Irish team in potential depression breakthrough

Recurrent severe depression can be extremely difficult to treat, however a team from Trinity College Dublin (TCD) is hoping its research - the first of its kind in Ireland - could help those affected.

Researchers from TCD's Department of Psychiatry are trialling a potential new treatment option for people who suffer from repeated episodes of depression.

Some 200,000 people in Ireland are affected by depression every year, with around 6,000 of these requiring a hospital stay. While a number of treatments are available, including talking therapies and various drugs, many people struggle to stay well after recovering from an episode of depression.

In fact, up to 60% of people become unwell again within six months and there are currently very few effective strategies to prevent depression relapse.

Prof Declan McLoughlin of TCD and his team at St Patrick's Mental Health Services are investigating whether the children's anaesthetic, ketamine, could help people who have recovered from severe depression to remain well.

Ketamine has been used as an anaesthetic for many years and recently, it has been shown to have antidepressant effects, providing almost immediate relief from symptoms of depression. Until now however, it has not been tested to see if it can prevent depression relapse.

"We‘ve seen from research over the last number of years that ketamine can be a powerful antidepressant. We also know that people who have just recovered from depression are at very high risk for another episode.

"In our own studies, we aim to see whether it's possible to harness that powerful antidepressant action of ketamine to prevent future depressive episodes in people who have recently recovered from depression. This has never been done before," Prof McLoughlin explained.

In one study, the KINDRED Trial, people who have been admitted to hospital with recurrent depression will be invited to have ketamine infusions once recovered from depression using standard treatments.

"Depression is the most common reason in the EU for long-term sick leave and disability. Indeed, according to the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide. It is therefore a public health priority to not only recognise and treat depression, but also to keep people well afterwards," Prof McLoughlin said.

While it is known that ketamine works differently to currently used antidepressants, how exactly it works in relation to depression is unclear. Prof McLoughlin's team will also be looking into this.

The researchers are looking for healthy volunteers to complete mood and memory assessments to maintain the scientific quality of their research. These volunteers will not be receiving any treatments or medications. If you are interested in getting involved, email

For more information on this research, click here


[Posted: Fri 14/10/2016]

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