Ketamine Therapy For Depression: The Future Of Mental Health Treatment

Henna Geronimo
August 18, 2023

There are growing cases of mental health problems now that the world is scrambling to explore new solutions. One of which is ketamine therapy for depression.

In the US alone, around 4.75 adults over 18 have reported showing signs of depressive disorder, which involves losing interest or pleasure in activities for long periods.

Ketamine is mainly used as an anesthetic but has recently been examined for its off-label use in treating depression. Ketamine works best in treatment-resistant depression, something you will learn more about in this article.

Ketamine therapy for treatment resistant depression
Source: Roots Mental Wellness

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine was first used as an anesthetic and pain management medication in the US during the Vietnam War. It is commonly found as an analgesic in emergency room settings and outside the operating room. It is now explored as a depression treatment for bipolar disorder, major depression, and suicidal behavior.

Ongoing studies are looking into how ketamine works, but possible mechanisms have been determined. Ketamine acts as an NMDA receptor blocker, which may lead to the creation of new neural connections.

The drug may also promote cell growth and protein synthesis as it increases the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and taps into the mammalian target of the rapamycin pathway. When taken, the body may break ketamine into several compounds, like hydroxynorketamine, which may act as an antidepressant.

Among the top benefits of ketamine is its quick antidepressant effect, as it has been shown to improve symptoms in days or hours. It has been seen to work on non-responsive patients to other antidepressants.

While it is still being studied, ketamine has a neuroplasticity potential, referring to its ability to help the brain make new connections, which may create long-lasting antidepressant effects. Ketamine has also been shown to lessen patients' suicidal ideation

Effectiveness Of Ketamine Therapy For Depression 

Various studies have focused on the use of ketamine therapy for depression with these highlights: 

  • Ketamine treatment has been shown to increase the patient's ability to replace negative beliefs with positive ones when provided with positive information. 
  • Ketamine may work as a fast-acting antidepressant because of its neuroplasticity potential.
  • Another study showed that repeated infusions of ketamine are linked to better antidepressant response than a single infusion.

Traditional antidepressants take around four to six weeks to work, as opposed to ketamine, which alleviates depression symptoms in days or hours and may remain for a week. It could be because ketamine affects the neurotransmitter called glutamate. It can lead to a series of structural, biochemical, and functional changes in the brain, making the brain more receptive to other depression treatments.

The long-lasting effects of ketamine may boil down to its ability to modulate glutamate receptors and stimulate the formation of new neural connections. Some patients get longer-lasting effects from ketamine with subsequent infusions.

benefits of ketamine

Navigating the Ketamine Therapy Process

Let's take you through the step-by-step journey of this innovative treatment.

Initial Assessment

The journey into ketamine therapy begins with an initial assessment conducted by healthcare professionals. During this evaluation, individuals' medical and psychiatric history, current symptoms, and treatment goals are carefully assessed. The screening process helps determine eligibility and identify any potential contraindications.

Treatment Sessions

Once deemed eligible, patients can anticipate what happens during a typical ketamine therapy session. Ketamine can be administered through different routes, including intravenous (IV), intramuscular (IM), or nasal spray, depending on the condition and the healthcare provider's preference. The dosage and duration of sessions are tailored to suit each patient's specific needs.

Integrative Approach

Ketamine therapy is most effective when partnered with an integrative approach involving psychotherapy or other therapeutic modalities. The treatment process can facilitate emotional processing and introspection, enhancing the overall benefits of the therapy.

What are Ketamine Therapy's Safety Considerations?

Side Effects

Like any medical treatment, ketamine therapy may have side effects. Patients might experience mild dissociation, dizziness, or nausea during or after the sessions. However, these effects are usually short-lived and subside rapidly after the treatment. Healthcare providers carefully monitor patients to manage any adverse reactions effectively.


Certain medical and psychiatric conditions may impact eligibility for ketamine therapy. Patients with a history of substance use disorders, uncontrolled hypertension, or certain heart conditions might not be suitable candidates. Healthcare providers must conduct a thorough evaluation to ensure patient safety.

Professional Supervision

Receiving ketamine therapy from trained and licensed healthcare providers is essential. These professionals have the expertise to manage potential risks, tailor treatment plans, and provide patients with a safe and supportive environment throughout their therapeutic journey.

depressive disorder
Source: Roots Mental Wellness

Expanding Access to Ketamine Therapy

Availability and Regulations

The accessibility of ketamine therapy has evolved. Initially limited to specialized clinics and research settings, it is now more widely available in certain regions.

Typically, treatment administration takes place in a clinic under the supervision of a licensed medical professional. Practitioners are also required to comply with specific state laws concerning medical practice, patient monitoring, and managing complications.

Insurance Coverage

Although ketamine therapy gains recognition as a viable treatment option, insurance companies do not cover ketamine therapy since it is prescribed for "off-label" use.

Ongoing Research and Advancements

The field of ketamine therapy is continuously evolving, with researchers and healthcare professionals exploring its potential benefits for various mental health disorders. Ongoing studies aim to understand the long-term effects, optimal dosages, and best practices, ultimately expanding access and improving patient outcomes.


In conclusion, ketamine therapy presents a promising frontier in mental health treatment, offering hope to those who have struggled with treatment-resistant depression and related mood disorders.

Its potential to rapidly alleviate symptoms and create lasting effects provides an optimistic outlook for the future of mental health care. With further research and advancements, ketamine therapy may continue to pave the way for improved well-being and increased resilience in individuals facing mental health challenges.

Take the first step towards a brighter mental health journey today! If you're interested in exploring the transformative benefits of ketamine therapy, look no further than Roots Mental Wellness, your trusted ketamine clinic. Contact us now to schedule your initial assessment and discover how ketamine therapy can positively impact your life!

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Henna Geronimo
Contributing Writer