FDA on depression nasal spray
FDA on depression nasal spray

The FDA Just Approved a Ketamine-Based Drug For Depression that could Lead to Suicidal Thoughts - What About Cannabis?

The FDA approves esketamine, but why not medical marijuana, too?

Posted by:
DanaSmith on Monday Mar 11, 2019

The FDA Just Approved A Ketamine-Based Drug For Depression That Can Cause Suicidal Thoughts…What About Cannabis?!

esketamine for depression

Depression is such a common mental disorder, that it affects over 300 million people all around the world and of all ages.


It’s also the top cause of disability, and without proper treatment can even lead to suicide. Depression is a silent killer; it’s an epidemic that needs proper treatment. People are already using cannabis to help mitigate the symptoms of depression – it’s completely safe, has no side effects, and has been proven by countless studies to aid with mild to severe forms of depression.


But for the millions of people suffering from depression (and other conditions) in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration seems to only want to make their health problems worse.


Early this month, the FDA just approved a new drug for depression called esketamine. Esketamine, marketed under the brand name Spravato, is a ketamine-based drug designed for patients who aren’t responding to conventional antidepressant medications. It comes in a nasal spray form, and is touted to be the world’s first quick-relief depression medication in the market. It is said to work by improving patients’ moods in as little as a few hours, while other antidepressants sometimes take days or even weeks to work – if they even offer any relief at all.


Esketamine was developed by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson called Janssen. It should be used together with another antidepressant only if the patient has already tried two without relief. Conventional antidepressants work by helping the brain produce more serotonin, which reduces the symptoms of depressions in some patients. But esketamine works by blocking glutamate receptors, resulting in changes in the brain that may be helpful.


But at what cost?


For one, the FDA says that esketamine will only be accessible through certified clinics that allow doctors to closely monitor patients in order to reduce the risk for abuse. But it can cost a whopping $900 for each session, and with the recommendations being 2 sessions per week, can easily cost patients $7,000 a MONTH.


Not enough people are talking about the potentially harmful side effects of ketamine. Esketamine’s labels indicate a warning that patients who take it face a risk of being sedated, while compromising the ability to pay attention, think, and even judge properly. It also warns of the risk for abuse and even suicidal thoughts after taking this medication.


“Controlled clinical trials that studied the safety and efficacy of this drug, along with carful review through the FDA’s drug approval process including a robust discussion with our external advisory committees, were important to our decision to approve this treatment,” said Dr. Tiffany Farchione of the Division of Psychiatry Products within the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.


In a New York Times article by Benedict Carey, which discussed esketamine and what doctors had to say about it, there are clearly mixed reactions from the medical community. “I have spent 30 years investigating depression and I am massively aware of how devastating depression can be,” said Dr. Mark George, neurology and psychiatry professor in the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston. “So for now I am grateful to have a new tool in the tool kit,” he says.


But Dr. Carolyn Rodriguez, associate chair of the psychiatry and behavioral science department at the Stanford medical school, doesn’t agree. “Ketamine’s effects are transient, and we don’t know the long-term effects of repeated dosing” when it comes to either esketamine or anesthetics. “We do know that people who abuse the drug, using it at higher doses, and frequently, have bladder toxicity and cognitive problems. Patients will need to be fully informed,” she says.


On the other hand, cannabis is safe AND effective, with absolutely no risk for addiction. In fact, studies show that you don’t even need a lot of cannabis to help alleviate mental conditions such as depression. Microdosing, or the practice of using minimal amounts of a drug, may actually even be more beneficial for depression than using large amounts.


So why is the FDA approving a drug despite all its potential side effects, while dragging its feet with cannabis? My money’s on the FDA being supported financially by Big Pharma, that’s why.








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