Doctor and nurse discussing the differences between ketamine and esketamine with their patient

The Difference Between Ketamine and Esketamine

by | Feb 14, 2023 | Blog

If you’ve been keeping up with the latest developments in mental health treatments, you’ve probably heard about ketamine and esketamine. These two drugs have been gaining much attention for their potential use in treating depression and other forms of mental illness. But what’s the difference between these two medications? In this article, we’ll explore the difference between ketamine and esketamine, and how they’re used in clinical settings.


What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is an anesthetic used mainly in veterinary medicine. It was first approved as a human anesthetic in 1970, and it has been studied extensively ever since then. It’s a dissociative drug, meaning it creates a trance-like feeling and can significantly distort one’s perceptions of sight, sound, and touch.

In recent years, ketamine has gained popularity as a treatment for depression. It works by blocking NMDA receptors in the brain, which allows for increased serotonin levels and other neurotransmitters known to improve mood. Studies have also shown that ketamine can increase the generation of new brain cells—neurogenesis—contributing to its anti-depressive effects. Because of its unique properties, ketamine is now being explored as a potential new therapy for other mental health concerns such as anxiety and PTSD.

If you’re surprised to hear about ketamine being used in clinical settings, it may be because of its reputation as a recreational drug. It’s become popular in the club scene for its hallucinogenic effects, although it’s important to note that taking ketamine recreationally can be incredibly dangerous and even deadly when misused.


How is Ketamine Administered?

Ketamine treatments are most commonly administered as an intravenous infusion, usually over 40 minutes. Though it is also sometimes used intramuscularly, studies have shown that intravenous infusions allow for more consistent results. Patients will generally receive multiple doses spaced out over a few weeks to maximize effectiveness.

During each dose, patients may experience side effects such as dizziness, disorientation, confusion, or anxiety. It’s important to note that these side effects usually do not last long and do not require any action on the part of the patient. Ketamine can also be used in conjunction with other treatments such as psychotherapy, depending on what best suits each individual’s needs.


Is Ketamine FDA Approved for Depression?

As of 2023, Ketamine is not currently FDA-approved for depression, but it is being studied extensively. There’s only one ketamine-based medication that’s been approved by the FDA: esketamine.


What is Esketamine?

Esketamine (Spravato) is a derivative of ketamine that the FDA approved in 2019. Esketamine works by acting on glutamate receptor systems in the brain, producing an antidepressant effect within hours rather than days or weeks. It is the first new drug in over 30 years to be approved for the treatment of depression and has opened up many possibilities for future therapies.

Unlike ketamine, it can be administered through a nasal spray, allowing for easier dosing and improved patient compliance. Esketamine is also structurally different from ketamine, which means it does not produce the same dissociative and psychedelic effects as traditional ketamine. This makes it attractive to patients who prefer to avoid such experiences associated with using the original form of this drug.

Overall, esketamine is considered safer and more convenient than traditional ketamine for treating depression. It has also been approved as an adjunct to antidepressants, meaning it can be used in conjunction with other medications such as SSRIs.


How Effective is Esketamine?

Though esketamine has been approved for treating depression, it is still unclear how effective it really is. Early studies have shown promising results in terms of its effectiveness, but more research needs to be done before we can say definitively. What we do know is that it can help those suffering from Treatment-Resistant Depression who don’t receive relief from other, more traditional depression medications. If you would like to learn more about the efficacy of Spravato, please read our article about esketamine’s benefits.


Are You Dealing with Treatment-Resistant Depression?

If you suffer from treatment-resistant depression (TRD) or major depressive disorder (MDD), BestMind Behavioral Health provides effective esketamine therapy to help you find relief. Esketamine, also known as SPRAVATO®, is a proven and FDA-approved medication that has been clinically shown to reduce symptoms of TRD and MDD. Our providers are dedicated to helping their patients live healthier, more fulfilling lives.

To learn more about the benefits of esketamine therapy and how it can help you manage your condition, reach out to us today at BestMind Behavioral Health for a consultation. We look forward to helping you on your journey toward better mental health.