Candidate Strategies for Development of a Rapid-Acting Antidepressant Class That Does Not Result in Neuropsychiatric Adverse Effects: Prevention of Ketamine-Induced Neuropsychiatric Adverse Reactions

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Oct 26;21(21):7951. doi: 10.3390/ijms21217951.


Non-competitive N-methyl-D-aspartate/glutamate receptor (NMDAR) antagonism has been considered to play important roles in the pathophysiology of schizophrenia. In spite of severe neuropsychiatric adverse effects, esketamine (racemic enantiomer of ketamine) has been approved for the treatment of conventional monoaminergic antidepressant-resistant depression. Furthermore, ketamine improves anhedonia, suicidal ideation and bipolar depression, for which conventional monoaminergic antidepressants are not fully effective. Therefore, ketamine has been accepted, with rigorous restrictions, in psychiatry as a new class of antidepressant. Notably, the dosage of ketamine for antidepressive action is comparable to the dose that can generate schizophrenia-like psychotic symptoms. Furthermore, the psychotropic effects of ketamine precede the antidepressant effects. The maintenance of the antidepressive efficacy of ketamine often requires repeated administration; however, repeated ketamine intake leads to abuse and is consistently associated with long-lasting memory-associated deficits. According to the dissociative anaesthetic feature of ketamine, it exerts broad acute influences on cognition/perception. To evaluate the therapeutic validation of ketamine across clinical contexts, including its advantages and disadvantages, psychiatry should systematically assess the safety and efficacy of either short- and long-term ketamine treatments, in terms of both acute and chronic outcomes. Here, we describe the clinical evidence of NMDAR antagonists, and then the temporal mechanisms of schizophrenia-like and antidepressant-like effects of the NMDAR antagonist, ketamine. The underlying pharmacological rodent studies will also be discussed.

Keywords: GABA; L-glutamate; N-methyl‐D‐aspartate; catecholamine; mood disorder; schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Depressive Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / metabolism
  • Drug Dosage Calculations
  • Humans
  • Ketamine / adverse effects*
  • Ketamine / therapeutic use
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Schizophrenia / chemically induced*
  • Suicidal Ideation


  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Ketamine