The History of Ketamine and its Use in Mental Health Treatment

Ketamine Therapy Basics

The History of Ketamine and its Use in Mental Health Treatment

Written by

Isha Team


March 20, 2023


October 27, 2023

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that has been used for decades in medical settings for surgical anesthesia and pain management. However, in recent years, it has gained significant attention for its potential use in treating mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. But what is the history of ketamine in mental health treatment, and how did it become a promising option for those suffering from these disorders?

The history of ketamine in mental health treatment dates back to the 1990s when a group of researchers at Yale University discovered its potential antidepressant properties. The researchers were studying the effects of ketamine on the brain when they noticed that patients who received the drug reported feeling better after treatment. This led to a series of studies on the use of ketamine as an antidepressant, and the results were promising.

In 2000, a group of researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) conducted the first randomized controlled trial of ketamine for treatment-resistant depression. The study found that patients who received a single dose of ketamine showed significant improvement in their symptoms within hours, and the effects lasted for up to a week. This was a groundbreaking discovery, as traditional antidepressant medications can take weeks or even months to produce any noticeable improvement in symptoms.

Since then, there have been numerous studies on the use of ketamine for depression and other mental health disorders. In 2019, the American Psychiatric Association officially recognized ketamine as a treatment for major depressive disorder that has not responded to other treatments. It is typically used in the form of a nasal spray or intravenous infusion, and increasingly, oral troche.

So how does ketamine work to improve mental health symptoms? The exact mechanism is not fully understood, but it is believed to be related to the drug's effect on the glutamate system in the brain. Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that is involved in many important functions, including memory and learning. Ketamine appears to increase the activity of glutamate in certain areas of the brain, which may lead to an improvement in mood and other symptoms.

Despite its potential benefits, ketamine is not without risks. It can cause dissociation, hallucinations, and other psychological side effects, particularly at higher doses. There is also a risk of addiction and abuse, as ketamine is a controlled substance. For these reasons, it is typically only used as a last resort for patients who have not responded to other treatments.

In conclusion, the history of ketamine in mental health treatment is relatively short but promising. Its discovery as a potential antidepressant in the 1990s has led to numerous studies and clinical trials, and it is now recognized as a treatment option for major depressive disorder. While there are risks associated with its use, it has the potential to help those who have not responded to other treatments and improve their quality of life.


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