Ketamine: A Miracle Drug or Just Another Shot in the Dark?

Ketamine makes headlines. This medication has recently been found to have therapeutic effects on depression. People who have previously been unable to find a depression medication that works for them find hope in this new treatment. However, Ketamine has some significant pros and cons that should be considered before choosing it as a treatment plan. First, it is important to understand the background of Ketamine.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is classified as an NMDA receptor antagonist, unlike the better known Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI), such as Prozac®, Zoloft®, Paxil®, Lexapro®, or Celexa® which are medication that are usually the first step of treatment for depression.

What are the issues with Ketamine?

Needs more research

Ketamine is thought to treat depression, but the specific mechanism of action and best dosage/treatment plan are yet to be determined.

Has troublesome side effects

People often experience undesirable side effects before they experience improvement in their depressive symptoms. Thus, they may discontinue treatment before Ketamine has a chance to have an effect in the body.

Ketamine can be associated with

  • Increased heartbeat
  • Confusion
  • Increased blood pressure

Takes time to work

Going through the process of finding an antidepressant can be time-consuming since each treatment can take several weeks to work. Ketamine is no different, and may take 3-4 weeks before having any effect on depressive symptoms.


Finding the right antidepressant is frustrating, and for many, they do not ever find a medication that works for them. There is a great need for a depression medication that is not only fast-acting, but also has minimal side effects.

A new breakthrough

Rapastinel, a newly discovered depression treatment, has been shown to be effective within one day. The effects of one dose have lasted for approximately 1 week or longer in responding patients. The effect of a single dose of Rapastinel was nearly twice as much as standard antidepressants after 4-6 weeks of treatment.

Rapastinel is less likely to have side effects common to traditional antidepressants. Rapastinel is also unique because it led to cognitive enhancement in early trials while Ketamine led to cognitive impairment.

How can I be part of this research?
The Institute for Advanced Medical Research at Mercer University is currently conducting a clinical trial investigating Rapastinel as a treatment option for depression. If you or someone you know could benefit from a clinical trial, or if you are a pharmacy student interested in a rotation, please call 770-817-9200 for more information.