People have long experimented with psychotropic drugs as a way to cure depression. And there's a new one on the scene: an antidepressant similar to ketamine, administered via nasal spray for those with hard-to-treat depression. Special K for your serotonin-deprived brain!
The Johnson & Johnson-manufactured drug, called Spravato (the chemical term is esketamine), was just approved by the FDA yesterday, March 6. According to Time, Spravato offers near-immediate relief for those who have failed to find relief from two or more traditional antidepressants, or SSRIs. Those target the chemical serotonin – which, in lay terms, is one of the things in your brain that helps you feel good. But Spravato helps to produce a chemical called glutamate, which restores brain connections that can alleviate deep depression.
"[The speed] is a huge thing because depressed patients are very disabled and suffer enormously," Dr. John Mann, a psychiatrist and researcher at Columbia University, told the magazine. With traditional antidepressants, a patient often has to wait for several weeks at least to find out if the drug actually helps them; since Spravato has an immediate effect, so if it doesn't work, a doctor can quickly prescribe something else. For anyone who's struggled with various ineffective prescriptions, this is huge.
Researchers are also experimenting with psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, and MDMA as a way to treat depression. The mood-enhancing power of psychedelics isn't exactly a, uh, secret, but we're glad the government is chilling out a bit! Help should be available in many forms to anyone who needs it. Speaking of, how's the whole Medicare for All thing going...