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Ketamine vs. Traditional Antidepressants: Pros and Cons

When it comes to treating depression, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. While conventional antidepressant medications have been the cornerstone of treatment for many years, a new contender has emerged in the form of ketamine. This article aims to compare and contrast ketamine with traditional antidepressants, highlighting their respective advantages and disadvantages.

Traditional Antidepressants:

Traditional antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), have long been prescribed as the first-line treatment for depression. Here are the pros and cons of conventional antidepressants:


  • Well-Established: Traditional antidepressants have been extensively studied and have a long history of use, providing a solid foundation of evidence for their efficacy.

  • Broad Application: These medications can address a range of depressive symptoms and are effective for various types of depression, including major depressive disorder and dysthymia.

  • Safety Profile: Overall, traditional antidepressants are considered safe for long-term use, with known side effects and risks that can be managed with proper monitoring.


  • Slow Onset: It can take several weeks for the therapeutic effects of traditional antidepressants to become noticeable, which can be challenging for individuals in acute distress.

  • Limited Effectiveness: Not everyone responds adequately to traditional antidepressants, with some individuals experiencing partial or no improvement in their symptoms.

  • Side Effects: Common side effects of traditional antidepressants can include weight gain, sexual dysfunction, nausea, and drowsiness, among others.


Ketamine, initially developed as an anesthetic, has gained attention in recent years as a treatment for depression. Here are the pros and cons of using ketamine for depression:


  • Rapid Relief: Ketamine has shown promising results in providing rapid relief from depressive symptoms, often within hours or days, making it a potential lifeline for those in urgent need.

  • Treatment-Resistant Depression: Ketamine has demonstrated effectiveness in individuals who have not responded to traditional antidepressants, offering a valuable alternative for treatment-resistant depression.

  • Neuroplasticity and Glutamate Modulation: Ketamine's unique mechanism of action involving the modulation of glutamate receptors may contribute to its antidepressant effects, potentially targeting a different pathway than traditional medications.


  • Short-Term Effects: The antidepressant effects of ketamine are often short-lived, typically lasting for days to weeks. Therefore, repeated or maintenance doses may be necessary to sustain the therapeutic benefits. We've found a series of 6 treatments offers long-lasting relief for the majority of our patients.

  • Administration Challenges: Ketamine is currently administered via intravenous infusion or intranasal spray in a supervised medical setting, making it less accessible than traditional oral medications. However, this is much safer than administering yourself via orally or via intranasal spray at home.

  • Side Effects: While ketamine is considered safe when administered by professionals, it may have potential side effects such as dissociation, hallucinations, and increased blood pressure due to the nature of the drug. This is why we recommended patients be treated in office and some even bring their personal therapists with them for the treatment.

In the realm of depression treatment, the comparison between ketamine and traditional antidepressants reveals distinct advantages and disadvantages for each approach. While traditional antidepressants offer a well-established and broad application, ketamine stands out with its potential for rapid relief and efficacy in treatment-resistant cases.

If you are interested by the potential of ketamine therapy, we encourage you to take the next step by contacting us or booking a discovery call with one of our experienced providers. They can guide you through the process, assess your individual needs, and determine if ketamine therapy is the right fit for you. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and exploring different options can lead to a brighter future in your journey towards overcoming depression.


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Wellbeing is a ketamine clinic located in Denver, CO.

By appointment only.

1076 South Gaylord Street

Denver, CO 80209

(303) 722-0367


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