A Nasal Spray to Prevent Suicide?
A fascinating story this week from The Daily: a University of Indiana team led by Dr. Michael Kubek has been awarded a seven-figure grant by the Army to develop a nasal spray that would prevent suicide in soldiers.
That’s right, a nasal spray.
The device in question would administer a quick and potent dose of aerosolized thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) to soldiers as needed, much like a traditional spray. But because TRH is a powerful antidepressant whose effects are almost instantaneous, the system would bypass one of the thorniest problems in suicide prevention: the weeks-long, glacial “loading period” of more popular SSRIs such as Prozac and Luvox.
But don’t count the old stalwarts out yet:
Should the program succeed, TRH wouldn’t entirely replace traditional antidepressants. Instead, Kubek envisions using it as a rapid-fire prevention tactic among patients in crisis, or immediately after a patient starts taking antidepressants, such as Prozac or Zoloft, which typically take four to six weeks to kick in.
“The phase directly after starting an antidepressant is very vulnerable time frame in a patient’s life,” he said, adding that patients aged 18-24, like much of the military population, are most at-risk during this period. “The nasal spray would stabilize them right away, while they wait for the [antidepressants] to do their job.”
And stability is all that’s required to prevent suicide, especially for people who are in acute crisis and lack the resources to check themselves into an inpatient program.
The interesting wrinkle here is that the program is being developed for the U.S. Army, whose skyrocketing suicide rate has become a growing problem. But if the device works as hoped, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it make its way into civilian use, much like other successful Army research projects.
In the meantime, we’ll all have to make do with the current dubious vanguard in aerosolized drugs: this.