Lack of evidence over ketamine’s long-term safety

Acute side effects are common in studies of patients who have received ketamine for depression and more research is needed into long-term outcomes, researchers find.

Hospital staff holding ketamine ampoule

Over the past 15 years, there have been many reports into the efficacy of ketamine for treating depression, but very few original studies of its safety.

In The
Lancet Psychiatry (online, 27 July 2017), researchers performed a systematic review of 60 studies including 899 patients who had received ketamine[1]

The researchers found that acute side effects were common and included headache, dizziness and elevated blood pressure, as well as psychiatric side effects such as anxiety. They also observed that the majority of side effects were associated with ketamine given intravenously and occurred immediately after single-dose administration.

Most studies were not placebo-controlled and only 12 (20%) assessed long-term side effects.

The researchers say that large-scale clinical trials with multiple doses of ketamine, long-term follow-up and reporting of all side effects are needed to assess the safety of ketamine before it is used as a widespread treatment for depression.


[1] Short B, Fong J, Galvez V et al. Side-effects associated with ketamine use in depression: a systematic review. Lancet Psych 2017; doi: 10.1016/S2215-0366(17)30272-9

Last updated
Clinical Pharmacist, CP, September 2017, Vol 9, No 9;9(9):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20203362

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