Intranasal Ketamine Helps Some Kids with Bipolar Disorder

May 7, 2013 · Posted in Potential Treatments 

girl with nasal inhalerThe anesthetic ketamine given intranasally may help children with a certain type of bipolar disorder. In an article published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2013, Demetri Papolos et al. reported seeing marked improvement in a subgroup of 12 children aged 6 to 19 years of age who were nonresponsive to the usual treatment regimens of lithium, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics. Papolos has described these children as having the “fear of harm (FOH) subtype.” In addition to having typical mood swings, these children also have a fear of aggression, separation anxiety, sleep and circadian rhythm disorders, nightmares, thermoregulatory problems, and carbohydrate craving.

Ketamine was given as an intranasal spray using an inhaler in 10mg doses. Doses were increased until the targeted symptoms remitted. Average doses ranged from 30mg to 120mg, given every 3 to 7 days.  All symptom areas including depression and mania improved markedly, usually within a few hours, and this improvement lasted 3 to 4 days. Four types of aggression (measured on the Overt Aggression Scale) decreased significantly.

There were some dissociative side effects that were usually mild to moderate, but occasionally severe. They resolved spontaneously, usually within the first hour after treatment, and there appeared to be tolerance to them following repeated administration.

The authors urged caution until findings from these cases are confirmed by more controlled studies, but they concluded that the magnitude and rapidity of effects in these children with treatment resistant bipolar disorder suggested effectiveness and safety.


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