Effects of ketamine in treatment-refractory obsessive-compulsive disorder

Biol Psychiatry. 2012 Dec 1;72(11):964-70. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2012.05.028. Epub 2012 Jul 10.


Background: Treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) usually lead to incomplete symptom relief and take a long-time to reach full effect. Convergent evidence suggests that glutamate abnormalities contribute to the pathogenesis of OCD. Ketamine is a potent noncompetitive antagonist of the N-methyl-D-aspartate glutamate receptor. Trials have reported rapid antidepressant effects after low-dose ketamine infusion.

Methods: We conducted an open-label trial of ketamine (.5 mg/kg IV over 40 min) in 10 subjects with treatment-refractory OCD. Response was defined as >35% improvement in OCD symptoms and >50% improvement in depression symptoms from baseline at any time between 1 and 3 days after infusion.

Results: None of 10 subjects experienced a response in OCD symptoms in the first 3 days after ketamine. Four of seven patients with comorbid depression experienced an antidepressant response to ketamine in the first 3 days after infusion. Both OCD and depression symptoms demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in the first 3 days after infusion compared with baseline, but the OCD response was <12%. The percentage reduction in depressive symptoms in the first 3 days after ketamine infusion was significantly greater than the reduction in OCD symptoms.

Conclusions: Ketamine effects on OCD symptoms, in contrast to depressive symptoms, did not seem to persist or progress after the acute effects of ketamine had dissipated.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Depression / drug therapy
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ketamine / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Patient Selection
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Ketamine