Esketamine is generally known as a recreational party drug, but that may be changing. Spravato™, a prescription nasal spray that contains a small amount of esketamine, was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to manage treatment-resistant depression in adults. Typical antidepressants may take 4 to 6 weeks to begin working, but Spravato™ takes effect within 24 hours, which can be potentially life-saving for people who have suicidal thoughts. Unlike most antidepressants, esketamine can be used by breastfeeding mothers—this makes it an attractive alternative for women who have postpartum depression.
“People with severe forms of depression who have not responded to many other treatments would improve fairly quickly within 24 hours, which is essentially amazingly rapid in the world that I’m practicing in,” psychiatrist Dan Iosifescu, MD, tells CUNY TV’s Simply Science. Dr. Iosifescu is an associate professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Health and director of clinical research at its research affiliate, the Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research.
Esketamine can cause a feeling of mental dissociation, and in some people, an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, which can potentially be dangerous. Spravato™ is always self-administered in the presence of a healthcare professional.
Watch more from CUNY TV’s Simply Science.