Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Medicine and the Media

Ketamine’s potential as a rapid antidepressant was overplayed

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: (Published 19 August 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h4467
  1. Melvyn W B Zhang, specialist registrar, National Addiction Management Service, Institute of Mental Health, Singapore ,
  2. Roger C M Ho, consultant psychiatrist and assistant professor, Department of Psychological Medicine, National University of Singapore
  1. Correspondence to: R C M Ho pcmrhcm{at}

Bold claims for ketamine were made in a press release of a small weak study and repeated in a newspaper article, but Melvyn W B Zhang and Roger C M Ho say it is inappropriate for use in depression

In April 2014 the Guardian newspaper reported on what it described as “the first UK study to give ketamine to severely depressed patients.”1 This is how the press release from Oxford University had referred to the research.

The story quoted Rupert McShane, a consultant psychiatrist at Oxford University’s department of psychiatry and an author of the study report, claiming, “This really is dramatic for some people and it’s the sort of thing that really makes it worth doing psychiatry.

“We’ve seen remarkable changes in people who’ve had severe depression for many years that no other treatment has touched.”

A case series

The study in question, published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, was a case series of 28 patients with mood disorders who continued to take other psychotropic drugs while they were given repeated doses of ketamine over six weeks. …

View Full Text

Log in

Log in through your institution


* For online subscription