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Since their introduction to the global public in the 1950s, antidepressants have been prescribed to countless patients in their attempt to find relief from depression. Today there are five different oral families of antidepressants. Two of these families involve reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs, SNRIs), meaning the drug is allowed to stay in the synapse of the nerve rather than being reabsorbed. Reuptake inhibitors are the most widely prescribed drugs for treating depression. When combined with the other three families of antidepressants (SARI, Tetracyclics, MAOIs) these five families of antidepressant medications total more than 30 different brands of oral antidepressants. Prozac, Effexor and Zoloft are a few of the more familiar product names.

However, a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that approximately half of the patients who were prescribed oral antidepressants were unresponsive. Couple this with the statistic that 1 in 10 Americans is prescribed an oral antidepressant and that fact is staggering. Many people who live with depression do not respond to today’s psychotropic solutions.

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New research involving ketamine is showing a great deal of promise in individuals who have suicidal thoughts or who have attempted suicide. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for Americans aged 15-34 and the 10th leading cause of death across all age groups; on average, 123 people take their own lives every single day. Nearly half a million people attempted to kill themselves in 2017. More than half of all suicides are by self-inflicted gunshot, and men account for 7 out of 10 suicides. According to the Centers for Disease Control, American suicides reached an epidemically 30-year high in 2016. The economic toll from suicides is approaching $51 billion per year.

While not all suicides are caused by depression, the decision to commit suicide is usually impulsive, thus effective preventive measures are difficult to implement. Antidepressants and sedatives, while somewhat effective in reducing symptoms of depression and alleviating suicidal thoughts, take weeks to have an effect. And despite suicide awareness and prevention programs being on the rise, individuals with severe depression and major suicidal tendencies desperately need faster and longer-lasting forms of therapy.

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[DIGEST: NPR, MedicalNewsToday, Scientific American]

Depression afflicts most people at some point in their lives, but for some, the condition is chronic and debilitating. Major depressive disorder affects 14.8 million people in the United States, making it the most common disability for people aged 15-44. Many pharmaceuticals are available to treat depression, but few have lasting positive results for those whose depression is life-threatening.  

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