Ketamine Reduces Depression Symptoms, Reveals Review

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A systematic review has found Ketamine as effective in reducing symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts.

Researchers at the University of Exeter analyzed 83 published research papers on Ketamine and its use for treating depression. The review looked at 33 systematic reviews, 29 randomized control trials, and 21 observational studies. Results from the review are available in the British Journal of Psychiatry Open.

Approximately 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. The mental health disorder can often make everyday functions feel like a challenge and lead to suicides in a majority of people. Although various anti-depressants are available, many people suffer from treatment-resistant depression. Therefore, researchers have explored various other treatment options such as deep brain stimulation, magic mushrooms, and even electroconvulsive therapy.

Over the years, Ketamine has gained popularity for treating depression. Although an anesthetic, the medication has also been shown to reduce depression symptoms, suicidal thoughts, and other psychiatric disorders. However, studies that assess Ketamine’s benefits either contain a small sample size or did not randomize study participants into different treatment arms. Therefore, the team of researchers aimed to conduct a comprehensive review of Ketamine’s therapeutic effects.

Our findings suggest that ketamine may be useful in providing rapid relief from depression and suicidal thoughts, creating a window of opportunity for further therapeutic interventions to be effective.

Merve Mollaahmetoglu, lead author

Anti-Depressant Effects Lasted Weeks

According to the systematic review, single or multiple doses of the drug resulted in a reduction in suicidal thoughts. Within hours of a single dose, symptoms of major depression and bipolar disorder reduced drastically. These therapeutic effects lasted up to two weeks in patients. Moreover, individuals with substance use disorders also benefitted from Ketamine therapy.

Since Ketamine has unique effects, some patients could tell whether they received a saline solution or the drug. This led to a bias among participants. Furthermore, it is unclear as to what doses and routes of administration of Ketamine work best for depression and other psychiatric conditions. Therefore, study authors recommend conducting better-designed Ketamine trials.

We’re finding that ketamine may have promising benefits for conditions that are notoriously hard to treat in clinic. We now need bigger and better-designed trials to test these benefits.

Professor Celia Morgan, senior author


Ketamine for the treatment of mental health and substance use disorders: a comprehensive systematic review, British Journal of Psychiatry Open, 2021.


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