Date of Award

Spring 5-21-2024

Document Type

Undergraduate Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Behavioral Neuroscience


-- College of Arts and Sciences --


Dr. Elisabeth Walcott


Ketamine, a medication long used in anesthesia, has emerged as a promising treatment for depression and other mental health disorders. Its rapid onset of action and mechanism, which differs from traditional antidepressants by targeting NMDA receptors, offers a novel approach to managing depressive symptoms. Despite its potential, ketamine's use outside anesthesia, particularly in off-label ketamine clinics, is fraught with regulatory, safety, and accessibility challenges. This paper explores the historical medical use of ketamine and its emerging role in mental health treatment. It compares the efficacies and administration routes of different forms of ketamine, including intravenous (IV) and intranasal (nasal spray) forms. It highlights the distinctions between ketamine and its S-isomer, esketamine (Spravato), which was FDA-approved in 2019 for treatment-resistant depression. Given the substantial evidence supporting ketamine's promise as a treatment for depression and other mental health conditions, the paper concludes by emphasizing the importance of developing strategies that prioritize safety, efficacy, and widespread accessibility, ensuring ketamine can fulfill its potential as a transformative mental health therapy for many.