SARASOTA — This month’s decision by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to offer a psychedelic drug to treat post-traumatic stress disorder while marijuana remains off limits is leaving some stakeholders flummoxed amid the ongoing wave of veteran suicides.
Spravato, derived from the family of anesthetic drugs called ketamine and produced by a division of Johnson & Johnson, will be prescribed to VA clients on a case-by-case basis and administered as a nasal spray.
Ketamine variants have made headlines over the decades for their multiple roles as sedatives, recreational hallucinogens and for their impressive track records for mitigating suicidal depression. The Spravato version, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in March, requires patients to remain under professional observation for two hours following ingestion.
The addition of a new remedy for lowering military suicide rates at a moment when retired and active-duty personnel are killing themselves roughly 20.6 times a day was hailed as a milestone by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We’re pleased to be able to expand options for veterans with depression who have not responded to other treatments,” he said in a statement. “It reflects our commitment to seek new ways to provide the best health care available for our nation’s veterans.”