Share on PinterestA new review of existing research concludes that ketamine may quickly relieve some mental health symptoms. Ashima Narain/Getty Images
- University of Exeter researchers have published a review of research evaluating ketamine’s value in mental health therapy.
- The review of studies found that ketamine may quickly alleviate depression and thoughts of suicide.
- Ketamine’s usefulness for other mental health conditions is less clear.
- As ketamine is an addictive opioid with strong disassociative properties, its use is not without hazards.
Doctors primarily use ketamine as a general anesthetic for medical procedures during which a person must be unconscious, but muscle relaxation is not required. Ketamine is also a dissociative medication, and researchers have been exploring the use of sub-anesthetic dosages of ketamine for treating depression for some time.
Researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom have reported that an analysis of existing studies confirms that ketamine therapy offers fast-acting, short-term relief from depression and, to some extent, suicidal thoughts and other mental health symptoms.
The meta-analysis of 83 existing studies has assessed the value of ketamine therapy for treating a wide range of mental health conditions. These studies include 29 randomized controlled trials, 21 observational studies, and 33 systematic reviews. According to the review’s authors:
“The current review integrates parallel reviews of the nascent research on ketamine as a treatment for mental health conditions and related research germane to the therapeutic potential of ketamine for mental health more broadly.”
The study features in the British Journal of Psychiatry Open. The team carried it out in collaboration with the University of British Columbia and with support from the Society for the Study of Addiction.
The strongest effect that the studies document is the value of intravenous ketamine therapy for relieving depression.
A reduction in unipolar depression severity occurred within anywhere from 1 to 24 hours, and it lasted for 1–2 weeks. In comparison, oral doses took up to 2 weeks to have an effect.
Bipolar depression relief was also rapid, occurring as quickly as 4 hours after administration and consistently by 24 hours. The full effect lasted for up to 3 days, with some relief still apparent after 7 days.
The studies also support the use of ketamine for treating affective disorders and thoughts of suicide.
Of suicidal ideation, co-author and University of Exeter Ph.D. candidate Ozden Merve Mollaahmetoglu told Medical News Today:
“It is really interesting that there is some evidence of an effect on suicidal thoughts independent of depressive symptoms, and it would be great to understand the mechanism of this effect. This finding is important because there is a risk of suicide in several mental health problems, so it would be interesting to see if we could treat suicidal thoughts in other conditions, such as substance use disorders.”
Mollaahmetoglu also noted: “Since the effect of ketamine on suicidal …….