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Gay Party Drug Ketamine's Cousin Is Now FDA-Approved for Depression

ketamine depression

With new federal approval, a ketamine-like nasal spray can now be used for people battling depression.

An experimental nasal spray similar to popular club drug ketamine has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration as a fast-acting treatment for severe depression.

The drug known as esketamine was given the green light by the agency Tuesday and will be sold by Spravato, which is connected to the Johnson & Johnson company.

"There has been a long-standing need for additional effective treatments for treatment-resistant depression, a serious and life-threatening condition," Dr. Tiffany Farchione, acting director of the Division of Psychiatry Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement Tuesday.

"Controlled clinical trials that studied the safety and efficacy of this drug, along with careful review through the FDA's drug approval process including a robust discussion with our external advisory committees, were important to our decision to approve this treatment," Farchione continued.

The drug will cost between $590 and $885 depending on dosage and the insurance provider of those seeking treatment that are adults. Potential patients must have tried other antidepressants with little success.

It is the first time that this drug has ever been approved by the FDA.

The drug's box labeling will contain a "warning" cautioning patients that they are at risk of "sedation and difficulty with attention, judgment and thinking (dissociation), abuse and misuse, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors after administration of the drug," the FDA said

If prescribed, patients must be monitored by health care providers for at least two hours after dosage.

The drug's cousin, ketamine, was popularized in the 1990s within rave and club scenes around the world -- especially within LGBTQ spaces. It has lead to some high-profile deaths within the community, particularly the death of adult-film star Joey Stefano who died in 1994 from an overdose.

There is currently a film about his life and rise to fame in production that features RuPaul's Drag Race stars Michelle Visage and Alaska Thunderfuck.

Over 16 million adults currently battle depression in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. It is one of the most common mental health disorders in the country with LGBTQ people reporting depression at higher levels than other groups.

This drug, according to the agency, may serve as a breakthrough in managing the widespread issue.

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