Single, Fixed-Dose Intranasal Ketamine for Alleviation of Acute Suicidal Ideation. An Emergency Department, Trans-Diagnostic Approach: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Proof-of-Concept Trial

This double-blind placebo-controlled study (n=30) with intranasal ketamine (40mg) found significant reductions in suicidal ideation (SI, 80 vs 33% remission) and depressive symptoms (MADRS) 4 hours after administration for those with SI in the emergency department.


Background: Suicidal patients often present to the emergency department, where specific anti-suicidal treatment is lacking. Ketamine, a Glutamate modulator and a rapidly acting antidepressant with anti-suicidal properties, might offer relief.

Aims: Evaluation of single, fixed-dosed intranasal ketamine for acute suicidal ideation in the emergency department.

Methods: Between August 2016 and April 2018, 30 eligible suicidal subjects, scheduled for psychiatric hospitalization, independently of their psychiatric diagnosis, were randomized to intranasal ketamine 40 mg or saline placebo. Safety and efficacy evaluations were scheduled for 30, 60, 120, and 240 min post administration and on days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 21, and 28. Primary outcome was suicidal ideation.

Results: Fifteen subjects were randomized for each study group. All were analyzed for primary and secondary outcomes. Four hours post administration, the mean difference in suicidal symptoms between the groups, measured by the Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) item of suicidal thoughts (MADRS-SI), was 1.267 (95% confident interval 0.1-2.43, p < 0.05) favoring treatment. Remission from suicidal ideation was evident in 80% for the ketamine group compared with 33% for the controls (p < 0.05). The mean difference in depressive symptoms, measured by MADRS, at the same time was 9.75 (95% confident interval 0.72-18.79, p < 0.05) favoring ketamine. Treatment was safe and well-tolerated.

Conclusions: Single, fixed-dose, intranasal ketamine alleviated suicidal ideation and improved depressive symptoms four hours post-administration. We present here an innovative paradigm for emergency department management of suicidal individuals. Future larger-scale studies are warranted. “

Authors: Yoav Domany & Cheryl B. McCullumsmith



Study details

Topics studied

Study characteristics
Placebo-Controlled Double-Blind Randomized