A recent report reviewed the use of ketamine as a treatment for depression. They found that only a small number of people had been treated with ketamine.
Because so little is known about this drug, the researchers say it should be used with caution.
"Tell your doctor all of your medications."
Ketamine is an anesthetic that is used to sedate people and animals before surgery. It also has some dissociative properties – meaning it can cause hallucinations and altered thinking.
Multiple scientific reports have been published showing that ketamine, given once, has a quick antidepressant effect. The effects lasted for a week or two in some studies.
Researchers, led by Marije aan het Rot, PhD, of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, reviewed the published reports about ketamine and depression.
Of all the published research, only 163 people received ketamine as a treatment for depression. Most of the people treated were people who did not responded well to other forms of treatment.
Looking at all the trials together, 25 to 75 percent of patients responded to ketamine within 24 hours of the dose. At 72 hours after the dose, 14 to 70 percent of people maintained the antidepressant effects.
Almost all trials had patients in a hospital where they received one single dose given by an anesthesiologist. Most people receiving ketamine stayed at least 24 hours in hospital after the injection.
Side effects were mild in most studies and were most commonly brief changes in blood pressure and heart rate.
The authors concluded that the research does support the fact that ketamine is helpful for some people. However, they also note that the amount of research on this potent drug is small.
There is very little information on how ketamine affects long-term depression symptoms.
The researchers recommend that any use of ketamine for depression should be in a hospital. More research is needed.
This study was published June 18 in Biological Psychiatry. Information about conflicts interest and funding was not available.