Study Shows 4 Hours May Be All It Takes For Ketamine To Start Easing Depression

Call it the blues, being in a funk, or feeling down. Everyone has a bad day or even a bad week from time to time. However, depression digs in deeper than the temporary feeling of malaise you may have experienced throughout your life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depression is a mood disorder that may be triggered by a combination of psychological, biological, environmental, or genetic factors. Antidepressants may help reduce symptoms of depression in some people, and many also find psychotherapy or counseling helpful. 

For those who don't respond to therapy or traditional antidepressant medication, more advanced interventions may offer relief. Ketamine is a drug that was initially used by veterinarians as an animal anesthetic. It was later approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as human anesthesia (per WebMD). More recently, therapists have begun using ketamine to treat depression. A new study in JAMA Psychiatry shows that 4 hours may be all it takes for ketamine to start easing depressive symptoms.

Ketamine could open up new treatment options for depression

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), 25 million Americans experience depression each year. Furthermore, over 50% of those who die by suicide experience major depression. If ketamine works as the study in JAMA Psychiatry suggests, symptoms of depression may become more manageable. 

MedicalNewsToday reports that the observational case-control study looked at 56 people, including 26 with treatment-resistant depression (TRD) and 30 control group members. Under ketamine, subjects worked on countering negative beliefs with factual information on the chances of adverse events occurring in their lives. Four hours after receiving the first dose of ketamine, subjects with TRD were able to positively update previous beliefs and showed signs of decreased depression. 

Study researchers concluded that ketamine may be a promising solution for mood disorders, including depression, in conjunction with psychotherapy. However, ketamine is a Schedule 3 controlled substance. The American Addiction Centers has compiled a list of temporary and permanent side effects associated with the use of ketamine, including dissociation and amnesia.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.