Depression is one of the most life-threatening mental illnesses in the United States today. Treatment resistant depression, which does not respond readily to talk therapy or medication — the most frequently prescribed treatments for major depression — can lead to self loathing, isolation and thoughts of suicide. Suicide is currently among the leading causes of death in America. Even medication can have drawbacks, with first line therapies often taking as long as 6 to 8 weeks before being effective.
Faced with the long timeline of drug therapy and unwanted side effects, patients with severe depression sometimes turn to nontraditional treatments such as electroconvulsive therapy and perhaps surprisingly, ketamine therapy — a drug known as ‘Special K’ by recreational drug users. A staggering 70% of patients responded to ketamine therapy for treatment of depression in one study performed. The study examined the use of intravenous ketamine for depressed patients at imminent risk of suicide, and with the rapid response shown by patients, makes ketamine a potentially attractive "rescue medication" for depressed patients in need of immediate relief.