Professor Jim Lagopoulos has been studying the potential therapeutic benefits of ketamine for 20 years. Photo Contributed
Professor Jim Lagopoulos has been studying the potential therapeutic benefits of ketamine for 20 years. Photo Contributed

Ketamine touted as promising mental health treatment

A University of the Sunshine Coast study has uncovered a rapid-acting treatment for people who have serious thoughts about taking their lives and attempted to enact those thoughts.

The study from the Thompson Institute showed oral doses of ketamine administered in a clinical setting could provide treatment.

Within the first six weeks, 69 per cent of participants achieved a clinical reduction in suicidality.

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Principal investigator psychiatrist Dr Adem Can said the findings were significant, given the difficulty of treating chronic suicidality.

"On average, patients experienced a significant reduction in suicide ideation, from a high level before the trial to below the clinical threshold by week six of the trial," Dr Can said.

"In medicine, this response rate is significant, particularly given it was experienced by patients with chronic suicidality, which can be difficult to treat.

"These patients had lived with suicidality for a very long time and presented a range of psychiatric conditions, including mood, anxiety and personality disorders, and many of them had lost hope of recovery."

Ketamine has been shown to influence the firing of the brain, turning uncoordinated and overactive brain networks into ordered and precise networks that function more effectively.

Dr Can said the study successes were consistent with those shown in intravenous ketamine trials.

"Intravenous administration, however, is invasive, expensive and carries a higher chance of adverse reactions due to its injection straight into the bloodstream," Dr Can said.

"So logistically it is a lot easier and faster to clinically administer an oral dose."

Researchers have suggested however that further study is needed to test efficacy by using randomised control groups.

Thompson Institute director and study supervisor Professor Jim Lagopoulos has been studying the potential therapeutic benefits of ketamine for 20 years.

He said the findings were an exciting development.

"The longer you have a particular condition, the more resistant it can become to treatment," Professor Lagopoulos said.

"We also had a very complex group of patients with a variety of conditions such as depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder - all factors that can increase your potential for suicidality - yet the treatment still worked across the group.

"So results like these across the spectrum are very encouraging."

If you or someone you know needs mental health support call SANE Australia on 1800 187 263, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.



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