New Inhaler Could Curb Suicide Rate

Device In Clinical Trial Stage

Researchers are testing a new inhaler that could deliver mood-stabilizing medication, curbing the climbing suicide trend among soldiers.

Michael Kubek, a professor with the IU School of Medicine, is testing the device in clinical trials.

"It'll be a rechargeable device. And what it does, it atomizes. All you do is breathe," Kubek told RTV6's Stacia Matthews.

The device will release the appropriate dose of a chemical that Kubek helped discover in the brain and, unlike pills and injections, the drug won't metabolize before reaching its destination.

"It stabilizes you, and that's where we think this is unique," Kubek said. "It's something that will stabilize your mood."

Kubek said it will take at least three years to complete his research.

The device will be about the size of a cigarette pack so it can easily fit into a pocket.

Kubek's research has been funded by a $3 million research grant from the Army, which has a special interest in suicide prevention. Suicides among U.S. troops average about one per day.

In addition to traumatic brain injuries, the Army said other reasons for the trend include combat pressure, post-traumatic stress, substance abuse, financial problems and failed relationships.

Greg Keesling's son Chance committed suicide during his second tour in Iraq.

"June 19, 2009. It was a bad day, just a bad day," Keesling said.

Kubek said the device's impact has the potential to be far reaching.

Every year 830 Hoosiers take their own lives -- more than double the number of homicides in Indiana.

Anti-suicide advocates said the inhaler offers hope.

"Although it's very early in the development stages for us to truly comment on the effectiveness, we are certainly excited about the opportunity to see suicide loss reduced," said Lisa Brittain, with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

"Maybe it'll work," Keesling said. "I'm for anything¬Ö because I'd love to have my son back."

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