Experimental Drug Rapidly Relieves OCD Symptoms In Study


A study out of Stanford University, led by Carolyn I. Rodriguez, M.D., Ph.D. examined the efficacy of an experimental drug, rapastinel, for the relief of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) symptoms.

Rodriguez and colleagues decided to study rapastinel because of its functional similarity to ketamine. Some OCD patients have found symptom relief with ketamine, a drug that’s long been used for anesthesia. Ketamine can also quickly diminish depressive symptoms, but the drug frequently leaves people feeling dissociated.

Dissociation, in psychology, occurs when people maintain an awareness of reality, but they feel apart from it. People may experience a mild detachment from their surroundings or have intense sensations of detachment from the body, or from emotional experience.

As a factor in memory, learning, and synaptic plasticity, the neurotransmitter glutamate is believed to play a part in OCD onset. Rapastinel, like ketamine, regulates brain receptors, or docking ports used by glutamate, but rapastinel is thought less likely to trigger dissociative side effects.

In the Stanford pilot study, seven individuals with OCD were given one dose of rapastinel. Each participant tolerated the drug well, and no dissociation was reported. Within hours of being treated, the participants’ OCD symptoms - obsessions and compulsions - were significantly reduced, as were any signs of depression and anxiety.

However, the effects of rapastinel on OCD symptoms, though rapid, were not long lasting. When the investigators followed-up one week after treatment, participant symptoms were nearly back to pre-treatment levels. More research is needed to determine how well repeated rapastinel dosing works to relieve OCD, and whether it will cause dissociation, or other side effects.

This study was reported in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

Source: Brain & Behavior Foundation
Photo credit: Gisela Giardino

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