Living with depression can feel like a never-ending battle. Chronic depression, which is characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, can make people feel:
- Anxious and agitated
- Discontented and apathetic
- Guilty and angry
- Hopeless and helpless
- Restless and moody
- Isolated and irritable
Luckily, antidepressant medication and therapy can help treat depression. But sometimes, these treatments don’t seem to work, causing behavioral health experts and scientists to research new treatment methods, such as spravato therapy. Even though this FDA-approved treatment method is fairly new, Spravato therapy seems to be an effective way to treat depressed adults who haven’t benefited from other treatment methods.
What Is Spravato Treatment?
Spravato is a prescription medicine taken with an oral antidepressant used to treat:
- Adults with treatment-resistant depression (TRD)
- Adults with major depressive disorder (MDD) that have suicidal thoughts or actions
The nasal spray, which is made up of the chemical esketamine, can provide relief from major depression within hours. “For the first time in 60 years, we have a new antidepressant therapy that isn’t just a spinoff of existing drugs,” Dr. Adam Kaplin, a psychiatrist at John Hopkins Medicine, explained. “For some people,” he said, “esketamine therapy is revolutionary, giving them the chance to experience life without depression for the first time in decades.”
Esketamine is made from ketamine, an anesthetic drug that has been used for many years to treat depression. Because esketamine is more potent than ketamine, people can experience the benefits of Spravto therapy with lower doses of esketamine and fewer side effects.
Spravato therapy can vary based on an individual’s specific needs, but generally, the treatment includes 3 self-administered doses of the nasal spray, spaced 5 minutes apart, under medical supervision. Spravato therapy can also be used in conjunction with a conventional antidepressant. In that case, esketamine relieves symptoms of depression while the antidepressant takes effect. Because of esketamine’s potential to distort perception, however, individuals receiving spravato therapy must remain under medical supervision until potential side effects have passed.
How Does Spravato Work For Depression?
Spravato works differently than other antidepressant therapies. Conventional antidepressant medications increase levels of naturally occurring chemicals in the brain such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These chemical messengers also called neurotransmitters, initiate and regulate communication between various cells in the brain. The chemical messengers also help regulate and affect our moods.
- Serotonin regulates happiness, anxiety, and overall mood.
- Norepinephrine influences our energy and concentration levels. Bursts of norepinephrine can cause feelings of euphoria but may also lead to elevated blood pressure and hyperactivity.
- Dopamine, also known as the “feel-good” chemical, regulates pleasure, satisfaction, and motivation.
Generally, greater levels of these neurotransmitters allow brain cells to communicate with each other better, positively affecting individuals’ overall mood. Unfortunately, an estimated 33 percent of people with depression don’t respond to these types of conventional depressants. Esketamine works in a similar way, but unlike other antidepressant medications, Spravato increases glutamate, the most abundant neurotransmitter in the brain.
Glutamate is a powerful excitatory neurotransmitter that regulates learning and memory. As glutamate levels increase, the neurotransmitter starts to “excite” cells in the brain. Glutamate also encourages the brain to learn, memorize, and become accustomed to this excited state of mind, helping to combat the symptoms of depression.
Clinical trial results show that esketamine can reduce symptoms of depression by:
- Decreasing suicidal thoughts. Even though many conventional antidepressants help alleviate long-term depression, many of them actually increase suicidal thoughts at the beginning of treatment. Children and young adults can be especially vulnerable to this side effect. Esketamine, the active ingredient in Spravato, is the only drug besides lithium, a prescription treatment for bipolar disorder, that has been shown to effectively decrease suicidal thoughts. Without fewer disturbing thoughts, individuals are free to form new, healthier brain connections.
- Helping the brain form new connections. Untreated depression can cause long-term brain damage and increase individuals’ risk of dementia. Some studies even show that people with depression can experience shrinking of the hippocampus, a critical brain region for memory and learning. Esketamine can help combat these harmful effects of depression. Typically, brain cells under chronic emotional or physical stress diminish, but esketamine prevents this from happening. Additionally, esketamine can help promote brain cell growth and encourage neurogenesis, which forms new neurons and neural connections in the brain.
Can Spravato Therapy Help Anyone With Depression?
Currently, the FDA has only approved spravato therapy for people with treatment-resistant depression (TRD). People who have treatment-resistant depression have tried at least 2 other antidepressants for at least 6 weeks without at least a 50 percent improvement in their mood. Spravato therapy can give people who haven’t had success with other depression treatments a chance to see what life can be like without symptoms of depression. Spravato therapy should also only be administered to adults. The FDA has not yet approved esketamine for children with depression.
Side Effects of Spravato Therapy
Like any drug, using Spravato can have some side effects. These side effects can occur from right after treatment to up until 2 hours after the Spravato therapy. Some of the most common side effects of esketamine include:
- Feeling sleepy
- Feeling drunk
- Feeling anxious
- Lack of energy
- Spinning sensation
- Feeling euphoric, energetic, or happy
But esketamine, like ketamine, is a Schedule III controlled substance. This means that Spravato has a potential for abuse and can lead to moderate or low physical or psychological dependence.
Some of the more severe side effects of Spravato therapy can include:
- Bladder problems
- Increased blood pressure
- Severe dissociation
- Difficulty thinking clearly
Here at StoneRidge Centers, our Spravato therapy is effectively and closely regulated by our medical and clinical staff members, which limits the potential for abuse.
Helping You Successfully Overcome Severe Depression
Here at StoneRidge, we believe that everyone deserves improved mental health. Depression can make you feel anxious and irritated, restless and moody. That’s why we combine the best of brain science and clinical support. Our evidence-based mental health stabilization program can help you overcome suicidal thoughts and treatment-resistant depression. Let us help you develop and maintain optimal mental health. Contact a member of our team to learn more.
Innovative, Evidence-Based Therapies
Because mental health and addiction concerns are so often interconnected, we utilize research-based approaches with evidence-based outcomes that promote overall healing and recovery.