Ketamine Therapy

Ketamine Therapy Overview

What is Ketamine Therapy?

Ketamine was initially developed as an anesthetic drug to block pain in the 1960s.  In 2000, doctors started studying Ketamine to treat depression and discovered it improves depression more quickly than traditional antidepressants.  It may work even when other medications have failed.

What does Ketamine Therapy treat?

Ketamine Therapy treats depression primarily, but it can treat PTSD, alcoholism, and anxiety as well. 

How Ketamine Therapy works

Doctors don’t know exactly how Ketamine works to treat depression, but they have some ideas. Unlike antidepressants, which work by shifting the balance of brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, Ketamine is thought to change the way brain cells communicate with each other.

Ketamine blocks a type of receptor in the brain, known as NMDA, thought to play a role in depression. Recent studies find that Ketamine can have long-lasting effects on depression, even though the drug only stays in the body for a short time.

Who is Ketamine Therapy suitable for?

This treatment isn’t safe for people who are currently using drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine. It’s also not recommended if you have certain blood vessel problems, a history of bleeding in the brain, or if you’re pregnant.

What happens during Ketamine Therapy?

Patients commonly experience dissociation- a temporary departure or skewing of reality.  For this reason, monitoring by a professional is required.

Is Ketamine Therapy safe?

Ketamine Therapy is safe when done in a medically supervised and controlled environment.  Vital signs and level of consciousness are regularly checked before, during, and after each treatment.

How long is Ketamine Therapy?

There is a standard four-week titration period, twice a week for four weeks.  Following this, the schedule is tailored to the individual patient’s needs.

Ketamine Therapy Treatment Options

How successful is Ketamine Therapy for depression?

Ketamine can help even if you have failed multiple antidepressant medications.  However, it is not 100% effective.

Does Ketamine Therapy help anxiety?

Ketamine Therapy is used for anxiety and has shown benefit to the patient.

Ketamine Therapy for PTSD

Ketamine Therapy is used for PTSD and can show benefit for the patient.

Ketamine Therapy for bipolar

Ketamine Therapy can help depressive episodes but not mania or mixed episodes.

Ketamine Therapy vs ECT

ECT may cause temporary memory problems that can last up to one year; Ketamine does not.


Medically reviewed by:

Charles Sweet, MD, MPH

Dr. Sweet is a native Texan and attended The University of Texas at Austin for undergraduate studies. He earned his Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health degrees at the University of Illinois and then did residency training at the prestigious Johns Hopkins Hospital, Dr. Sweet came back to Austin, TX for specialized training in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and has been in practice since 2009.

Dr. Sweet believes strongly in working with, and training Physician Assistants to treat the behavioral health needs of adults, children and adolescents.

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