Esketamine can also be used to help those suffering from PTSD
The UMCG in Groningen, together with various hospitals and mental health care institutions, is investigating an alternative to electroshocks as a last resort for major depression. It concerns oral intake of the anesthetic “esketamine”. It is being investigated whether this is as effective or even more effective than electroshock therapy. Esketamine is an analogue of the dissociative Ketamine, though significantly more potent, and designed for use in medicine.
In The Netherlands, approximately 850,000 people suffer from depression every year, from mild to very serious. A small number of them; about 110 people a year with non-psychotic, severe depression, require electro-shock thereapy. As reported by the GIC.
ECT is a serious treatment with a long hospital stay, repeated anesthesia and side effects that can sometimes lead to permanent brain damage, including damage to the autobiographical memory. On average, patients receive treatment 12 to 16 times over an eight week period.
During the randomised study that can now start under the leadership of the UMCG, 146 patients are expected to participate. One group will be treated with ECT, while the other group will receive a dose of esketamine twice a week for eight weeks. “The first eight-week phase should provide us with important evidence whether esketamine works well or not compared to ECT,” said Professor Schoevers.
Both groups will then be monitored for a year, with the group receiving oral esketamine gradually tapering off their treatment to avoid addiction.
“The number of patients who relapse in the first year after treatment with ECT is quite high, around 60 percent,” said Schoevers. “Based on data from a pilot with a limited group of patients, we expect the group receiving esketamine to have better results.”