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On the safety of repeated ketamine infusions for the treatment of depression: Effects of sex and developmental periods.

  • Strong, C E1
  • Kabbaj, Mohamed1
  • 1 Department of Biomedical Sciences and Program in Neuroscience, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, USA.
Published Article
Neurobiology of stress
Publication Date
Nov 01, 2018
DOI: 10.1016/j.ynstr.2018.09.001
PMID: 30450382


In this review, we will discuss the safety of repeated treatments with ketamine for patients with treatment-resistant depression (TRD), a condition in which patients with major depression do not show any clinical improvements following treatments with at least two antidepressant drugs. We will discuss the effects of these treatments in both sexes at different developmental periods. Numerous small clinical studies have shown that a single, low-dose ketamine infusion can rapidly alleviate depressive symptoms and thoughts of suicidality in patients with TRD, and these effects can last for about one week. Interestingly, the antidepressant effects of ketamine can be prolonged with intermittent, repeated infusion regimens and produce more robust therapeutic effects when compared to a single infusion. The safety of such repeated treatments with ketamine has not been thoroughly investigated. Although more studies are needed, some clinical and preclinical reports indicated that repeated infusions of low doses of ketamine may have addictive properties, and suggested that adolescent and adult female subjects may be more sensitive to ketamine's addictive effects. Additionally, during ketamine infusions, many TRD patients report hallucinations and feelings of dissociation and depersonalization, and therefore the effects of repeated treatments of ketamine on cognition must be further examined. Some clinical reports indicated that, compared to women, men are more sensitive to the psychomimetic effects of ketamine. Preclinical studies extended these findings to both adolescent and adult male rodents and showed that male rodents at both developmental periods are more sensitive to ketamine's cognitive-altering effects. Accordingly, in this review we shall focus our discussion on the potential addictive and cognitive-impairing effects of repeated ketamine infusions in both sexes at two important developmental periods: adolescence and adulthood. Although more work about the safety of ketamine is warranted, we hope this review will bring some answers about the safety of treating TRD with repeated ketamine infusions.

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