Comprehensive assessment of side effects associated with a single dose of ketamine in treatment-resistant depression

Elia E. Acevedo-Diaz, Grace W. Cavanaugh, Dede Greenstein, Christoph Kraus, Bashkim Kadriu, Carlos A. Zarate, Lawrence T. Park

Published 10 November 2019 |



Concerns about ketamine for treating depression include abuse potential and the occurrence of psychotomimetic effects. This study sought to comprehensively assess side effects (SEs) associated with a single subanesthetic-dose intravenous ketamine infusion. A secondary aim was to examine the relationship between Clinician-Administered Dissociative States Scale (CADSS) scores and dissociative symptoms reported on a comprehensive, clinician-administered SE questionnaire.


Data from 188 participants were pooled from four placebo-controlled, crossover ketamine trials and one open-label study (n = 163 with either treatment-resistant major depressive disorder or bipolar disorder and 25 healthy controls). SEs were actively solicited in a standardized fashion and monitored over the time-course of each study. Statistical analyses assessed the effect of drug (ketamine, placebo) on SEs and measured the relationship between CADSS total score and SEs contemporaneously endorsed during structured interviews.


Forty-four of 120 SEs occurred in at least 5% of participants over all trials. Thirty-three of these 44 SEs were significantly associated with active drug administration (versus placebo). The most common SE was feeling strange/weird/loopy. Most SEs peaked within an hour of ketamine administration and resolved completely by two hours post-infusion. No serious drug-related adverse events or increased ketamine craving/abuse post-administration were observed. A positive correlation was found between dissociative SEs and total CADSS score.


The post-hoc nature of the analysis; the limited generalizability of a single subanesthetic-dose ketamine infusion; and the lack of formal measures to assess ketamine’s cognitive, urological, or addictive potential.


No long-lasting significant SEs occurred over the approximately three-month follow-up period.

Keywords: ketamine, side effects, depression, Acevedo-Diaz, Zarate


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