Army Developing Suicide-Fighting Nasal Spray

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For an increasing number of soldiers—unfortunately—the real battle begins after they return home. So far this year, the Army has recorded an average of one suicide per day—and 18 percent increase over the same period a year ago. In June, the number of suicides among active-duty soldiers spiked at 26, the highest number in a single month since the military began keeping records.

The alarming trend has sparked a new effort to confront the problem from within the ranks and some are hoping the latest weapon might be a nasal spray.

The Army has awarded researchers at the University of Indiana’s School of Medicine $3 million for development of thyrotropin-releasing hormone, or TRH.

The hormone has been shown to have antidepressant and anti-suicidal effects but cannot be injected or ingested orally. Dr. Michael Kubek, who leads the research team, uncovered a breakthrough by using nanoparticle technology. The new tech allows microscope particles to break the “blood-brain” barrier, releasing the drug slowly into the brain as needed. To deliver the particles, Kubek and his team have developed a nasal spray.

When it finds its way into treatment protocols, the spray will not replace traditional treatment methods. Instead, the nasal spray will be used as a fast-acting answer to patients in crisis. ““The phase directly after starting an antidepressant is very vulnerable time frame in a patient’s life,” Kubek explained, “the nasal spray would stabilize them right away, while they wait for the to do their job.”

If TRH is found to help soldiers, it could eventually make the jump to civilian populations—marking a major milestone in the war against depression and suicide.

Photo credit: The U.S. Army/Creative Commons

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