Administration of ketamine for unipolar and bipolar depression

Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract. 2017 Mar;21(1):2-12. doi: 10.1080/13651501.2016.1254802. Epub 2017 Jan 18.


Objective: Clinical trials demonstrated that ketamine exhibits rapid antidepressant efficacy when administered in subanaesthetic dosages. We reviewed currently available literature investigating efficacy, response rates and safety profile.

Methods: Twelve studies investigating unipolar, seven on bipolar depression were included after search in medline, scopus and web of science.

Results: Randomized, placebo-controlled or open-label trials reported antidepressant response rates after 24 h on primary outcome measures at 61%. The average reduction of Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D) was 10.9 points, Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) 15.7 points and Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) 20.8 points. Ketamine was always superior to placebo. Most common side effects were dizziness, blurred vision, restlessness, nausea/vomiting and headache, which were all reversible. Relapse rates ranged between 60% and 92%. To provide best practice-based information to patients, a consent-form for application and modification in local language is included.

Conclusions: Ketamine constitutes a novel, rapid and efficacious treatment option for patients suffering from treatment resistant depression and exhibits rapid and significant anti-suicidal effects. New administration routes might serve as alternative to intravenous regimes for potential usage in outpatient settings. However, long-term side effects are not known and short duration of antidepressant response need ways to prolong ketamine's efficacy.

Keywords: Ketamine; NMDA-receptor; depression; glutamate; rapid antidepressant.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bipolar Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Ketamine / administration & dosage
  • Ketamine / adverse effects
  • Ketamine / pharmacology*


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Ketamine