Barriers to Using Ketamine for the Treatment of Depression
Depressive disorders are prevalent in the United States. Current treatment paradigms take weeks to reach clinical efficacy and may leave patients at risk for suicide during the initial weeks of treatment. Intravenous (IV) ketamine infusions have shown promise in the rapid relief of depression symptoms, including efficacy in treatment-resistant depression and relief of suicidal ideation. Initial research has shown ketamine therapy to be safe and effective. Despite a plethora of information in support of the safety and efficacy of ketamine, there is reluctance of both patient and provider in utilizing ketamine’s unique potential. We used a grounded-theory approach to perform a meta-analysis literature review exploring the barriers preventing widespread acceptance of ketamine therapy. We found fear or moral objection to psychoactive effects, potential side effects, and history of abuse as a street drug to be inhibiting factors among patients. Among healthcare providers, barriers included lack of accessibility, addictiveness, abuse potential, and refusal of insurance policies to cover treatment. We present arguments to challenge objections and question concerns as the vast benefit of ketamine therapy far outweighs potential harms. We give recommendations for further research and call for a more rational approach to U.S. drug policy with a focus on objective evidence and an elimination of unwarranted restriction of personal freedoms.