Ketamine Therapy, Suicide and Suicidal Thinking
About the Author Dr. Steven P. Levine is a board-certified psychiatrist internationally recognized for his contributions to advancements in mental health care. Though he is a psychiatrist who places great emphasis on the importance of psychotherapy, medication is often a necessary component of treatment, and he was dissatisfied with the relatively ineffective available options with burdensome side effects. Dr. Levine pioneered a protocol for the clinical use of ketamine infusions, has directly supervised many thousands of infusions and has helped establish similar programs across the country and around the world.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Each year, over 42,000 people in the United States commit suicide.² That is an unthinkable 117 suicides per day. The aftermath of a suicide on family, friends, and society creates ripple effects that last generations. Suicide is a tragedy.
Research has shown that ketamine is effective for major depression, bipolar depression, postpartum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), anxiety, and chronic pain.³ Incredibly, research has also shown that suicide prevention benefits from Ketamine infusions, which may decrease and even eliminate suicidal thinking within hours of the first infusion.¹ Ketamine is the fastest acting medication to eliminate suicidal thoughts and as such, a revolutionary new treatment option.
The suffering of individuals who find existence so painful that death seems to be the only option is difficult to describe, and different in every person. To understand this suffering, perhaps it is better to quote Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D.:
Night Falls Fast, Understanding Suicide
“When people are suicidal, their thinking is paralyzed, their options appear sparse or nonexistent, their mood is despairing, and hopelessness permeates their entire mental domain. The future cannot be separated from the present, and the present is painful beyond solace. ‘This is my last experiment,’ wrote a young chemist in his suicide note. ‘If there is any eternal torment worse than mine, I’ll have to be shown.”
Who Experiences Suicidal Thinking?
Suicidal thinking is common in individuals who have depression, bipolar depression, anxiety, pain, and PTSD. Lithium and clozapine are medications that have demonstrated efficacy in decreasing suicidal thinking. Lithium and clozapine can also have side effects which can be debilitating, and these medications require ongoing monitoring with blood tests. Lithium and clozapine’s effects manifest over weeks and months- symptom relief takes a long time in most cases.
Ketamine has also been shown to rapidly diminish and even eliminate suicidal thinking in several studies, both completed and ongoing. To give you just a taste of this research, look to Murrough et al. 2015 who concluded: “The current findings provide initial support for the safety and tolerability of Ketamine as an intervention for SI [suicidal ideation] in patients who are at elevated risk for suicidal behavior.”
At Actify, we regularly observe Ketamine’s effects on diminishing thoughts of death. Often, suicidal thinking disappears after the first infusion. One patient, having been suicidal for ten years and living with daily intrusive suicidal thoughts, was astounded to realize she no longer had these automatic thoughts or a plan to harm herself. Her ketamine treatment alleviated her symptoms so much that she was able to formulate a new plan for living a full and rewarding life. You may not believe it, but these are the sorts of things we regularly see at Actify.
Ketamine Therapy and Public Health
Given the toll suicide takes on society, ketamine, which is safe, well tolerated and effective, is a viable and reasonable treatment for those who experience suicidal thinking. If you know someone who struggles with suicidal thinking, ask them if they have considered ketamine as a treatment. The results can be miraculous. Mental Health America, which has chapters in many states, has started a ‘Zero Suicide Academy,’ with the goal of educating providers, families and the public about suicide prevention.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate assistance, please call 911. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also a valuable resource and can be reached 24/7 at (800) 273-8255. Veterans can call the Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255. There is always someone available to talk via these lifelines. Suicide is preventable and treatable.
To learn more about how ketamine is being used to successfully treat patients with mental health disorders, contact us at 888-566-8774 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free phone consultation to discuss how this treatment can benefit you or your loved one. Actify is proudly combatting major depression, bipolar depression, postpartum depression, PTSD, OCD, and anxiety one patient at a time.
- Diaz Granados N, Ibrahim LA, Brutsche NE, et al. Rapid resolution of suicidal ideation after a single infusion of an N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist in patients with treatment-resistant major depressive disorder. J Clin Psychiatry. 2010;71:1605–11.
- AFSP.Suicide Stats.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Data & Statistics Fatal Injury Report for 2016.
- Sanacora G, Frye MA, McDonald W, et al. A consensus statement on the use of ketamine in the treatment of mood disorders. JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(4):399-405. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.0080.