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The potential anti-depressant properties of dexmedetomidine infusion: a review of mechanistic, preclinical, and clinical evidence

  • Mohammed Al-Alawi EMAIL logo , Elisa Brietzke , Adriana Carvalhal and Claudio N. Soares


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a highly prevalent and disabling condition for which the currently available treatments are not fully effective. Existing unmet needs include rapid onset of action and optimal management of concurrent agitation. Dexmedetomidine (DEX) is a selective and potent α2-adrenergic receptor (α2-AR) agonist, with unique pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties. In this review, we discuss pre-clinical and clinical studies which focused on DEX in the context of its putative antidepressant effects for the management of MDD. Preliminary data support DEX as an antidepressant with fast onset of action, which would be especially helpful for patients experiencing treatment resistant depression, and agitation. We further explore the mechanistic and clinical implications of considering DEX as a putative antidepressant agent, and the next steps to explore the efficacy of low dose DEX infusion among patients with treatment resistant depression.

Corresponding author: Mohammed Al-Alawi, MD, Department of Psychiatry, Queens University School of Medicine, 752 King Street West, Postal Bag 603, Kingston, ON K7L 4X3, Canada; and Department of Behavioral Medicine, Sultan Qaboos University Hospital, Muscat, Oman, E-mail:

  1. Author contribution: All the authors have accepted responsibility for the entire content of this submitted manuscript and approved submission.

  2. Research funding: None.

  3. Conflict of interest statement: The authors declare no conflicting interests regarding this article.


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Received: 2020-01-06
Accepted: 2020-02-25
Published Online: 2020-06-24
Published in Print: 2020-08-27

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