Antidepressant Use and Risk of Manic Episodes in Children and Adolescents With Unipolar Depression

Suvi Virtanen, PhD; et al in JAMA Psychiatry. September 27, 2023. report a low risk of switching in youngsters with unipolar depression. However, the odds ratio for a switch were significantly elevated when there was concomitant use of anticonvulsants and antipsychotics, and there was a four fold increased risk if a parent had bipolar disorder. Thus one should be particularly careful about treating depression with antidepressants (AD) when there is a positive parental history of bipolar disorder and one should think of other options, such as lamotrigine, an atypical with good AD effects, or lithium.

NEW DATA ON EXTENDING THE EFFFECTS OF IV KETAMINE: Implications for countering the effects of stigma.

John Krystal of Yale U. in an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sci. (2023) gave new information about the anatomical and physiological effects of ketamine and about how to extend its effects. Ketamine in animals acutely (in a matter of hours) increases spines, synapses, and dendrites and physiological connectivity in neurons in the prefrontal cortex. Data now support these findings in humans with depression, but AD effects of ketamine tend to dissipate over a period of 3 to 5 days and require repeated infusions to maintain the improvement. Synaptic density can be measured with SV2A and this can be enhanced with a Navitor Pharmaceuticals drug acting on mTORC1. Surprisingly low doses of rapamycin, an inhibitor of mTOR1, extends the duration of AD effects of ketamine, increasing the response rate at 2 weeks of 13% to 41%. Ketamine restores only the spines that have been reduced in depression and rapamycin is thought to extend the duration of the restored spines. It may do this by increasing the neurotropic effects of microglia. The tripartite synapse of pre and post synaptic neurons and astrocytes, may now be better described as the tetrapartite synapse with the inclusion of microglial.

Adding psychotherapy to the effects of ketamine in PTSD increases and extends efficacy.

AD effects of ketamine can be extended with cognitive behavioral therapy. Thus, ketamine increases synaptic efficacy, synaptic density, glutamate homeostasis, and experience-dependent neuroplasticity. Extending the persistence of these effects by various chemical and psychotherapeutic mechanisms may give new ways of enhancing and prolonging the therapeutic effects of this rapidly acting agent.

Interestingly, Kaye at Yale U. reports that in contrast to transient effects of ketamine, the AD effects of therapy-assisted psilocybin appear to be very long lasting and the associated increases in spines persist for longer than 37 days. Another psychedelic MDMA that is effective in PTSD causes large increases in spines, although they are less persistent and are gone by 34 days.

Editors Note: As we have previously highlighted in the BNN, these data on ketamine and other psychedelics reversing the anatomical and physiological deficits in prefrontal neurons of depressed animals and humans (spines, dendrites, synapses and intercellular communication), give a new view of the real, reliable, and replicable neurological defects accompanying depression. The rapid correction of these neural abnormalities in conjunction with the rapid induction of antidepressant effects are not only paradigm shifting from a treatment perspective, but have major implications for the assertion that there is a neurobiological basis of depression and its treatment.

As such, these data should do much to counter the continuing stigma too often accompanying the term “mental” illness that it is somehow not as real as other medical and neurological conditions, and as it is often asserted that “it is just all in one’s head.”  This picks up on the unfortunate associations and definitions of “mental” as imaginary, all in the mind, and evanescent and that mental illness can readily be countered with effort and will power such as “pulling oneself up by the bootstraps,” (the latter of which is in itself a logical impossibility.)


Editor’s Note: Lithium is vastly underutilized. There is wide spread ignorance about its many assets and misconceptions about its few side effects. Here is an update that should be of interest to potential users, family members, and clinicians.


  • Prevents unipolar and bipolar depression
  • Augments effects of antidepressants in unipolar depression
  • Potentiates the effects of atypical antipsychotics in treating mania and depression
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Normalizes some aspects of cardiovascular risk
  • Normalizes secretions for monocytes and leukocytes
  • Increases neurogenesis, BCl-2, and hippocampal and thalamic volumes
  • The increases in neuroprotective factors occurs at brain levels below typical therapeutic dosages
  • Protects against memory deterioration
  • Lowers dementia risk in old age
  • Reduces suicide clinically and at minute concentrations in the water supply
  • Lengthens telomeres and increases longevity
  • Reduces size of lesions in models of stroke, AIDS, and Huntington’s chorea
  • Normalizes circadian rhythms
  • Reduces manic-like behavior induced by clock gene mutations
  • Prevents calcium currents and increased firing rate in stem cells from bipolar patients
  • Induces minimal to no weight gain on long term follow up
  • Does not increase risk of kidney failure when given at blood levels of .6 to .8 blood levels
  • Protects against spine and hip osteoporosis

Conclusion: With so many assets and so few liabilities, physicians and patients should reconsider the benefits of lithium and use it more often, not only in the few who respond to it as a monotherapy, but as a adjunct to the many other treatments of bipolar disorder. This should be a “no brainer” as lithium will very likely help some have fewer problems from their illness and may even help them live longer.

Many of these points are summarized in the open access publication: Robert M Post, The New News About Lithium: An Underutilized Treatment in The United States, Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview 4 October 2017; several new updates have been added from the International Society on Bipolar Disorders meeting, Chicago, June, 2023.

“Pharmacotherapy of Bipolar Depression”

Roger McIntyre gave a talk on the “Pharmacotherapy of Bipolar Depression” at the International Society for Bipolar Disorders Conference in Chicago, June 22-25, 2023

He pointed out that, contrary to the many approved agents for mania, there were few FDA-approved drugs for depression in patients with Bipolar Disorders. These approved drugs included: cariprazine (Vraylar); lumateperone (Caplyta); lurasidone (Latuda); quetiapine (Seroquel); and the olanzapine-fluoxetine combination (Symbyax). Other non-approved agents include: lithium, lamotrigine, antidepressants, MAOIs, pramipexole, carbamazepine, ketamine, bupropion+dextromethorphan, amantadine, memantine, and possibly minocycline and celecoxib. Surprisingly, more than 3,000 bipolar depressed patients have been reported to be taking ketamine and that this was not associated with the induction of hypomania or mania.

McIntyre reported on the antidepressant (AD) effects of intra-nasal (i.n.) insulin. The insulin receptor sensitizer metformin had AD effects, but only in those who converted to insulin sensitivity.

McIntyre reported on the mixed effects of the GLP-1 agonists in the prevention of depression (Cooper et al J. Psychiatric Res, 2023). This is of interest in relationship to the bidirectional relationship of diabetes mellitus and depression.

Liraglutide appeared to have an anti-anhedonia effect. Semaglutide had AD and antianxiety effects in animal models of depression.

Recent studies have explored the antidepressant effect of psilocybin. Small studies have indicated that it has rapid onset of AD effects, and, in contrast to ketamine where rapid onset AD and anti-suicidal effects are short lived, the AD effect of psilocybin may be more prolonged.

Ketamine repairs structure and function of prefrontal cortical neurons via glutamate NMDA receptor blocking action, while psilocybin and other psychedelics act via stimulating 5HT2A receptors. One single case study suggested that blocking 5HT2A receptors with trazodone could achieve a rapid onset of AD effects of psilocybin without the psychedelic effects, a very interesting finding that requires replication.

Early Antidepressant Use is Associated with Rapid Cycling Bipolar Disorder

Highlights from Posters Presented at the Society of Biological Psychiatry Meeting, April 27-29, 2023 in San Diego

A.C. Courtes and Jair Soares reported that “Antidepressants were prescribed as the first psychiatry medication in 74/114 (65%) of BD patients.” This and alcohol use disorder were independent predictors of rapid cycling.

Vortioxetine Improves Cognition, Major Depression in Early Dementia

    Vortioxetine (5mg then 10mg) significantly improves depressive symptoms, cognitive performance, functioning, and quality of life at 12 weeks in patients with both major depressive disorder (MDD) and early-stage dementia.  In addition to blocking 5HT (serotonin) reuptake vortioxetine antagonizes 5 serotonin receptors with 5HT3 and 5HT7 likely accounting for the positive effects on processing speed and cognitive functioning.

Serotonin is Back

A review by Moncrieff et al in Molecular Psychiatry 2022 concluded that : “there is no convincing evidence that depression is associated with, or caused by, lower serotonin concentrations or activity.” This was widely reported in the news media.

A new analysis by 26 experts in the field finds many faults with this analysis (Jauhar et al 2023). Instead, they conclude “A more accurate, constructive conclusion would be that acute tryptophan depletion and decreased plasma tryptophan in depression indicate a role for 5-HT in those vulnerable to or suffering from depression, and that molecular imaging suggests the system is perturbed. The proven efficacy of SSRIs in a proportion of people with depression lends credibility to this position.” Long live serotonin’s role in depression.

Probiotic as an adjunct to an antidepressant

Viktoriya L. Nikolova, et al reported in JAMA Psychiatry (2023) that the probiotic Bio-Kult Advanced; ADM Protexin was more effective than placebo as an adjunct to antidepressants for depression and anxiety.

Risk of Attempted or Completed Suicide in Borderline Personality Disorder: Reduced with ADHD meds; Increased with Benzodiazepines

Johannes Lieslehto et al 2023 reported in JAMA New. Open on the comparative effectiveness in 22,601 individuals with BPD that “ADHD medication was the only pharmacological treatment associated with reduced risk of suicidal behavior among patients with BPD. Conversely, the findings suggest that benzodiazepines should be used with care among patients with BPD due to their association with increased risk of suicide.” Mood stabilizers had no effect while antipsychotics minimally and antidepressants moderately increased risk of suicide attempts or completed suicide.

Single-dose psilocybin-assisted therapy in major depressive disorder: a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized clinical trial

von Rotz et al reported in eClinical Medicine (the Lancet) that a single dose of psilocybin produced a huge AD (anti-depressant) effect compared to placebo. A dose of 0.215mg Kg (about 15mg for a 70kg person) had a rapid onset AD effect that persisted for at least 14 days. Music was played and in a living room like environment. Psychological support was provided on 3 visits pretreatment and on days 8 and 14 for a total of 14 hours

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