Richa Madaan

Richa Madaan

The Potential of Ketamine: Exploring an Innovative Therapy for Mental Health

  Mar 18, 2024
Reviewed by Ayushi Jain

Therapy for Mental Health

The conversations about health and wellness will forever be incomplete without talking about mental wellness. Of all the revolutions that the medical health industry has witnessed, Ketamine therapy captured the attention for its ability to reform psychic illness treatment. 

This anesthetic medication was introduced back in the 1960s and has recently gathered all the spotlights for good, obvious reasons. It has shown some promising results in providing quick relief from conditions like major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidal ideation. 

Hence, in this piece of information, you’ll find everything about Ketamine therapy. From its rise to its benefits, and more. So, without further ado, give it a read!

The Rise of Ketamine Therapy

Over the past two decades, this medicine has transitioned from a niche experimental medical care to an increasingly mainstream care for mental health disorders. Researchers first noted its positive effects on mood in the 1990s in those who received the drug before or after electroconvulsive therapy. 

By the 2000s, interest in this ramped up substantially as more mental well-being providers began utilizing IV ketamine off-label to treat severe depression. Today, ketamine clinics and treatment centers offering intravenous, intramuscular, sublingual, and intranasal ketamine are found across North America and other parts of the world. 

This growth speaks to the increasing recognition of its immense promise as a psychic health remedy. When traditional interventions like psychotherapy and antidepressants fail, this medicine often succeeds and allows patients to rapidly regain their quality of life.

Benefits of Ketamine Therapy

the U.S. Ketamine clinics market

(This graph shows the U.S. Ketamine clinics market, by size and treatment, in 2022, at US$ billion).

What makes this treatment so uniquely poised to help those suffering from mental health disorders? While research is still ongoing into precisely how it provides therapeutic benefits, current evidence points to some key advantages.

Rapid Relief

Unlike traditional antidepressants that can take 4–6 weeks to take impact, they typically start improving depressive symptoms within hours. In many cases, a single infusion can rapidly alleviate feelings of despair and hopelessness. Enhanced mood may persist for up to 2 weeks after an infusion. For those in crisis with suicidal thoughts, the immediate impact can quite literally save lives.

Treatment-Resistant Conditions

For those who have found little success with traditional cures like antidepressants and counseling, it frequently provides substantial relief. Because its method of action differs completely from other drugs, for many whose illness has been treatment-resistant, it represents a paradigm shift in their recovery.

Neural Regeneration

Research indicates that in addition to acting as an antidepressant, ketamine may spur the regrowth of neural connections in areas of the brain impacted by stress and depression. This could have an impact on addressing brain changes associated with mood disorders. The medication has been shown in studies to increase levels of a key protein crucial for neural plasticity.

Versatility in Administration

Unlike many psychiatric medications limited to pill form, it can be administered intravenously, intramuscularly, intranasally, or sublingual. This allows providers to tailor the attention experience to individual needs. The various methods may differ in terms of duration and intensity of effects.

Rapid Reduction in Suicidality

In those with severe, life-threatening depression, studies show ketamine can rapidly reduce suicidal thoughts and intent. Effects on suicidality can occur within hours, helping bridge the gap while waiting for traditional antidepressants to take impact. This advantage makes it an invaluable tool for emergency remedies.

Fewer Side Effects

Compared to other rapid intervention options like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), ketamine has a far preferable side effect profile. Its dissociative results are generally mild and transient. It does not impact memory and cognition the way ECT commonly does, either. The reduced adverse effects increase its viability for more patients.

Synergistic with Psychotherapy

Unlike sedating drugs like benzodiazepines, lower “sub-anesthetic” doses of this anesthetic used therapeutically actually encourage important psychotherapy work. Instead of impeding emotional processing, assisted cures allow patients to access painful emotions without feeling overwhelmed by them.

Promising Early Research on Addiction

Historically, providers have mainly cautioned against ketamine treatment for those struggling with addiction issues. However, some early research indicates it could play a role in helping prevent relapse in addiction recovery. More data is still needed, but initial findings are noteworthy.

Understanding Who Is a Candidate for Ketamine Therapy

While this anesthetic healing shows immense promise for many dealing with treatment-resistant mental health issues, the remedy is not appropriate for everyone. Who is not a good candidate for ketamine therapy? These conditions may preclude someone from being a good candidate:

Severe Psychotic Disorders

Ketamine use could worsen symptoms for those with uncontrolled schizophrenia and related psychotic illnesses. Experiencing a “dissociative” state can exacerbate issues with reality testing. The medication should be avoided in actively unstable and florid psychosis.

Substance Abuse Issues

For those struggling with alcohol, opioid, or stimulant addictions, providers need to carefully consider the appropriateness of this cure. Some research indicates it could potentially worsen outcomes in those with substance use issues. More study is needed to definitively understand specific contraindications.

Uncontrolled Hypertension

It often causes a short-term increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Those with dangerously elevated blood pressure levels currently uncontrolled by medication may experience adverse effects from treatment. Stabilized hypertension is generally not a contraindication.

Pregnant Individuals

Due to a lack of sufficient research on the impacts on a developing fetus, most experts recommend avoidance of ketamine therapy during pregnancy. However, for pregnant individuals with severe, suicidal depression unresponsive to other options, some argue potential benefits may outweigh the risks of no aid in select cases. But in general, caution is advised.

Individuals with Cardiac Conditions

For those with unstable angina, symptomatic arrhythmia, and some other heart conditions, caution is warranted with this treatment. Its tendency to increase heart rate and blood pressure could exacerbate problems in those with cardiac vulnerabilities. Risks may outweigh benefits unless the situations are controlled.

Concurrent Benzodiazepine Use

Using this anesthetic in conjunction with drugs like Xanax and Klonopin could significantly increase sedative effects. It may necessitate avoiding benzodiazepines for a period before and after receiving ketamine, depending on the mode of administration.

Elderly Populations

Elders may face increased side effects and intensity of dissociative symptoms on standard ketamine dosing protocols. Providers often recommend reduced doses for those over 65 along with increased medical monitoring during and after administration.

Do You Know?
Ketamine got its start in Belgium in the 1960s as an anesthesia medicine for animals. The FDA approved it as an anesthetic for people in 1970. 


As a new and innovative option for rapid relief of chronic, treatment-resistant mental health disorders, ketamine therapy holds immense hope for many who have found limited success with traditional treatments. Still, more research is needed to codify best practices for protocols and screening procedures. Appropriateness will depend greatly on each patient’s unique health profile and medical history. 

By better comprehending both profound benefits and potential risks, providers can best serve patients in assessing if this cure is a reasonable fit. For many on the brink of crisis, it could represent the breakthrough they’ve desperately been waiting for.