Ask an Expert: Can IV Ketamine Fight Depression?

By Joseph Desanto MD 07/18/16

Our expert discusses the potential dangers associated with IV ketamine treatment.

Ask an Expert: Can IV Ketamine Fight Depression?
Side effects include...

Dear Fix Expert,

Hi. Any hope for using IV ketamine to rapidly reverse major depression?

Thanks, Bill 

Joseph Desanto, MD: Hi Bill, 

I get this question occasionally and there are a few clinics that will use ketamine to treat some Major Depression and Bipolar Disorder cases that have failed to respond to other types of medication regimens. Patients who seek ketamine to treat their depression are usually at the “end of their rope” when other medications (and doctors) have failed them. 

Ketamine is classified as an anesthetic analgesic, both producing a euphoric-dissociative effect and an analgesic effect at the same time. Some recent studies have shown ketamine to be very successful in treating acute depressive episodes, but its effects typically last only hours to days. This, combined with its potential cardiac side effects of life-threatening arrhythmia, make it a drug that I usually don’t recommend for the treatment of depression. Additionally, being an addiction physician, I typically never recommend ketamine to my patients because of its mind-altering and addictive potential, and I don’t recommend it to you if you are an active addict or have a history of addiction. Ketamine has a hallucinogenic effect as well, and it has clearly been shown to be a drug of abuse, made popular by club kids in the '90s. It's still commonly used and abused at social music gatherings where it can be combined with MDMA or LSD for a more dangerous, heightened effect.  

If you have major depression and haven’t found the right medication to treat it, you may want to have a Personal Genetics Test panel run on yourself. PGT can show you which antidepressants will work best on you based on your ability (or inability) to metabolize the medications you may potentially take. This can save you a lot of “hit or miss” time when looking for the right medication to treat your mood disorder. I include PGT as a standard test on all of my patients during their initial evaluation.

Hope that helps.

Dr. Joe DeSanto is a double Board Certified physician specializing in the field of Addiction Medicine. He is the Medical Director for Hotel California by the Sea and DeSanto Clinics for Recovery. Full Bio. 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix