Suicidality and self-injurious behavior afflict patients with a wide variety of psychiatric illnesses. Currently, there are few pharmacologic treatments for suicidality and self-injurious behavior and none that treat these conditions emergently. Recently, ketamine has demonstrated efficacy in treating both depression and acute suicidal ideation. An increasing usage of ketamine, of a variety of formulations, has been studied for these indications. This article reviews the evidence for use of ketamine in self-injurious behavior and suicidality.
A review of the MEDLINE database for articles relating to ketamine, self-injurious behavior, suicidality, and self-harm was conducted. Additional articles were assessed via cross-reference.
A total of 24 articles that included clinical trials, meta-analyses, case series, and case reports were analyzed. The majority of studies of ketamine for suicidal ideation include the intravenous route using a dose of 0.5 mg/kg over 40 minutes. These studies suggest that intravenous ketamine may be effective at reducing suicidal ideation acutely. Data on use of ketamine in the intramuscular, intranasal, and oral forms are limited and of poorer quality. Studies on these formulations contain greater variability of positive and negative results of ketamine for reducing suicidality and self-injurious behavior. The durability of the antisuicidal effects across all formulations is limited.
Ketamine may be an effective option for the treatment of suicidal ideation in patients across inpatient, outpatient, or emergent settings. At this time, more research is needed on the efficacy of ketamine across all formulations being used in clinical practice.
Dadiomov, D., & Lee, K. (2019). The effects of ketamine on suicidality across various formulations and study settings. Mental Health Clinician, 9(1), 48-60., 10.9740/mhc.2019.01.048