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Original Research

A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Trial of the Acute Antisuicidal and Antidepressant Effects of Intranasal (R,S)-Ketamine in Severe Unipolar and Bipolar Depression With and Without Comorbid Alcohol Use Disorder

Gregory H. Jones, MD; Courtney M. Vecera, BS; Ana C. Ruiz, BS; Hanjing E. Wu, MD; Sophia I. McInturff, BS; Maria J. Orejarena, MD, PhD, MSc; Kacy A. Smith, MD; Jair C. Soares, MD, PhD; Carlos A. Zarate Jr, MD; Scott D. Lane, PhD; and Rodrigo Machado-Vieira, MD, PhD, MSc

Published: April 24, 2024


Objective: Although individuals with a family history of alcohol use disorder (AUD) have a superior antidepressant response to ketamine, outcomes in patients with current AUD remain unclear. This study sought to investigate whether intranasal (IN) racemic (R,S)-ketamine had antisuicidal and antidepressant effects in unipolar and bipolar depression and whether comorbid AUD conferred superior antisuicidal outcomes for patients.

Methods: This was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial (May 2018 to January 2022) of single administration, fixed-dose (50 mg) IN (R,S)-ketamine (or saline comparator) in unmedicated inpatients meeting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision, criteria for a current major depressive episode (bipolar or unipolar), with current suicidal ideation (SI) and past attempt. Patients with and without comorbid AUD were enrolled. Change in Scale for Suicide Ideation score was the primary outcome measure, and change in Montgomery–Šsberg Depression Rating Scale score was the secondary outcome measure.

Results: No significant group × time effect was noted for SI (F = 1.1, P = .36). A statistical trend toward superior improvement in suicidality was observed in participants with comorbid AUD. The group × time interaction was significant for improvements in depression (F = 3.06, P = .03) and largely unaffected by comorbid AUD or primary mood disorder type. Within the ketamine group, a significant correlation was observed between improvement in depressive symptoms and SI for patients without comorbid AUD (r =0.927, P = .023) that was absent in patients with AUD (r = 0.39, P = .44).

Conclusion: IN ketamine induced rapid antidepressant effects compared to placebo but did not significantly alter SI scores. The treatment was well tolerated. Continued investigation with IN ketamine as a practical alternative to current formulations is warranted.

Trial Registration: identifier: NCT03539887.

J Clin Psychiatry 2024;85(2):23m14974

Author affiliations are listed at the end of this article.

Volume: 85

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