Ketamine: How Does it Work?

Learn a little more about its mechanism and indication

Learn
2 min

What is it? How does it work? Who is it best for?

Ketamine: How Does it Work?

Learn a little more about its mechanism and indication

Learn
2 min
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What is ketamine? Ketamine (and esketamine) is an anesthesia and depression medication given by nasal spray or intravenously for depression that has not responded to other medications.

Esketamine works mostly by blocking the “N-methyl-D-aspartate” (NMDA) receptors, which can cause people to feel like they’re in a “trance-like” state. It treats depression quickly, which is helpful for urgently treating depression in people with suicidal thoughts or plans. Its effect can be relatively long-lasting as well. It is given as either a nasal spray or intravenously and is approved for those whose depression has not responded to multiple other medications.

What are its risks and side effects? The most common side effects include dissociation, dizziness, nausea, sleepiness, anxiety, and increased blood pressure. Patients often experience temporary sleepiness/sedation, visual disturbances, trouble speaking, confusion, numbness, and feelings of dizziness/faintness during the period immediately after taking the medication. Talk with your doctor before taking ketamine or esketamine.

Don’t take Ketamine / Esketamine if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, have severe liver problems or have a history of brain bleeds, arteriovenous malformations or aneurysmal vascular disease. These medications should be avoided if you’re using certain medications, heavy alcohol, have a history of substance abuse, psychosis/schizophrenia, or high blood pressure.

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