Largest study on ketamine for depression includes 8 million patients.

The study is a statistical analysis of 8 million reports, from 2004 to 2016, from the FDA's Adverse Effect Reporting System database.  The full title is, “Population scale data reveals the antidepressant effects of ketamine and other therapeutics approved for non-psychiatric indications,” by Dr. R. Abagyan and others, School of Pharmacy, University of California San Diego.  It was published in the journal, Nature, on 5/03/2017.

All patients in the study were treated for pain.  Those who received ketamine showed decreased depression and pain, compared to those who did not.  Side effects of opioid pain relievers were also reduced.  Patients who received ketamine needed less opioid medication for pain control.


This is the first study of ketamine to include a very large population of patients.  It confirms and reinforces the effectiveness of ketamine for both depression and pain.  Previous research trials of ketamine for depression have included fewer patients, usually about 20 – 60 subjects.

National Alliance on Mental Illness Ask the Doctor Webinar on Ketamine for Depression

Cristina Cusin, MD, Harvard University psychiatrist and ketamine researcher, talks and answers questions about use of ketamine for depression.

Gerard Sanacora, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University, has treated hundreds of severely depressed patients with low doses of ketamine, an anesthetic and popular club drug that isn't approved for depression.


This sort of "off-label" prescribing is legal. But Sanacora says other doctors sometimes ask him, "How can you be offering this to patients based on the limited amount of information that's out there and not knowing the potential long-term risk?"

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