Hope is still out there.
Spravato might be the lifeline many of us have been waiting for, even though it comes in a form none of us were expecting. Ketamine is a party drug known for taking over chemical receptors in your brain and temporarily changing your perception of sights and sound, creating hallucinations and dulling pain. It can be abused as a date-rape drug because of its potential to make movement and speech difficult. But esketamine — known under the Johnson & Johnson brand name as Spravato — is a close relative and therefore slightly different.
The fact of the matter is that about 16 million people suffer from major depression in the United States, and over 30 percent of those people have what's known as treatment-resistant depression. People with treatment-resistant depression have tried two or more antidepressants to no avail. Depression is often a deadly disease, and this many people struggling with a life-threatening condition is nothing short of a national crisis. If you or someone you love suffers from depression, you don't need to be told this. You already know how painful, lonely, and dark it seems.
Because esketamine works so differently than other antidepressants on the market, studies are finding that people who haven't responded to these are finding success with Spravato. Spravato also is proving to work faster than other drugs. While you may have to wait weeks or even months for something like Prozac or Zoloft to work, studies show that Spravato can work in a matter of days. This is huge for people who have been living lives crippled by thoughts of suicide, sadness, or the lesser-known symptoms of depression, like anger and irritability. An added bonus is that people who have been treated with esketamine are finding that their depressive symptoms are slower to recur, providing quick and long-lasting relief.
The possible side effects may sound scary and are as long as your laundry list. Like ketamine, esketamine can change your perceptions and make you drowsy. The risk for hallucinations is low due to the small amount of the active ingredients in Spravato, but it can trigger reactions like anxiety, nausea, a feeling of drunkenness, and an increase in blood pressure. But when you weigh that against what seems like an endless darkness, it may be worth a shot.
And doctors aren't just letting you walk out the door with Spravato on a trial basis. Because of these side effects and the risk of abuse, doctors will only administer Spravato in the office as part of the FDA's Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy. Spravato comes in the form of a nasal spray, so a doctor will show you how to use the spray yourself and then observe you for a couple hours following administration. The observation is for safety purposes, making sure the side effects are not so adverse. You should have someone else drive you home since it can make you sleepy, but after a good night's rest, you should be good to go.
A party-drug-turned-antidepressant might seem unconventional. It is. But that's also why it works.
Do you think this could be part of the solution so many of us have been looking for? Let us know in the comments below.