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Mental Health

Could this “Club Drug” Be the Solution for Severe Depression?

Mental illness is not up for debate. As we know, it is an illness that is highly overlooked and can impede the lifestyle of many individuals. Depression, a subcategory of mental illness, is one of those nasty, life-impairing illnesses that has no preference in age, race, gender, or sexuality. As the prevalence of depression is an ongoing issue and manifests itself in 300 million people worldwide. In the US alone, 16.7 million adults suffer from depression.

Talk therapy and medications such as antidepressants are the treatments at hand that depressed people utilize. Except for over a quarter of these individuals in the US experience no benefits of these treatments. This is where the club drug, popularly known as Special K, has become a newfound discovery for doctors to use for those suffering with severe to suicidal depression.

Ketamine has been tweaked into esketamine, which is another compound of ketamine. Hallucinations, out-of-body experiences, and psychotic episodes do come at the cost of using such drugs. Yet the new compound, esketamine, which will be marketed as a nasal spray under the name “Spravato” has recently been FDA approved. Though the use of this drug will be highly monitored and strictly prescribed by doctors. The long, on-going course treatment of this drug will be administered twice a week for months by a doctor in which patients can only use in the presence of the superior to ensure no drug abuse.

But who can receive esketamine? Only patients who have tried at least two other forms of medical treatment for severe depression with little to no progress are allowed to be considered for this form of treatment. This boost of serotonin is hopeful in helping those with severe depression gain some sense of relief, even if this is financially and time taxing.

There are a few issues with this new FDA approved treatment, though. The cost of esketamine prescription is expensive and could really only help those who have a fundable financial income to assist in delving into this treatment. We are financially marginalizing people due to these efforts. In addition, this also means individuals must have also invested time and resources into at least two other forms of treatment before being given the option to even consider Spravato. Another arising issue at hand, as with all new treatments being introduced into the pharmaceutical and medical world, there is no guarantee at the moment that this drug would lead to successful results. Therefore, a lot of evaluation and discoveries are yet to be found in how reactive patients are to esketamine. When tested, this drug only displayed most of its benefits in adults under the age of 65 as seniority showed to have a declination in benefits. Adolescents were not taken into consideration, as it seems, to have their chance at experimenting with even the tested version of esketamine.

Keep in mind, there will be groups of individuals marginalized by esketamine, but this does not eliminate them from the timeline entirely. If Spravato does show promise, it will take some time, then maybe this will open up access to other individuals suffering with severe depression. Hopefully this does show promise – it’d be a blessing to see progress in the mental health part of this society for those who cannot seem to escape it. I mean, as the saying goes, if nothing else works, try something new.

Kayla Ishisaki

Washington '21

Undergraduate student at UW Seattle.
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