Ketamine Therapy
Nov 27, 2023

Ketamine Side Effects: Better than Antidepressants?

What are the side effects of IV Ketamine Therapy to treat depression, anxiety, and PTSD?

Ketamine Side Effects: Better than Antidepressants?

IV Ketamine therapy can rapidly treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other conditions. But how safe is IV Ketamine compared to other medications, like SSRI antidepressants?

Side Effects from Traditional Antidepressants

Traditional antidepressants include serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs). Most of these medications are taken orally every day. Common examples are:

  • SSRI: fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft)
  • SNRIs: duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor)
  • TCAs: amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Others: bupropion (Wellbutrin), Mirtazapine (Remeron)
Over 80% of patients may experience side effects from antidepressants

Over 80% of patients experience side effects from traditional antidepressants. These medications can affect nerves throughout the whole body, and can lead to side effects, including:

Permanent side effects of SSRIs

Some sexual side effects may persist even after stopping SSRIs. This is called Post-SSRI Syndrome. The most common side effect is decreased sexual pleasure, even after stopping SSRIs.

Post-SSRI Syndrome refers to permanent side effects from antidepressant use

IV Ketamine for Depression and Anxiety is Different

At Clarus Health, we use the fewest number of IV Ketamine infusions for the greatest therapeutic benefit. Because most patients receive fewer than 10 infusions a year, the risk of side effects from ketamine for depression and anxiety is much lower compared to taking medications everyday.

Receiving 4-6 infusions a year poses a much lower risk than taking antidepressants by mouth everyday

The most common side effect, albeit rare, of IV Ketamine is a temporary unpleasant experience, colloquially called a "bad trip." More rare side effects include addiction and cystitis (inflammation of the bladder).

All three of these side effects are very rare when IV Ketamine is used in a compassionate, medically supervised setting. Drs. Kaveh and Shrestha's treatment pathway includes a consultation that greatly reduces the risks of these already rare side effects.

Memory problems from IV Ketamine?

The doses of IV Ketamine used to treat depression and anxiety result in an altered state of consciousness, similar to a dream-like state. During the IV Ketamine infusion, patients are not fully cognitively intact. However, cognition is rapidly restored (within 15-30 minutes) after the infusion is over.

Severe depression and anxiety can worsen memory, and IV Ketamine can improve memory function by addressing the root causes of such brain fog.

However, like all medications, the risk of side effects may increase with long-term use. While these risks appear quite low for IV Ketamine, it emphasizes the importance of a holistic healing plan when using IV Ketamine to reduce the need for unnecessary treatments.

As always, the risks of untreated depression need to be weighed against the potential risks of any treatment, including traditional antidepressants and ketamine.

Anthony Kaveh MD

Anthony Kaveh MD

Dr. Kaveh is a Stanford and Harvard-trained anesthesiologist and integrative medicine specialist. He has over 800,000 followers on social media and has guided hundreds of patients throughout transformative healing experiences. He is an authority on Ketamine, NAD, and SGB therapies. He is a registered continuing education lecturer in the Bay Area.