Newswise — Ketamine is emerging as a powerful tool to treat depression, and other anesthetics such as nitrous oxide (laughing gas) are also showing promise. As the established experts in using these medications to sedate patients during surgery or other procedures, anesthesiologists are leveraging their knowledge to advance mental health treatment in collaboration with psychiatrists.

Ketamine, administered as an infusion or intranasal spray, works a lot quicker than traditional medications used to treat depression, i.e., minutes or hours vs. weeks, and may be particularly beneficial to patients with treatment-resistant depression. However, it does have side effects, and patients should receive it only under medical supervision, such as in an accredited clinic with established safety standards.

Insights on how ketamine and other anesthetic drugs are becoming increasingly viable as antidepressants and the growing collaboration between anesthesiologists and psychiatrists are discussed in the article, “Repurposing General Anesthetic Drugs to Treat Depression: A New Frontier for Anesthesiologists in Neuropsychiatric Care,” which will publish in Anesthesiology, the peer-reviewed journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. The article is embargoed until Monday, June 10, 2024 at 10 a.m. EST and can be viewed here.

Peter Nagele, M.D., an editor at Anesthesiology and Professor of Anesthesiology at the University of Chicago Medicine, is an expert in the field and has led a team that discovered the antidepressant effects of nitrous oxide. He is available to discuss this advancement in mental health care, including:

  • How and why ketamine and other anesthetic drugs are provided to patients with depression and their effectiveness compared to other treatments.
  • Where patients should safely seek treatment.
  • How ketamine, nitrous oxide and potentially other anesthetic drugs could change treatment protocols for depression and other mental health conditions.
  • How anesthesiologists and psychiatrists are working together via joint research, training programs and other initiatives to advance mental health treatment using anesthetics.