Properly Timed Prophylactic Ketamine Administration and PTSD Symptom Onset Prevention

Results of new research from Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) suggest that ketamine, administered prophylactically as a single dose, may be effective in preventing the onset of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study, based on research on mice, was published last month in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. Study leader Christine Denny, PhD, assistant professor of clinical neurobiology in Psychiatry at CUMC, commented, “…if our results in mice translate to humans, giving a single dose of ketamine in a vaccine-like fashion could have great benefit for people who are highly likely to experience significant stressors, such as members of the military or aid workers going into conflict zones.”

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that presents in about 25% of cases of psychological trauma. Beyond the psychological symptoms, there are frequently chronic physical symptoms including headache. Previous studies had indicated that ketamine administered before trauma may reduce some of these symptoms, but the exact time window for effectiveness was not known. In the present study, it was established that mice who received ketamine 1 week prior to the experience of stress were less likely to exhibit a conditioned fear response, a measure of PTSD. Additional work to determine the mechanism of action of ketamine in the brain, as well as tests of effectiveness in human studies, are still needed according to the authors. 

A news release from CUMC, with link to the journal article may be read here.

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