More About Ketamine for Depression Treatment

Ketamine for depression treatment is a recent breakthrough for those who have fallen through the cracks of mental health treatment. Major depression affects more than 16 million Americans each year. If that number isn’t bad enough, almost a third of them can’t even find relief from traditional depression treatment options like talk therapy and antidepressants.

When left untreated, depression can lead to self-harm, suicide, and substance abuse. But now, a certain substance might just be what people need to treat major depression. Ketamine for depression treatment could provide hope and relief for those that don’t have other treatment options.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is an anesthetic drug that blocks pain. It’s been around since the 1960s when it was used to operate on soldiers during the Vietnam War and it is still used as anesthesia today. It’s also used as an animal tranquilizer.

While Ketamine is often used to prevent one from feeling pain, it can also make users feel detached from their bodies. This out-of-body sensation has made it a popular illicit drug. People who use it illegally can experience hallucinations, a floating sensation, and no pain. Its street name is “Special K” and it’s a popular party drug.

Since 2000, researchers have been studying ways that ketamine could be used as a treatment for depression. It’s been discovered that the drug improves moods much faster than traditional antidepressants, and works in instances when these drugs have not.

Ketamine For Depression Treatment

The FDA approved Ketamine to be used as an anesthetic for surgery and other procedures long ago. Ketamine hasn’t yet gotten FDA approval for depression treatment, but there are multiple studies that show positive results. Due to this, it’s only available at an approved Ketamine clinic in 12 states and isn’t covered by insurance.

Ketamine for depression treatment is an effective and quick treatment option for people with major depression. While traditional antidepressants take weeks or months to start working, people report feeling better in days or even hours after ketamine treatment. For people with suicidal thoughts, this quick response time could save their life.

Researchers and doctors warm that ketamine isn’t a miracle drug though. One treatment won’t cure someone, and without addressing the underlying issues causing the depression it will just return. But if it is approved, it can do wonders for those who are admitted to a hospital for suicidal thoughts.

How Ketamine for Depression Treatment Works

Ketamine is delivered through an IV drip or pump, which is the fastest way for it to reach the brain. Most antidepressants work by shifting the balance of brain chemicals. Ketamine works differently. It changes the way brain cells communicate with one another. It blocks NMDA receptors in the brain, which are believed to play a role in depression. While the drug only stays in the body for a short time, research is finding that it can have long-lasting effects on depression. Patients will still need multiple treatments, administered over months or even years, to see long-term improvements. Most doctors are still recommending therapy for patients along with the drug.

Side Effects and Risks

It’s important to know that ketamine isn’t an FDA approved treatment for depression and there haven’t been any long-term studies on the effects it can have.

People who get the drug administered report feeling “dissociated” from their bodies. Their senses react to the drug, impacting their sign, touch, and hearing especially. This feeling lasts for about an hour, though it eventually wears off.

Some people get a spike in heart rate and blood pressure from taking the medication. It’s not dangerous for most people, comparable to walking up a flight of stairs. For people with heart issues, it can pose a potential problem. All vitals should be taken beforehand, and any medical issues, including medication being currently taken, should be disclosed to the doctor before beginning this treatment.

Repeated ketamine use, especially illicit use, has been linked to memory and thinking issues. This is usually when it’s taken as a street drug in high doses, and not related to when it is administered for depression. Because it is a popular street drug, doctors do have some concern it could lead to drug addiction and abuse. As long as it is monitors and distributed by a medical professional, the risks are minimal.


Always get ketamine treatment through a professional, and never buy it as a street drug as it may not be what they are claiming. It is important to receive a formal evaluation for a psychiatrist before considering ketamine therapy, especially one experienced with both mood disorders and substance abuse. Contact us to discuss if ketamine for depression treatment is right for you.


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Since 2003, the Delray Center for Healing has provided exceptional psychiatric and therapeutic care for mental health, eating, and substance use disorders. To learn more about our philosophy and treatment approach, download our free e-book, “Psychiatry Redefined,” written by our founder and medical director, Raul J. Rodriguez, MD.