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Spravato is a brand-name prescription nasal spray. Currently, it’s the only such medication approved in the U.S. as a potential remedy for treatment-resistant depression. The generic name for Spravato is esketamine. Pharmaceutical manufacturers make esketamine by breaking down molecules of the anesthetic ketamine.
Ketamine itself has some potential benefits for depression treatment. However, it’s not approved for this use by the federal Food and Drug Administration. That’s true because it can trigger a range of significant side effects, including:
Use of ketamine can also trigger rarer, more serious issues. One such issue is dissociation, i.e., a sense of lost connection with your inner reality and/or the world around you. A small number of ketamine users also experience hallucinations. These problems help explain why the medication’s side effects can mimic the symptoms of schizophrenia.
Esketamine is actually stronger than ketamine. However, it’s also safer to use. What explains this seeming contradiction? Because of its strength, esketamine can be given in substantially lower doses than ketamine. In turn, this lowered dosage translates into a lower potential for major side effects.
All antidepressants work by increasing your brain levels of certain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. However, esketamine targets different neurotransmitters than oral depression medications such as:
Specifically, it boosts your brain’s supply of glutamate, which plays an important role in regulating your mood.
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