May 7, 2024

Clinical Trials for Ketamine Therapy


Ketamine therapy could be a promising alternative treatment for patients with treatment-resistant depression, and more and more clinical trials are showing just that. Ketamine works by blocking NMDA receptors in the brain, which prevents neurons from releasing glutamate--a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, learning and memory. This mechanism makes ketamine unique among other antidepressants on the market today because it acts quickly and effectively.

Ketamine Therapy for Depression

In a recent clinical trial conducted by Massachusetts General Brigham investigators, ketamine treatment demonstrated a significant impact on patients with treatment-resistant depression.

The study compared the effectiveness of subanesthetic intravenous ketamine to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and revealed that 55 percent of patients who received ketamine experienced sustained improvement in depressive symptoms without major side effects. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, this study sheds light on a potential alternative for individuals struggling with non-psychotic, treatment-resistant depression.

The Comparison:

Ketamine vs. Electroconvulsive Therapy- ECT has long been considered the gold standard for treating severe depression, but it comes with drawbacks such as memory loss, the need for anesthesia, and social stigma. This groundbreaking study, the largest of its kind, compared the effects of ketamine and ECT treatments for depression while also measuring impacts on memory. Led by Amit Anand, director of Psychiatry Translational Clinical Trials at Mass General Brigham and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, the trial aimed to explore the efficacy and safety of ketamine as a potential treatment option.

The Findings:

The trial enrolled 403 patients who were randomly assigned to receive either ECT three times per week or ketamine twice per week for three weeks. The patients were then followed for six months after treatment. The results revealed that 55 percent of the ketamine group and 41 percent of the ECT group experienced at least a 50 percent improvement in self-reported depressive symptoms, with sustained improvements in quality of life during the monitoring period. NThe researchers found that ECT treatment was associated with memory loss and muscular side effects, but that ketamine produced no significant adverse reactions apart from feeling dissociated during the procedure.

Implications and Future Research:

Major depressive disorder (MDD) affects millions of adults worldwide, and for those who do not respond to conventional treatments, alternatives like ECT have been the primary option. However, this study suggests that ketamine therapy could be a suitable alternative for non-psychotic, treatment-resistant depression. The patient-centered approach and real-world design of the trial contribute to the transferability of these findings into clinical practice. Additionally, the researchers are now exploring the impact of ECT and ketamine treatments on patients with acute suicidal depression in a follow-up study.

The rise of ketamine as a potential treatment for treatment-resistant depression brings hope to individuals who have struggled with conventional therapies. The recent clinical trial comparing ketamine to electroconvulsive therapy has demonstrated that ketamine shows promise in providing sustained improvements in depressive symptoms without major side effects. While further research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects and refine treatment protocols, these findings contribute to expanding the treatment options available for those battling depression, ultimately shaping the future of mental healthcare.

Efficacy of ketamine therapy in the treatment of depression

Ketamine therapy is a promising alternative treatment for patients with treatment-resistant depression. It has been shown to be effective in patients who have failed to respond to other treatments, and it can be used as an adjunctive therapy alongside traditional methods.

In one study of patients who had not responded to at least two different antidepressants, ketamine was found to improve symptoms within 24 hours of administration. These improvements lasted up until one week after administration ended--much longer than conventional antidepressants take before having any noticeable effect on symptoms.

The clinical trial was conducted in three phases: open-label, randomized controlled and long term follow up. It included 20 patients who received ketamine infusions along with their standard antidepressant medications for four weeks (open label phase). Patients were then randomized into one of two groups; one group received additional ketamine infusions while the other group received saline placebo infusions over 12 weeks (randomized controlled phase). All participants were followed up at 3 months and 6 months after completing their treatment period.

Ketamine Therapy For Chronic Pain-The Clinical Trials

Numerous clinical trials have investigated the effectiveness of ketamine therapy in managing chronic pain conditions. In a clinical trial conducted at a leading research institution, a group of chronic pain patients received ketamine infusions over a specific period. The trial found that a significant percentage of participants experienced a substantial reduction in pain scores and reported improved functionality and mood. The positive effects were observed in various chronic pain conditions, including neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, and complex regional pain syndrome.

Another study compared the efficacy of ketamine infusions to a placebo in patients with treatment-resistant chronic pain. The results demonstrated that ketamine therapy led to a significant reduction in pain intensity and improved overall pain management, while the placebo group showed minimal changes. Moreover, the study found that the analgesic effects of ketamine persisted beyond the infusion period, providing potential long-term relief.

While more research is necessary to fully understand its long-term effects and refine treatment protocols, ketamine therapy holds promise as a valuable addition to the armamentarium of chronic pain treatments, offering hope for a brighter future for those burdened by persistent pain.


Ketamine infusion therapy is a promising alternative treatment for patients with treatment-resistant depression. It has been found to be effective in several clinical trials and is currently being studied as an option for patients who have not responded well to other therapies or medications. Ketamine is also being investigated for other types of mental illness such as PTSD and anxiety disorders. In addition, ketamine is being studied in the treatment of chronic pain.


This blog is not medical advice or therapeutic advice but general knowledge to help you get the most out of your experiences with psychedelic therapy. At-home psychedelic therapy sessions with generic ketamine may be prescribed "off-label" for suitable candidates as an alternative pathway. Over the last two decades, research suggests that ketamine may be able to safely and effectively improve many treatment-resistant conditions. A form of ketamine, Esketamine (Spravato), is an FDA-approved medication for depression. Spravato treatments are only available in-person in our office. Our at-home programs include therapeutic guidance, safety protocols, breathwork, virtual treatment preparation and 1-on-1 integration coaching to get the most out of your sessions.