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A ketamine-like nasal spray emerges as the first new anti-depressant in 30 years

The US Food and Drug Administration has found a new way to get ketamine up your nose… sort of. Esketamine is a close chemical relative of ket, known as a fast-acting antidepressant as well as an trippy recreational drug.

This week, it’s been approved for use as a nasal spray; marking the first major anti-depression treatment introduced for clinical use since Prozac in 1987.

Photo: Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson, as in the baby oil company, will be selling the ketamine-like substance in a nasal spray called Spravato.

Esketamine is said to be up to three times as potent as ketamine, so dosage will be much lower. Unlike regular antidepressants, which are prescribed to boost serotonin, Esketamine works to restore the brain connections that help fight depression by impacting a brain chemical called glutamine.

Unlike its counterparts, which can take weeks to work, Spravato is said to be instantly effective. Columbia University psychiatrist and researcher Dr John Mann described the speed of the drug as being key to depressed patients because they “suffer enormously”.

Given the drug’s potency and potential for substance abuse, it will only be made available to patients who’ve tried at least two other antidepressants, and has to be administered under medical supervision. What’s more, patients will be watched for two hours after taking Esketamine.

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March 7, 2019