Electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT, is a psychiatric therapy that has been used for decades for treatment-resistant depression. Popular depictions of shock therapy, such as in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, leave many with the assumption that ECT can leave people brain damaged and a shadow of their former self to mold behavior to one that is more socially acceptable or less psychotic.
To individuals suffering from severe depression that has persisted despite trying many conventional options, ECT serves as a useful tool. It works in a global manner by creating a “blank” slate or “global reset” on the brain and encourages deeply trained patterns of the brain to veer away from the depression loop.
This mechanism is very similar to how ketamine works, but with psychedelic therapy, the approach is much more gentle than applying a large electrical current to shock the nervous system.
A recently published journal in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine compared 200 patients receiving ketamine therapy to ECT and found that a statistically significant greater number of patients responded favorably to ketamine, with less memory loss and musculoskeletal symptoms.
Even to consider ECT as an option demonstrates that this patient population is very challenging to treat. To demonstrate a safer and more effective alternative to ECT makes this a very promising study that further supports the use of ketamine therapy.
Citation: Anand A, et al. Ketamine versus ECT for Nonpsychotic Treatment-Resistant Major Depression. N Engl J Med. 2023 Jun 22;388(25):2315-2325. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2302399. Epub 2023 May 24. PMID: 37224232.