Is Ketamine the Future of Depression Medication?

Florida Psychiatrists


With the current drug epidemic going on in America, it seems odd to discuss how a popular party street drug could help those suffering from depression. With more than 16 million Americans suffering from major depression, and one-third of those not able to get relief from traditional treatment, maybe ketamine is the answer.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is commonly thought of as a party drug. It blocks pain, but it also makes users feel detached from their body and hallucinate. It goes by the street name “Special K” and has been a popular party drug for a while because of these side effects.

However, ketamine actually has true medical value. It’s an anesthetic drug that blocks pain and was created to operate on soldiers during the Vietnam War. It’s not used as often as other anesthetics today but is still used as an anesthetic for surgery.

Since 2000, studies have shown that ketamine is an effective treatment for depression (as well as other mental illnesses). The drug can improve moods much faster than traditional antidepressants, and works on treatment-resistant depression.


Ketamine as Treatment Option

Ketamine hasn’t yet been FDA approved for the treatment of depression, but the FDA has cleared its use for clinical trials and in extreme cases. Multiple studies have shown positive results, but it is still only available at ketamine clinics in 12 states and isn’t covered by insurance companies. Luckily, Florida is one of those states that has ketamine clinics available.

Ketamine works much quicker than other antidepressants. Traditional drugs take weeks or months to start working, but with ketamine, individuals say they feel better within hours or days. For people who are having suicidal thoughts, this drug could save their life.

This isn’t a miracle drug though. Multiple treatments are needed, and without addressing the underlying issues causing the depression it will always return. Florida psychiatrists recommend talk therapy along with ketamine treatments.


How it Works

The ketamine is delivered in an IV bag, which is the quickest way for it to reach the brain. Traditional antidepressants shift the balance of brain chemicals to alter moods. Ketamine works differently- it changes the ways brain cells communicate with each other. It also blocks NMDA receptors in the brain, which play a role in depression. Ketamine stays in the body for a short time but the effects seem to last longer.


Side Effects and Risks

There haven’t been any long-term studies on the effects ketamine can have on people yet. People feel “dissociated” from their body after a treatment, giving them an out of body experience. This typically goes away after an hour and people are monitored while this happens.

Some individuals get a spike in blood pressure and heart rate after a ketamine treatment. It’s not dangerous- it’s comparable to walking up a flight of stairs. For those with heart issues though, it could be a potential problem. This is why all vitals are taken before hand and every medical condition should be disclosed before a treatment begins.



Ketamine should only be used in extreme situations, either when someone had treatment-resistant depression or someone needs immediate attentions. This treatment option could save lives, but before it is FDA approved and long-term studies are completed there is risk involved. Contact one of Florida’s top psychiatrists to discuss how ketamine could help your depression.




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