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Can Ketamine treat Depression?

Written by: Alan Baker 20th October, 2022



What is it?

Depression is a psychiatric mood disorder, causing a variety of symptoms, including persistent feelings of emptiness, hopelessness.

Depression impacts around 16 million adults around the world each year and can be a challenge to treat. Some people respond poorly to the medication and therapies prescribed.

A neuropsychiatry expert and CEO of the company SyneuRx, Dr. Guochuan Emil Tasai, explained ‘Negative beliefs such as ‘I’m worthless,’ ‘I’m unlovable,’ or ‘I’m a failure’ are common symptoms of depression. When a patient begins to spiral into negative thinking, it can exacerbate depression, increasing a person’s negative beliefs. It becomes a vicious cycle that requires medication, psychotherapy, and strong support to break’.


The study…

A study has been conducted to see how ketamine could influence negative beliefs among people with depression.

It included 56 participants, 30 of which were controls and 26 were undergoing treatment-resistant depression (TRD).

The participants with TRD received three ketamine infusions over one week, the second 48 hours after the first and then the third five days later.

The researchers of the study observed the participants 24 hours before their first infusion, four hours after and four hours after the third infusion.

Throughout the study, participants worked through belief updating tasks. They were presented with a variety of adverse life events and were asked to estimate their likelihood of experiencing these events in their lifetime. Then, participants received information about how likely these events are to occur in the general population.



Researchers established that participants with TRD had a greater ability to positively update certain beliefs after the ketamine treatment. This was also further associated with decreased depressive symptoms.


This study offered an insight into how ketamine could be used to expand treatment options for people with depression.

A limitation of the study is that it was not a blind or randomised study, therefore impacting bias results.

The study was performed on a small sample size and only took place over a week, the study needed larger sample sizes and longer follow-up times.

Research attained cannot confirm that the effects of ketamine are unique to people with TRD, therefore additional research into the mechanisms underlying antidepressant medications and ketamine needs to be taken.

However, the results gained could open new treatment strategies for some individuals with depression.