VA study to examine ketamine's potential to treat posttraumatic stress disorder

A major federally funded study led by John H. Krystal, MD, Chair of the Yale Department of Psychiatry, will examine how the anesthetic ketamine can benefit veterans who suffer from severe posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The study, launched by the Consortium to Alleviate PTSD (CAP), a national research group, will probe whether ketamine has potential to treat combat-related PTSD symptoms. The drug has already been shown to quickly ease symptoms of treatment-resistant depression.

Krystal, Director of the Clinical Neurosciences Division of the VA National Center for PTSD, was among the first researchers to study ketamine’s antidepressant effects on humans. Many patients with treatment-resistant depression and thoughts of suicide respond well to the drug, usually within 24 hours of the first dose.

“Ketamine seems to rapidly and robustly improve symptoms, even for individuals who have tried a myriad of other medications and treatment approaches with little to no benefit,” Krystal said in a statement.

Ketamine seems to rapidly and robustly improve symptoms, even for individuals who have tried a myriad of other medications and treatment approaches with little to no benefit.

John H. Krystal, MD, Chair, Yale Department of Psychiatry; Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Professor of Neuroscience

The study, jointly funded by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, is being conducted out of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System in West Haven, where participants are being recruited. Study participants are also being sought at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

PTSD affects as many as 25 percent of veterans depending on service era, and is a signature injury of the recent ways in Iraq and Afghanistan, Krystal said. Approximately 7 percent of the general population is affected.

“This study, and others exploring ketamine for PTSD, hold great promise for many people who require rapid-acting treatment that will improve symptoms of PTSD,” Krystal said.

Ketamine is generally considered safe and well tolerated, but there is concern that its immediate benefits may encourage people to use it recreationally. This can be harmful and produce temporary changes in thought and perception that wears off in hours.

The research group CAP is led by the VA National Center for PTSD and The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. It partners with co-investigators from across the nation to find the best ways to diagnose, prevent, and treat combat-related PTSD and related conditions.

To learn more about this study contact Dr. Lynnette Averill at the Clinical Neuroscience Division of the VA National Center for PTSD at 203-932-5711, ext. 5044, or at emerge@yale.edu. Read more about the Ketamine Study at the ClinicalTrials.gov website here.

This article was submitted by Christopher Gardner on August 2, 2017.

Related People

Lynnette A. Averill

Associate Research Scientist in Psychiatry

John Krystal

Robert L. McNeil, Jr. Professor of Translational Research and Professor of Psychiatry and of Neuroscience