1905–1917, doi:10.1176/ajp.2006.163.11.1905 (2006).
10. Price, R. B. et al. Efects of ketamine on explicit and implicit suicidal cognition: a randomized controlled trial in treatment-resistant
depression. Depress Anxiety 31, 335–343, doi:10.1002/da.22253 (2014).

11. DiazGranados, N. et al. Rapid resolution of suicidal ideation afer a single infusion of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist in
patients with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. J Clin Psychiatry 71, 1605–1611, doi:10.4088/JCP.09m05327blu (2010).
12. Alberich, S. et al. Efcacy and safety of ketamine in bipolar depression: A systematic review. Rev Psiquiatr Salud Ment (2016).
13. Larkin, G. L. & Beautrais, A. L. A preliminary naturalistic study of low-dose ketamine for depression and suicide ideation in the
emergency department. Int J Neuropsychopharmacol 14, 1127–1131, doi:10.1017/S1461145711000629 (2011).
14. Miyaoka, T. et al. Minocycline as adjunctive therapy for patients with unipolar psychotic depression: an open-label study. Prog
Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry 37, 222–226, doi:10.1016/j.pnpbp.2012.02.002 (2012).
15. Rosenblat, J. D. et al. Anti-infammatory agents in the treatment of bipolar depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis.
Bipolar Disord 18, 89–101, doi:10.1111/bdi.2016.18.issue-2 (2016).
16. FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS): Latest Quarterly Data Files. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/
GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Surveillance/AdverseDrugEfects/ucm082193.htm (Accessed 2016).
17. The Adverse Event Reporting System (AERS): Older Quarterly Data Files. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/
GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Surveillance/AdverseDrugEfects/ucm083765.htm (Accessed 2016).
18. Questions and Answers on FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/
GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Surveillance/AdverseDrugEfects/default.htm (Acessed 2016).

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Ketamine for resistant depression: Outstanding promise, outstanding issues.

Outstanding Promise.

Ketamine has been around for many years, firstly as a dissociative anaesthetic and then as a psychedelic drug. But it might become best known for it’s powerful antidepressant properties (Berman et al 2000Zarate et al 2006). Compared to existing antidepressants, which take around 2 weeks to work, ketamine exerts a large antidepressant effect on the first day of treatment.

depression ketamine murrough

Figure 1: The antidepressant effect of ketamine over 6 treatment sessions. The improvement on day 1 (measured using the MADRAS scale) was predictive of the response achieved following the sixth treatment session.

The robust antidepressant effect of ketamine also occurs in patients who have not found relief with existing drugs or with ECT. In the latest study to be reported, 24 patients with treatment-resistant depression underwent up to 6 sessions of intravenous ketamine (0.5mg/Kg in 40 mins) over ~2 weeks. Over 70% of patients responded to ketamine, and the overall reduction in depression was large and rapid (Murrough et al 2013) (Figure 1).

Outstanding Issues.

To date a major issue has been the lack of persistence of the antidepressant effect. In previous studies, involving a single ketamine treatment, depression returned within one week of the session or less. In the study by Murrough et al, this was extended to an average of 18 days. This is an improvement, but further work will be needed to solve the problem of the relatively short-lived antidepressant effect of ketamine.

An understanding of the mechanism by which ketamine alleviates depression may be necessary if we are to extend the duration of it’s beneficial effects. Pre-clinical work suggests that ketamine boosts the health and integrity of synapses and neuronal networks. Much of the action is believed to take place within dendritic spines, and involves local protein synthesis (Duman et al 2012) (Figure2).

ketamine mechanism
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Figure 2: The antidepressant effects of ketamine may depend upon activation of mTOR and local protein synthesis in dendritic spines.

Two molecules of relevance are mTOR and GSK-3. Ketamine enhances local protein synthesis by activating mTOR and by inhibiting GSK-3. [GSK-3 inhibits mTOR]. A drug, such as lithium, which inhibits GSK-3 might enhance the antidepressant effect of ketamine. This has now been demonstrated in pre-clinical studies (Liu et al 2013). The clinical question, which will now be addressed in trials is whether lithium treatment extends and enhances the antidepressant effects of ketamine. Lithium has been used for treatment-resistant depression for many years, and has a good evidence base (Bauer et al 2010) so that the combination of ketamine and lithium presents as an interesting and relatively straightforward strategy for stubborn depression.

However it is somewhat odd that the proposed mechanism for ketamine involves new protein synthesis and synaptogenesis (which take time, and are sustained) whereas the clinical effects of ketamine are very rapid (and transient). Other mechanisms may have more explanatory power. For instance a recent fMRI study showed that ketamine decreased the connectivity of limbic and prefrontal regions which are known to be overactive in depression (Scheidegger et al 2012). More provocatively, it appears that the antidepressant effect of ketamine depends upon the extent of the acute psychological reaction produced by the drug. Although the dissociative/psychedelic properties of ketamine are sometimes regarded as unwanted “side-effects”, a recent paper showed that the acute psychedelic and subsequent antidepressant effects are related (Sos et al 2013).

 2013;34(4):287-93.

Relationship of ketamine’s antidepressant and psychotomimetic effects in unipolar depression.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Ketamine and other NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) antagonists produce fast-acting antidepressant-like effects, although the underlying mechanism is unclear. Furthermore, high affinity NMDA antagonists such as ketamine are associated with psychotomimetic effects. To date the link between the antidepressant and psychotomimetic effects of ketamine has not been explored. We examined the relationship between the antidepressant and psychotomimetic effects of a single ketamine infusion in subjects diagnosed with major depressive disorder.

METHODS:

In a double-blind, cross-over, placebo-controlled, two weeks clinical trial we studied the effects of ketamine (0.54 mg/kg within 30 min) in a group of 27 hospitalized depressive patients.

RESULTS:

Higher intensity of psychotomimetic symptoms, measured using BPRS, during ketamine administration correlated with alleviation in mood ratings during the following week with maximum on day seven. Ketamine was superior to placebo in all visits (day 1, 4, and 7) assessed by MADRS with effect size (Cohen´s d) of 0.62, 0.57, and 0.44 respectively. There was no significant correlation between ketamine and nor-ketamine plasma levels and MADRS score change at any study time point.

CONCLUSION:

The substantial relationship between ketamine’s antidepressant and psychotomimetic effects was found. This relationship could be mediated by the initial steps of ketamine’s action, trough NMDA receptors, shared by both ketamine’s clinical effects.

GSK-3 Inhibition Potentiates the Synaptogenic and Antidepressant-Like Effects of Subthreshold Doses of Ketamine

Lithium’s Emerging Role in the Treatment of refractory major depression episodes – augmentation of antidepressants

Subanesthetic ketamine decreases the incentive-motivational value of reward-related cues.

The effects of subanesthetic ketamine infusions on motivation to quit and cue-induced craving in cocaine-dependent research volunteers.

Signaling Pathways Underlying the Rapid Antidepressant Actions of Ketamine

 

Cognitive disorders: the role of dendritic spines.

Cognitive disorders: the role of dendritic spines.

www.paulmorrison.org/cognitive-disorders-the-role-of-dendritic-spines/

Neuronal plasticity:

A major contribution of neuroscience to the humanities is the knowledge that the structure of the brain is moulded by the experiences the mind goes through – the phenomenon known as plasticity. It means that the circuits of the brain are sculpted by habitat, schooling, language, relationships, and culture, as well as by the unfolding genetic programme. The action occurs below the micrometre scale – at synapses (the points of connection between neurons) – and involves the exquisite choreography of a number of molecular machines. These molecular processes are so fundamental for cognition that their failure (whether driven by gene mutation or by harsh environments) results in neuropsychological disability. A major locus of plasticity (and hence, cognitive disability) is the dendritic spine.

pyramidal neuron

The dendrites of pyramidal neurons express thousands of dendritic spines. P=pyramidal neuron.

Principal neurons in the brain, such as cortical pyramidal neurons, express tens of thousands of small protruberances on their dendritic trees. These structures (dendritic spines) receive excitatory information from other neurons, and are highly dynamic. They can adjust their responsiveness to glutamate (the major excitatory neurotransmitter), becoming stronger (potentiation) or weaker (depression), as local circumstances dictate. This strengthening (LTP) or weakening (LTD) can be transient, or persist over long periods and as such, serves as an ideal substrate for learning and memory at synapses and in circuits. Potentiated spines increase in size, and express more AMPA glutamate receptors, whilst the opposite pattern occurs in synaptic depression to the extent that spines can be ‘absorbed’ back into the dendritic tree.

Over the course of childhood, dendritic spines (excitatory synapses) increase in number, but their numbers are ‘pruned’ back during adolescence to reach a plateau. Enriched environments have been shown to increase spine density, impoverished environments the opposite. In common psychiatric disorders, spine density is altered. For example, the most robust histological finding in schizophrenia is a reduction of spine density in the frontal cortex, auditory cortex and the hippocampus. In major depression, spines (and dendrites) are lost in the hippocampus. In autism, spine density actually increases. Finally, in Alzheimer’s and other dementias there is a catastrophic, and progressive loss of cortical and sub-cortical spines.

REGULATION OF THE SPINE:

The molecular biology of dendritic spines involves hundreds of proteins, but the outlines are now reasonably well understood. Scaffolding proteins [such as PSD95, shank(s), AKAP, stargazin and homer(s)] provide structural support and provide orientatation for membrane bound receptors, ion-channels and their downstream signalling pathways. The scaffold (post-synaptic density), facilitates effective signalling by ensuring that the correct protein partners are in close apposition. The scaffold is also tethered to proteins which bridge the synaptic cleft (cell adhesion molecules) and to bundles of actin filaments which provide the structure and force for spine enlargement (and retraction).

dendritic spine

Spine plasticity is fundamental for learning and memory. The shuttling of AMPA receptors underlies early phase plasticity. Modification of the actin cytoskeleton and local protein synthesis underlie long term plastic changes.

There is a constant remodelling of the actin cytoskeleton within the spine in response to synaptic and network signalling. Remodelling is via small, cytoplasmic G-proteins from the RHOfamily. Some family members promote the growth and stabilisation of actin filaments, whereas others promote actin disassembly. Mutations in the proteins which regulate actin dynamics are a cause of learning disability. Finally local protein synthesis (and degradation) occurs within dendritic spines, is tightly controlled and is essential for plasticity. Abnormalities in local protein synthesis within the spine underlie learning disability syndromes such as fragile X, neurofibromatosis and tuberous sclerosis.

Spine pathology:

Recent years have seen glutamate synapses move to centre stage in neuropsychiatry. This is not surprising given the role of pyramidal neurons (glutamate containing neurons) in information processing, and the role of glutamate transmission in learning and memory [see link]. But it is remarkable that so many psychological and cognitive disorders appear to ‘coalesce’ at dendritic spines.

The enclosed vector-graphic image [click here] highlights a selection of some of the proteins which are now known to be involved in autism, learning disability and schizoprenia.

Research will continue to decipher the complexity (and beauty) of the dendritic spine, but potential treatments are starting to emerge for disorders like fragile X, (which until recently were thought to be not amenable for drug treatment, as was the case for schizophrenia until the 1950s). Molecular neuroscientists will, almost certainly, continue to uncover more treatment targets. The task for psychiatry, as ever, is to keep abreast of neuroscience in all it’s complexity (and beauty).

Glutamate & GABA for psychiatrists

Rapid Dissemination of Information
Glutamate and GABA are the archetypal ‘fast’ transmitters. If a neuron in the brain ‘wishes’ to communicate rapidly with another cell, the chances are that it will utilise glutamate or GABA. Of course, glutamate neurons exert an excitatory influence on the cells they contact, whereas GABA, at least on first glance, is inhibitory.

Fast transmitters bind to receptors on membrane-spanning ion channels. An ion-channel is in constant flux between various conformations: e.g. open, closed, desensitised. Binding of fast transmitter ‘causes’ the ion channel to snap open for brief periods, and ions rush down their concentration gradients causing an abrupt, short-lived, change in the local membrane potential of the post-synaptic cell (Figure 1). From start to finish the whole process is over within tens of milliseconds, and constitutes a discrete electrical signal (termed an excitatory or inhibitory post-synaptic potential; EPSP, IPSP).

nmda receptor

Figure 1. The NMDA Receptor mediates an EPSP.

Neurotransmission v neuromodulation
Fast transmission, as a concept, pre-supposes slow transmission. The classical slow transmitters are the monoamines, e.g. noradrenaline and dopamine. These substances are used as transmitters by neurons within specific brainstem nuclei, whose axons project to numerous subcortical structures and large areas of cortex. There are relatively few monoamine neurons (tens of thousands), but their projections show massive arborisation within the ‘higher centres’ and the limbic system. Anatomically, glutamate and GABA signalling is characterised by point-to-point communication between narrowly separated (and tethered) pre-synaptic and post-synaptic elements, whereas for monoamine systems, the release sites (boutons) and post-synaptic receptors are not necessarily in close proximity. In contrast to glutamate and GABA, which convey a fast, discrete, short-lived electrical signal, monoamines evoke slower-onset, diffuse, longer-duration biochemical changes in their target neurons. Monoamine systems are not optimised for the rapid dissemination of specific information, but instead for modulating those neurons that are.

Ensemble formation and Gestalts
Pyramidal neurons (the principal output neuron of the hippocampus and cortex) use glutamate as a transmitter to communicate rapidly with neurons in ‘lower centres’ such as the striatum, thalamus, pontine nuclei and the cord although most communication is with other pyramidal neurons. Pyramidal neurons organise themselves into ensembles. This process, in which pyramidal neurons fire in synchrony for brief periods of time is thought to be essential for object perception and for movement, speech and thinking.

Consider a pyramidal neuron ‘sitting’ at resting-membrane-potential (-70mV). It receives tens of thousands of excitatory (glutamate) inputs on its dendritic spines, (dynamic structures that are moulded by experience over a lifetime). A single excitatory input (by itself) has little overall impact on the pyramidal neuron. But when numerous EPSP’s from a multitude of inputs arrive ‘synchronously’, the depolarisation may be sufficient for the pyramidal neuron to fire an action potential (AP). In short, the pyramidal neuron is recruited (by the ensemble) into joining the ensemble.

It can be grasped that for AP firing to occur in a pyramidal neuron, there has to be a convergence of excitatory information from numerous sources. Excitatory inputs come from various thalamic nuclei and from stellate cells (in primary sensory cortices), although the overwhelming majority come from other pyramidal neurons. Regardless of the source, timing is key. In order to generate enough depolarisation to trigger an AP, inputs must arrive (and summate) within the same narrow time window (of the order of milliseconds).

Precise Timing and cortical dynamics
The output of a pyramidal neuron (AP spiking) is finely controlled. Precise timing is so fundamental for cortical processing that various auxiliary neurons appear to be tasked with a pacemaker role. These neurons utilise GABA as a transmitter. Classical neuroscience conceptualised GABA containing neurons as nothing more than inhibitory interneurons – this is no longer tenable. There are various populations of GABA containing neuron, which have been classified according to their morphology, their location in the cortex, which proteins they use to sequester calcium, and their electrophysiological properties. Some are even excitatory. For simplicity, we shall restrict ourselves to a simple classification based upon where the GABA neuron contacts the pyramidal neuron (Figure 2).

glutamate and gaba neurons

Figure 2. A pyramidal neuron receives inhibitory GABA-ergic input to its dendrites. GABA pacemakers synapse on the soma and axon initial segment.

 

Contacts formed with the dendrites of pyramidal neurons function as inhibitory interneurons in the classical sense (i.e. they oppose excitatory drive), whereas GABA neurons targeting the soma or the proximal axon (of the pyramidal neuron) function as pacemakers. We can consider how these GABA pacemaker neurons are optimised for their task. Firstly they have very fast dynamics, swifter for example than the pyramidal neurons that they make contact with. Secondly, they provide a very strong and reliable signal to the pyramidal neuron by engulfing the soma or the proximal axon with numerous terminals. A strong, brief, recurrent signal to the soma and proximal axon creates a series of time windows, which determine precisely when the pyramidal neuron fires. Thirdly, individual pacemaker neurons make contact with numerous local pyramidal neurons. And finally, groups of pacemaker neurons are connected by electrical synapses (gap junctions) so that they can function as an interconnected single entity, a syncytium. For completion, pyramidal neurons make strong, reliable synapses (excitatory) with pacemaker neurons.

It is readily apparent that the interconnectivity of pyramidal neurons and GABA interneurons favours the emergence of oscillations, with successive, precisely timed periods of integration followed by periods of AP discharge. Experiments have shown that the population of neurons in an active ensemble generate the rhythm, whilst the rhythm puts precise constraints upon when an individual neuron can fire.

Systems and levels
For slow, diffuse modulators such as noradrenaline, it makes sense to talk of a system. To recap, noradrenaline [NA] is synthesized by no more than tens of thousands of neurons, confined to discrete nuclei within the brainstem, and is ‘sprayed’ from en-passant boutons over large territories of CNS tissue, in a hormone-like manner. Crucially, the release patterns of noradrenaline [and other neuromodulators] can be clearly mapped onto distinct behavioural states, the most marked differences arising in the sleep-state [noradrenaline – ‘off’] versus the waking-state [noradrenaline – ‘on’]. Since the extracellular concentrations of noradrenaline [and other neuromodulators] can inform directly about higher brain/mind levels, the idea of a noradrenergic system has utility.

Glutamate and GABA are too ubiquitous as fast point-to-point transmitters for the term ‘system’ to be applicable in the same way. Particular patterns of behaviour cannot be mapped onto the release of GABA or glutamate at a specific locus. All we can say is that neurons in an ensemble use glutamate and GABA to communicate with each other. Whereas transient fluctuations in the extracellular concentrations of GABA/glutamate do not reveal anything about behaviour, the dynamics of neuronal ensembles correspond with distinct behavioural states. Again the sleep wake-cycle is illustrative. Oscillatory activity generated by the ensemble can be mapped unambiguously onto the sleep-state and the waking-state.

Learning & Memory
In the 1970s it became clear that excitatory connections onto pyramidal neurons could be made stronger, if they were subjected to particular patterns of input. This was the first experimental support for an idea that can be traced back to Ramon y Cajal – the idea that synapses are modifiable (plastic) and that such plasticity might serve as the physical basis of memory.

There are various forms of plasticity, but the most widely studied is NMDA-dependent long-term potentiation (LTP). In the early 1980’s, researchers based in Bristol showed that NMDA receptor antagonists could block the initiation of LTP [and subsequent behavioural experiments, (most famously, by Richard Morris in Edinburgh) showed that such drugs could inhibit new learning].

NMDA receptor channels are found at the heads of dendritic spines, adjacent to the glutamate terminal. AMPA receptor channels are found in the same locale. When activated, both receptor channels produce an excitatory-post-synaptic-potential (EPSP). In the case of the AMPA receptor, the EPSP is mediated by sodium ions flowing into the spine. For NMDA receptors, the EPSP is mediated by a combination of sodium and calcium ions. [It is the calcium signal that initiates LTP (Figure 3). Early-phase LTP is mediated by phosphorylation of AMPA receptors (increasing their conductance) and by insertion of new AMPA receptors into the post-synaptic membrane].

long term potentiation

Long Term Potentiation (LTP) is induced by NMDA receptor activation. The mechanism of early-phase LTP involves the enhancement of AMPA receptor conductances and insertion of new AMPA receptors into the post-synaptic membrane.

AMPA and NMDA receptor channels differ in one other key property. The NMDA channel is voltage-dependent. At membrane potentials less than -50mV, the NMDA channel remains closed, even if glutamate is bound to the receptor. For the NMDA channel to snap open, the membrane potential must be already depolarised to at least -30mV. So two conditions are necessary for NMDA conductance; binding of glutamate and membrane depolarisation. For this reason, the NMDA receptor is said to be a coincidence detector (or in engineering terms, an AND gate).

Sufficient post-synaptic depolarisation can occur from backward-propagating action potentials (APs) or from temporally or spatially summated excitatory input to a dendritic branch. Research in the last decade has revealed that the timing of pre-synaptic activity (glutamate release) and of post-synaptic activity (post-synaptic-depolarisation) is critical in determining whether synaptic strength will be altered. Pre and post synaptic ‘events’ must occur within approximately 20 milliseconds, otherwise synaptic strength remains unchanged. This form of plasticity, known as Spike-Timing-Dependent-Plasticity (SDTP), is likely to become increasingly relevant as we begin to conceptualise ‘micro-circuit’ abnormalities in major neurodevelopmental disorders. Two final points about SDTP will be made here. Plasticity is bidirectional (potentiation or depression) depending on the order of pre and post-synaptic events. And conventional modulators such as dopamine can impact upon the timing rules and alter the direction of the plasticity, (LTP or LTD).

Some Psychiatry: The K-Hole and beyond
Ketamine, a drug that has attracted the attention of psychiatrists in the past few decades, ‘blocks’ the NMDA channel. It has been used as a model psychosis, and latterly has been demonstrated to have acute anti-depressant properties. (It certainly impairs new learning, as would be expected).

Downstream of NMDA blockade, there is no clear consensus as to how ketamine produces a psychosis. Counter-intuitively (for a glutamate antagonist), ketamine increases the excitability (spiking) of pyramidal neurons. Ketamine also increases the power of gamma band (~40 Hz oscillations) and some have proposed that ‘kernels’ of ‘abnormal’ gamma underlie the psychotic-like effect.

But the behavioural pharmacology of ketamine is far from straightforward. Rating-scales used in schizophrenia research, are probably not ideal for capturing the nuances of the drug. Those who have taken a more phenomenological approach [in the sense of ‘bracketing-out’ existing assumptions, whilst focussing on clear descriptions] have identified a much richer and more complex behavioural psychopharmacology, which includes euphoria, near-death experiences, the cessation of time, the dissolution of the ego, and the experience of being immersed in fractal geometries or boundless oneness (Jansen K, Ketamine: Dreams & Realities 2000).

Close observation reveals the dose-dependent emergence of an oneroid (dream-like) state, and other catatonic features (ambitendency, posturing) but not a classic paranoid psychosis. Researchers have also tended to assume that ketamine can ‘cause’ negative symptoms, but reports of euphoria, terror and awe are inconsistent with this categorisation. Motor output (which includes speech of course) is certainly restricted following ketamine, but because the concurrent inner world is a kaleidoscope of strange, mystical and fantastic experiences with extremes of emotion, the overall picture is far removed from the negative syndrome.

Nevertheless, ketamine is frequently championed as the most convincing drug-model of schizophrenia because it can induce negative symptoms, on a rating scale. The irony perhaps is that the ketamine experience might actually be more schizophrenia-like than many of its proponents have suggested. Ketamine elicits phenomena, which are now very rarely encountered in psychiatric clinics, given the modern-day domination of the softer, paranoid form of the illness.

Update

Paul Janssen’s genius was in predicting that a drug which blocked the effects of amphetamine in animals, would be an effective treatment for those cases of schizophrenia that resembled an amphetamine psychosis (characterised by agitation, hallucinations and delusions)[link]. That drug was haloperidol, and that class of drug (D2 dopamine receptor antagonists) changed the landscape of psychiatry.

Janssen’s logic would also suggest that a drug which inhibited the effects of ketamine in animals, would be an effective treatment for those cases of schizophrenia which resemble ketamine-elicited psychopathology (characterised by bizarre, inaccessible dream-like states, and psychotic motor phenomena. i.e. cases where ECT becomes a sensible option). A pharmacological antagonist of ketamine (in animals) proved to be ineffective against human paranoid schizophrenia. Perhaps this could have been predicted, by closer attention to the phenomenology of ketamine. The question now is whether ‘The Lilly compound‘ has efficacy against non-paranoid schizophrenia?

Natural antidepressants & new brain cells

New Brain Cells

In the last decade it has become clear that new cells can form in the adult brain. This happens in a region known as the hippocampal complex. The hippocampal complex is found deep inside either temple and is crucial for memory and emotion. The hippocampal complex inhibits the human stress response, but can itself be damaged by persistent stress, leading to a vicious cycle in which the stress response is amplified further and depression ensues.

hippocampus from nieuwenhuys et al

The hippocampal complex is found in the temporal lobe, and has a crucial role in regulating the stress response.

Experimental work suggests that neurogenesis (the birth of new neurons) in the hippocampal complex is vital for the action of conventional antidepressant drugs. Exercise and enriched environments also promote neurogenesis, whilst stress has the opposite effect.The current picture is that hippocampal health (including the birth of new neurons) is essential for protecting the organism against the effects of stress, so that if hippocampal functioning is compromised, anxiety and depression can emerge.

 

Natural Antidepressants

There has been recent interest in the antidepressant properties of a natural molecule called curcumin. This substance is found in the herb turmeric. As well as a foodstuff, turmeric has been used for centuries in traditional Indian medicine (Ayurveda). In pre-clinical studies, curcumin exhibited clear antidepressant effects.

curcumin

Research has focused on the mechanism of action of curcumin. Remarkably it appears that curcumin can also increase the birth of new neurons in the hippocampal complex. This is an intriguing finding which hints at the possibility of a new class of antidepressant drug.

A new paper from researchers at King’s College London provides an excellent summary of work in this area. The full paper can be read here.

 

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Stopping Alcohol Abuse with Ketamine

ReachMD Ketmaine on Roundtable talk

ketamine-to-treat-alcoholism transcript

Stopping Alcohol Abuse with Ketamine   << Article Link

A currently ongoing study based at University College London (UCL) involves giving a dose of ketamine to alcohol abusers. Yes, you read that correctly. Ketamine is a legal tranquilizer, used mainly on small animals by veterinarians. However, ‘Special K’ doubles as a recreational drug, found most often at dance parties and nightclubs. So how the heck does ketamine stop alcohol abuse? The answer is by manipulating alcohol-associated memories.

Let’s start over.

ketamine-picture

Certain things make drinkers want to drink. Ask anyone who consumes alcohol often, and they’ll tell you it’s true. Maybe the smell of alcohol triggers the desire to drink. Maybe it’s a certain place, or some classic rock song. When this happens, the drinker’s memories of alcohol giving pleasure are recalled, and his or her brain wants that alcohol-induced pleasure again. This is the precursor to alcoholism, wherein the brain can’t function without alcohol.

Cravings are essentially fond memories. You are recalling the pleasure of something and desiring it again. During this memory recall, “…the neural connections that encode [the memory] are temporarily destabilized, meaning that our recollection can be slightly altered before it goes back into storage,” as written in The Guardian, linked above.

Ketamine causes memory loss and/or disruption, by blocking a receptor in the brain called NMDA. This particular receptor is partly responsible for our ability to form memories. The UCL research team believes they can use this effect of ketamine to ‘erase’ the memories associated with craving alcohol. “There is evidence that it could be useful as a treatment for alcoholism,” said lead researcher Ravi Das.

The Library Book Metaphor

Every time you access a memory, you are basically removing it from your mental library. In a real library, a book can be removed and read, like a memory can, but it also becomes vulnerable. The book borrower could rip a page out, cross out some text, or even damage the book. The same thing goes for memories. This is why we give slightly different accounts of our past each time we do so.

Because ketamine disrupts the memory-formation process, the idea of the UCL study is to trigger alcohol cravings in participants, and then give them ketamine. The hope is to weaken the alcohol-related memories, ultimately to the point of non-existence.

A dose of ketamine administered at the time of alcohol-related memory recall, the researchers hope, will make it so you lose the book of alcohol-craving from your mental library. The ‘temporary destabilization’ of our memories, when recalled, acts as the window of opportunity for ketamine to work. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the triggers for craving a drink.

The UCL Study

The research team consists of psychologists from University of Exeter, Imperial College London, and UCL. Participants must consume at least forty drinks per week, drinking four or more days per week. This qualifies them as heavy drinkers. However, participants cannot be clinical alcoholics. Anyone with diagnosable alcohol dependence would be excluded. They are aiming for 90 people to participate, and at the time of a July 2016 publication, over 50 people were already in.

Apparently no further details have been published yet about whether or not the quota has been met. Some details on what the study involves have been published, and as of the time of this writing, a flyer advertising the study is still online. So far, here’s what we know the study entails:

The psychologists intentionally trigger the craving for alcohol in the participants. A glass of beer is placed directly in front of each person. This is a surefire trigger – no scientific explanation needed. The details of what happens next are being withheld by the team. However, according the Guardian, “They will then disrupt the memory, by surprising the participant (the team is not disclosing the exact details as this could bias the results).”

The ketamine comes next. After the memory is triggered and disrupted, each participant is either given “a ketamine infusion, with a concentration equivalent to a high recreational dose, or a placebo.” The team then stays in touch with all 90 people for one full year after the ketamine dose, to see how their drinking habits have changed.

Short-term Results are Promising

One participant, who already received the ketamine dose, claims that it worked. According to the Guardian article, 31-year-old Nikki, a consultant in London, took part in the study when she realized she was drinking heavily. She was even drinking more than she wanted to. “It’s just in the culture. That’s what all my friends are like… everyone drinks to excess,” she said before the study.

After her alcohol craving was triggered and her memory was manipulated, Nikki was given her ketamine dose. She described the experience as overwhelming and intense, but not unpleasant. “It was quite psychedelic. I felt untethered from my body,” she said.

One week later, Nikki reported an “incredible positive mood,” and said she was much more aware of her decisions regarding drinking. She didn’t say she gave up alcohol completely. However, she did praise the study. “In the past, there were occasions where I would be drinking and I’d be on autopilot: ‘Let’s get another drink’,” said Nikki.

Although one week is only 1/52nd of a year, Nikki’s story proves as a promising example of how a ketamine dose could prevent heavy drinking.

Similar Approaches to Different Problems

Using one drug to fight the abuse of another drug is not unheard of. Actually, two years ago, Merel Kindt and Marieke Soeter of University of Amsterdam performed a study that used a beta-blocker to get rid of arachnophobia. Beta-blockers are used primarily for cardiac care. The particular one used in the study, propranolol, treats high blood pressure, and is also used to reduce performance anxiety.

Fifteen participants with diagnosed arachnophobia, a fear of spiders, were shown a giant tarantula, and told they had to touch it. Then they were each given a dose of propranolol. The arachnophobia was gone for good.

According to the article linked above, “They erased their spider fear memories and then rewrote them with one of triumph — touching the tarantula a week after their treatment. When they returned to her lab three months and a year later, the effects stuck.”

Michael Saladin is attempting to end tobacco addiction with a similar approach. He is a professor at the Medical University of South Carolina, and he believes smoking addictions can be ended by getting rid of the cues (triggers) that make addicts smoke.

“There is a vast animal research literature that suggests memories can be manipulated following reactivation,” Saladin said. “I am convinced that there is sufficient evidence to believe that memory reconsolidation can be harnessed for clinical purposes.”

Memory Reconsolidation

The process being utilized in the UCL study, as well as in both studies mentioned above, is known as memory reconsolidation. The entire concept is relatively new. Essentially, the idea is to replace the bad memories associated with certain things with good memories, feelings of accomplishment and healthy pride. In the case of resisting alcohol, the already-consolidated memories of drinking will be replaced with new memories of feeling proud of not drinking. The ketamine allows this process to occur.

This may seem futuristic to you, and frankly it is. Scientists discover new information every day, and in the age of the microchip, our limits are becoming harder to see. New methods for how we do just about everything are being found. Yet when the use of illegal drugs, (ketamine is illegal to possess and is not a prescribed drug), becomes one of the methods that scientists discover, there tends to be a lot of pushback.

The scientists wish people would stop resisting.

Just because something is illegal and/or looked down on by society doesn’t mean that something isn’t effective in another way. We are seeing this nationwide with marijuana.

The Pushback

Lead researcher Das spoke to this resistance the public has for illegal/illicit drugs being used as medicines: “There’s just the general social attitude that everything that’s illegal is terrible. There will obviously be that kind of narrow-sighted pushback, but if it’s safe and effective enough it should be recommended.”

Das isn’t implying that ketamine is safe to use for anyone who wants to fix a bad memory. What he’s implying is that in a controlled, medical environment, a one-time dose of ketamine could help heavy drinkers relax on the booze.

Quoted in the Guardian article, Andrew Misell is a spokesman for Alcohol Concern, a non-profit charity working to reduce alcohol harm in the UK. Speaking about the UCL study in particular, he said, “The researchers have quite rightly highlighted what a lot of people in recovery from alcohol problems know from experience, namely that cues or triggers like the smell of beer can cause a relapse even after long periods of abstinence. Any work looking at how people can overcome these pitfalls is going to be useful.”

Misell added that he knows ketamine-based therapy has risks. What Misell didn’t add is that alcohol abuse has much more inherent risk than drug-based therapy. Not to mention, ketamine itself is significantly safer, and much less abused, than xanax, the number one drug used in all of psychotherapy.

Why the Pushback?

Medicine is medicine. Unless you the reader are a scientist or a doctor, you and I have no influence on what becomes medicine. If a one-time dose of ketamine can prevent alcoholism, why would anyone resist? Xanax is the most prescribed drug in all of psychotherapy, yet people abuse it WAY more often than ketamine. The NY Post published an article just last year explaining this, going so far as to say that xanax is ruining lives.

OxyContin, a drug used rather commonly for chronic pain, legal with a prescription, ends the lives of 100,000 people every single year. So why the pushback for ketamine?

In Conclusion

Drug/alcohol abuse is a horrible thing. People are dying in mass numbers from drug/alcohol abuse, and not just in America. This author does not condone the abuse of alcohol, nor does this author condone the use of illicit drugs. However, as this author wrote prior, what becomes a medicine is not a decision for anyone but scientists and doctors. If yours truly was a heavy drinker, and a doctor told me that habit could be stripped away with a one-time dose of ketamine, believe that no more questions would be asked.

One can only wait for the final results from the UCL study to see how many more participants turn out like Nikki. If and when the study proves effective for more and more people, we may begin to see a radical change in the way we fight addiction. It may seem like fighting fire with fire, but sometimes it works. Brushfires that spread rapidly are sometimes stopped by deliberately burning a section of earth where the fire is headed. Maybe ketamine is that deliberate burn in the realm of alcohol addiction

Tip sheets:

Prof Evgeny Krupitsky – Ketamine Psychotherapy For Heroin Addiction: Immediate Effects and Two-Year Follow- up

 1997 Apr-Jun;29(2):165-83.

Ketamine psychedelic therapy (KPT): a review of the results of ten years of research.

Abstract

Ketamine is a prescription drug used for general anesthesia. In subanesthetic doses, it induces profound psychedelic experiences and hallucinations. The subanesthetic effect of ketamine was the hypothesized therapeutic mechanism in the authors’ use of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for alcoholism. The results of a controlled clinical trial demonstrated a considerable increase in efficacy of the authors’ standard alcoholism treatment when supplemented by ketamine psychedelic therapy (KPT). Total abstinence for more than one year was observed in 73 out of 111 (65.8%) alcoholic patients in the KPT group, compared to 24% (24 out of 100 patients) of the conventional treatment control group (p < 0.01). The authors’ studies of the underlying psychological mechanisms of KPT have indicated that ketamine-assisted psychedelic therapy of alcoholic patients induces a harmonization of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) personality profile, positive transformation of nonverbalized (mostly unconscious) self-concept and emotional attitudes to various aspects of self and other people, positive changes in life values and purposes, important insights into the meaning of life and an increase in the level of spiritual development. Most importantly, these psychological changes were shown to favor a sober lifestyle. The data from biochemical investigations showed that pharmacological action of KPT affects both monoaminergic and opioidergic neurotransmitter metabolism, i.e., those neurochemical systems which are involved in the pathogenesis of alcohol dependence. The data from EEG computer-assisted analysis demonstrated that ketamine increases theta activity in cerebrocortical regions of alcoholic patients. This is evidence of the reinforcement of limbic cortex interaction during KPT session.

Ketamine is gaining widespread acceptance as a fast and effective treatment for depression. It is so successful that ketamine has been called “the most important discovery in depression research in half a century” says Ronald Duman MD, Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine. “A single dose of ketamine alleviates depressive symptoms within hours in patients who have failed to respond to two or more conventional antidepressants” he states in a scientific article published in the respected journal Science.

Researchers now believe it can treat more than depression and anxiety. Ketamine has recently generated a lot of interest among psychiatrists and addiction medicine physicians as a potential new and rapidly effective approach to treating struggling with other difficult-to-treat conditions such as substance abuse disorders and alcohol dependence.

“Current treatments benefits for alcoholism are at best modest, about three quarters of people return to drinking after 6 months, so there is a great need for new and more effective therapies” said Dr. Grass, Director of the Ketamine Institute in Pensacola Fl. “Many patients who come to us for ketamine therapy with conditions such as depression, anxiety or PTSD have self-medicated with alcohol or opioids to find relief. Initially, they find that alcohol seems to help their symptoms until it doesn’t anymore and it then become another serious medical issue in their lives” says Dr. Grass.

Can Ketamine Cure Alcoholism or Drug Addiction?

Research studies are currently underway at Yale and Columbia University in the United States and the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom to explore the beneficial effects of ketamine infusions on substance abuse disorders. Ketamine has already been shown to be an effective for depression, something that many people with substance abuse issues encounter as they try to become sober. As an antidepressant, it’s unique in that it acts very quickly, with patients often reporting an improvement in their mood over just one or two days. That could make it ideal for treating active, as well as, recovering alcoholics, who often suffer from depression immediately after quitting.

“This form of therapy is not new, says Dr. Grass. We have known for almost 30 years that ketamine may be effective in dealing with substance abuse issues.” In the 1990’s, Dr. Evgeny Krupitsky published research documenting over 10 years of observations utilizing ketamine for substance abuse disorders. His results suggest that ketamine can be remarkably more effective that current treatment options. Few people with substance abuse disorders can maintain abstinence following therapy with traditional approaches. However, Krupitsky found that as many as 66% remained alcohol free after one years as compared to only 24% with traditional treatment.

In addition, Krupitsky also found that the beneficial effects were dose dependent and that those people who received higher dosages of ketamine did better than those who received lower amounts. Following the study, psychological testing revealed that ketamine treated patients showed improvement on tests such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) personality profile. Changes seen included a positive transformation of self-concept and emotional attitudes, positive changes in life values and purposes. Patients also experienced important insights into the meaning of life and an increase in the level of spiritual development. Most importantly, these psychological changes tend to favor a sober lifestyle.

“We see many patients with depression, anxiety or PTSD who have at one point or another turned to alcohol or other substances to find relief only to become dependent upon these drugs”, says Dr. Grass. “A ketamine infusion, given at the right dose, can be a remarkably effective therapy in reversing these symptoms and alleviating their dependence upon alcohol or opioids. Often after just several ketamine treatments they can stop drinking and have no interest in alcohol or drugs after that.”

Ketamine – It’s Just the Beginning

Although more research is needed to determine exactly why there’s such a strong correlation between ketamine therapy and decreased use of alcohol and opioids, this observation does appear to validate the experiences of many people who have found substances like ketamine be life-changing tools that have helped them lead happier, more fulfilling lives. For many, this therapy has helped them cut back or quit their use of alcohol, opioids or other substances with which they have had a problematic relationship. One day, doctors may use ketamine routinely not only to help severely depressed people, but many who suffer from related conditions such as alcohol and substance abuse issues. “While the science is very promising, ketamine is not to be considered lightly and must be carefully monitored when used. But with the excitement generated by early results, we will have more information soon,” Grass says.


References:

Duman RS, Aghajanian GK, (2012) Synaptic Dysfunction in Depression: Potential Therapeutic Targets. Science. 338(6103):68-72.

Synaptic Dysfunction in Depression Potential Therapeutic Targets

Krupitsky EM, Grinenko AY, (1997) Ketamine Psychedelic Therapy (KPT): A Review of the Results of Ten Years of Research. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 29(2):165-83

Ketamine therapy in Virginia | Ketamine for depression \ 703-844-0184 | Dr. Sendi | Ketamine for alcohol and drug abuse | Ketmaine psychotherappy

ketamine-and-rehab-therapy – Thailand

Ketamine Therapy

One of the most controversial issues surrounding ketamine is that it has been found to be an effective tool in therapy for addiction and depression. Researchers studied the effects of the drug on individuals who suffered severe depression and found that it was effective in relieving both symptoms and increased the effectiveness of psychotherapy. The drug has had interesting and astonishing results when used on patients who suffer from difficult depressive conditions, including bipolar disorder. The fast-acting nature of the drug proved to be the most interesting anti-depressant effect. Typically, anti-depressant medications can take days or weeks to start working which can prove ineffective if someone is suffering from a depression crisis. Administration of ketamine has provided immediate and short-acting results against depression, though it has been found ineffective in the long term.

Ketamine has been used as an alternative drug and alcohol therapy for nearly 30 years. The drug is administered under clinical conditions to individuals who are suffering the effects of chronic addiction and depression and the results have proved to be effective for some people. The drug has been found to only provide positive outcomes after detoxification from other drugs has occurred, and it is combined with effective professional psychotherapy. One study showed that there was a significant increase in the level of anhedonia, depression and anxiety that recovering heroin addicts experienced when they had been through ketamine psychedelic therapy. This is a significant result and such information may increase the use of ketamine as a therapeutic tool.

 

 

Clinical Trial:

https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01551329

Detailed Description:

Major depression and alcohol dependence are both within the ten disorders for highest worldwide disease burden as identified by the World Health Organization (WHO), and these disorders frequently co-occur, especially in high-service utilizing patients with severe and persistent mental illness. Currently available treatments are inadequate for both chronic conditions alone, and the inadequacy is even clearer in people meeting criteria for both disorders. Ketamine was first reported as a rapidly-acting antidepressant in 2000 via research occurring at Yale, and, since that time, in several small randomized controlled trials, a single subanesthetic dose of intravenous ketamine has demonstrated efficacy in improving mood in unipolar and bipolar depression within only hours after administration. These effects can last at least a week. Interestingly, ketamine has been demonstrated to produce a more robust effect in treatment-refractory unipolar depressed subjects with a family history of alcoholism relative to similarly difficult-to-treat subjects without a family history of alcohol problems. In addition, recently-detoxified alcoholics have been safely administered subanesthetic doses of ketamine, and, during these infusions, alcoholics (and even those with only a family history of alcoholism) displayed a differential response to ketamine, e.g. blunted psychotic-like and cognitive effects, relative to healthy controls. Therefore, ketamine may reduce depressive symptoms and alcohol consumption compared to placebo in patients with comorbid major depression and current alcohol dependence. Positive results will mark a major advance in the clinical care of those being treated for both conditions and will open the door for further scientific investigations into the clinical neuroscience of these highly comorbid and prevalent conditions.

This is a two phase, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, cross-over, proof-of-concept study designed to determine the effects of a single dose of ketamine, administered IV, on mood and alcohol consumption, in psychotropic medication-free patients meeting DSM-IV-TR criteria for a major depressive episode (MDE) and current alcohol dependence. Participants will be assigned randomly to receive either intravenous ketamine (0.5mg/kg) or saline solution 2 weeks apart in a cross over design. The ketamine dose was based on previous studies in patients with depression and bipolar disorder. A team member experienced with ketamine infusions will administer the study medication over a 40-minute infusion in a blinded fashion at the Biological Studies Unit at the WHVA.

20 depressed alcohol dependent subjects between the ages of 21-65 will be recruited for this study through advertising and the West Haven VA clinics. Subjects will complete an informed consent process and will be thoroughly screened for inclusion and exclusion criteria as described below. Individuals will be given a post consent test to evaluate their understanding of the procedure. For subjects who provide incorrect answers to any of the test items, the research staff will review the correct answers with the subject and show the subject where the correct answers are found in the consent form. Those who get more than 60% of the questions wrong and are still unable to understand the procedure after reviewing it with the research staff will be excluded from the study. They will be referred to appropriate resources for outpatient treatment of their depression and alcoholism. Before start of the study all patients will be free of any psychotropic medications.

Ketamine for cocaine treatment

On the motivational properties of reward cues Individual differences

Subanesthetic ketamine decreases the incentive-motivational value of reward-related cues.

The effects of subanesthetic ketamine infusions on motivation to quit and cue-induced craving in cocaine-dependent research volunteers.

Ketamine emerging as top treatment for cocaine dependence

EXPERT ANALYSIS FROM THE ECNP CONGRESS

 

– The prospect on the horizon of two new effective therapies for chronic cocaine dependence – sustained-release dextroamphetamine and subanesthetic ketamine infusions – was among the top developments of the year in addiction medicine, Wim van den Brink, MD, PhD, said at the annual congress of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.Other highlights on his list included:• Studies establishing that comorbid attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and substance use disorder now can be treated effectively with either extended-release mixed amphetamine salts or high-dose methylphenidate.

Dr. Wim van den Brink

Dr. Wim van den Brink

• Evidence that the alpha-1 blocker doxazosin is an effective treatment for alcoholism in a specific well-defined subset of patients, opening the door to a personalized medicine approach to this disease.• Release of a puzzling array of conflicting studies on the use of high-dose baclofen for treatment of alcohol dependence. It’s tough to reconcile this mishmash of polar opposite results. And that dictates it’s time to declare a moratorium on the use of this therapy in clinical practice, which in many places is now widespread, said Dr. van den Brink, professor of psychiatry and addiction at the University of Amsterdam and director of the Amsterdam Institute for Addiction Research.

“It’s too strange that we have such conflicting evidence out there. Too many people are prescribing crazy-high doses of baclofen with no strong supporting evidence,” Dr. van den Brink said.

Cocaine dependence

Dr. van den Brink was a coinvestigator in a Dutch multicenter randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of multitreatment-refractory comorbid cocaine dependence in 73 heroin-dependent patients in heroin-assisted treatment. Patients assigned to 60 mg/day of sustained-release dextroamphetamine, in addition to the background methadone and diacetylmorphine all participants were on for their heroin dependence, had significantly fewer days of cocaine use in the 12-week study: a mean of 44.9 days, compared with 60.6 days in placebo-treated controls. Adverse events were transient and well tolerated (Lancet. 2016 May 28;387[10034]:2226-34).

“A lot of medications have been tried for treatment of cocaine dependence, but actually none of them has been shown to be effective with the exception of substitution treatment with stimulants. Ours is one of the most successful trials. These patients were using cocaine an average of 24 days per month along with a lot of other drugs, despite being in heroin treatment for 4 years,” Dr. van den Brink said. “Patients were very willing to take the sustained-release dextroamphetamine. In the last 4 weeks, 84% of them used at least 80% of their medication. And they were blinded to what they were using.

“We saw good effect sizes: 0.6-0.7 for self-report measures and 0.31 for negative urine samples. So this is a very promising approach. But it also means that, like with tobacco dependence or alcohol dependence, we have to start thinking about substitution therapy in stimulant-dependent patients,” he said.

Dr. van den Brink said subanesthetic ketamine as a novel treatment for cocaine dependence is not yet ready for prime time use in clinical practice, because it’s just not practical to bring patients in for a roughly hour-long intravenous infusion on a daily basis, as was done in a highly impressive proof-of-concept study. But new formulations of ketamine are under development that should better lend themselves to use in clinical practice.

In the proof-of-concept study, investigators at the New York State Psychiatric Institute brought into the laboratory cocaine-dependent volunteers not seeking treatment or abstinence and administered 52-minute infusions of ketamine at 0.41 or 71 mg/kg or lorazepam at 2 mg (Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Jul 1;76[1]:40-6). Lorazepam had absolutely no effect on motivation to change, but ketamine was a different story.

“As soon as you give a low dose of ketamine, you see a wonderful effect on motivation to change and on craving ratings in assessments at 24 hours post infusion. This looks like another promising way of treating cocaine dependence,” he said.

Doxazosin for alcoholism

Investigators at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and several U.S. universities hypothesized that the norepinephrine system could be an important treatment target in alcohol dependence. They conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized trial in which alcohol-dependent patients seeking outpatient treatment were assigned to the alpha1-adrenergic blocker doxazosin (Cardura) titrated to a maximum of 16 mg/day or placebo. They found doxazosin significantly reduced drinks per week and the number of heavy drinking days per week, but only in the subgroup of patients with a strong family history of alcoholism. In patients without such a family history, doxazosin paradoxically increased drinking (Addict Biol. 2016 Jul;21[4]:904-14).

One of the reasons adult ADHD is greatly underrecognized is that it tends to occur in combination with flashier substance use disorders. “Addiction is very comorbid with all kinds of disorders, but especially with externalizing childhood disorders like conduct disorder and ADHD,” Dr. van den Brink said.

It was shown half-a-decade ago that normal doses of methylphenidate have no effect on ADHD symptoms or substance use in comorbid adults. Then Swedish investigators reported that treating criminal offenders with high-dose methylphenidate – roughly three times greater than standard dosing – was effective in reducing both ADHD symptoms and comorbid substance use in criminal offenders. Those findings prompted investigators at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the University of Minnesota to examine whether prescribing extended-release mixed amphetamine salts in adults with comorbid cocaine use disorder and ADHD would achieve improvement in both conditions. Indeed, it did, Dr. van den Brink said.

One hundred twenty-six affected patients were randomized to 60 or 80 mg/day of extended-release mixed amphetamine salts or placebo for 13 weeks coupled with weekly individual cognitive-behavioral therapy for all in this double-blind, three-arm clinical trial.

“They showed a number-needed-to-treat of about 2.5 in order to achieve a significant reduction in cocaine use and a very nice reduction in ADHD symptoms with a number-needed-to-treat of 3,” Dr. van den Brink said.

The rate of continuous cocaine abstinence in the last 3 weeks of the trial was 30% in the 80-mg group and 17.5% with 60 mg of extended-release mixed amphetamine salts, compared with just 7% with placebo (JAMA Psychiatry. 2015 Jun;72[6]:593-602).

Interpreting baclofen studies

The first high-quality multicenter, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial, conducted in Germany, showed baclofen (Lioresal) at a mean dose of 180 mg/day was effective in maintaining alcohol abstinence (Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2015 Aug;25[8]:1167-77).

“They got wonderful results, with a number-needed-to-treat of 2.3. That is something we’re not used to seeing in the treatment of alcoholism. But there was no dose-response effect, which is a little unusual,” the psychiatrist observed.

Then a multicenter group of Dutch investigators, including Dr. van den Brink, carried out what they believed would be a confirmatory randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. However, it showed no difference between high- or low-dose baclofen and placebo in time to relapse (Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2016 Dec;26[12]:1950-9).

Little further light was shed by the two large French randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials presented at the 2016 World Congress for Alcohol and Alcoholism in Berlin. One, the BACLOVILLE trial, included 320 patients treated in 60 family practice clinics; it showed strongly positive results for high-dose baclofen. In contrast, the 316-patient ALPADIR study proved negative. These conflicting results were particularly disappointing because France has been at the forefront of using high-dose baclofen to treat alcoholism, Dr. van den Brink said.

“Maybe some 100,000 people have been treated with high-dose baclofen for alcoholism in France,” he said. “What is the conclusion from all these baclofen studies? You can interpret them in many ways. Maybe there are two positive trials and two negative trials, or maybe there are two positive trials and two failed trials. The debate is not closed, even after four randomized trials.”

https://www.mdedge.com/clinicalpsychiatrynews/article/121238/addiction-medicine/ketamine-emerging-top-treatment-cocaine

Ketamine trials –

Researchers in the UK and US are running studies to see if ketamine could help prevent alcoholics from relapsing.

Ketmaine 703-844-0184 infusions| Fairfax, Va | 22308 |Woodbridge Ketamine | Ketamine for depression

People looking to quit problematic drinking in the UK could one day have access to a new, quick-acting treatment to help them cope with the difficult first few weeks of sobriety: ketamine.

In a new trial taking place at the University of Exeter and University College Hospital in London, researchers are using small shots of the tranquilizer—perhaps best known in the country as a popular party drug that can ruin the bladder lining of heavy users—alongside standard psychotherapy treatments to see if it can help treat alcoholism.

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“Current effects of treatments for alcoholism are at best modest, about three quarters of people return to drinking after 6 months, so there is a dire need for new treatments,” said Celia Morgan, a professor of psychopharmacology at the University of Exeter, and one of the lead researchers on the study.

“It could help people who are stuck in a rut with alcoholism. It may prime your brain to take on new experiences from the world.”

Ketamine has already been shown to be an effective treatment for depression, something that’s done a lot to rehabilitate its reputation. As an antidepressant it’s unique in that it acts very quickly, with patients often reporting an improvement in their mood over just one or two days.

That could make it ideal for treating recovering alcoholics, who often suffer from depression immediately after quitting.

“We know that in alcohol dependence, depression is a predictor of relapse in the first couple of weeks. So we’re able to give people the ketamine package in the time at which they might be particularly susceptible to relapse,” said Morgan.

The trial, which is funded by the UK government’s medical research charity, will have participants take part in seven therapy sessions, three with shots of ketamine. Control groups will receive no drug and no therapy conditions. Ideally, the ketamine will act as a sort of stabiliser for depression, and possibly increase the power of the therapy.

Morgan said experiments with animals show that ketamine may help form neuronal connections in the brain, and that could mean that in humans the therapy will be more effective or more likely to “stick.”

“There’s new scientific evidence in animal models suggesting that their brains might be primed to learn more [after taking ketamine,]” she said. “So it could help people who are stuck in a rut with alcoholism. It may prime your brain to take on new experiences from the world.”

“We’re not going for the full-blown mystical experience”

Morgan is not the only one pursuing this theory. Elias Dakwar, a Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University in New York, is currently recruiting patients for a similar trial that will use ketamine treatment alongside motivational therapy for alcoholism. He says that the way people’s brains adapt to addiction is similar to that of depression.

“People sort of forswear their own agency and self-efficacy, and there’s a sense of resignation,” he said. “The thinking on ketamine’s effect on depression is that it reverses depression-related adaptation through neuroplasticity.”

In other words, it could make the brain more ready to create new connections and move away from old patterns of behaviour, making it an ideal companion for therapy that’s meant to help people re-evaluate and change their lives.

The ketamine doses Morgan plans to use are higher than those used in standard depression treatment, but they’re not quite enough to cause the sort of total dissociation that has led some scientists to class ketamine as a psychedelic drug, and far less than the maximum safe dose as an anaesthetic.

“We’re not going for the full-blown mystical experience,” Morgan said. “We’re looking at treatment we can do within the National Health Service as well; this is something that is funded by the government, so we are looking at things that are acceptable in that context.”

Both trials are still in the early stages: Morgan’s started in June and is set to run until 2017, and Dakwar’s should wrap up next year. But if the results are positive, ketamine’s use could expand quickly. Alcoholism, like most addictions, is notoriously difficult to treat, with few effective drugs available. And according to the NHS, nine percent of men and four percent of women in the UK show signs of alcohol dependence.

“It’s one of those really intractable disorders that people have been trying to find a drug therapy for some time,” said Dr Dakwar.