How Ketamine Differs From Antidepressants

How Ketamine Differs From Antidepressants

Around 21 million American adults have depression — and the experience is unique for every individual. The symptoms of depression are highly personal, meaning there's no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment.

Different individuals respond better to various treatments, and it's essential to explore options. Albalira Gibson-Borrelli, MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, and our team at Horizons Wellness Family Health offer comprehensive care for people with depression, and we’re here to help you find what works best for you.

Antidepressant medications are the most common treatments, but if they haven’t worked well enough, you’re not out of options. Read on to learn more about ketamine as a treatment for depression and find out how it differs from traditional antidepressants.

Understanding the differences between ketamine and antidepressants

Traditional antidepressants are oral pills. Ketamine, on the other hand, is an anesthetic with a history of use in hospital settings. Two differences are the way they get administered and how they work.

Administration method

When you’re prescribed an antidepressant medication, you take it orally once a day. Your body absorbs the medication through your digestive system and enters your bloodstream gradually.

Ketamine isn’t an oral pill. We offer both Spravato™, an FDA-approved esketamine nasal spray, and ketamine intravenous (IV) infusions at Horizons Wellness Family Health. You come into the office for your dose, and the medication takes effect much faster than oral antidepressants.

Mechanism of action

The other main difference between ketamine and antidepressants is how they work to alleviate depression symptoms.

Most traditional antidepressants are either selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These medications increase certain neurotransmitters in your brain — particularly serotonin and norepinephrine. Because of their slow release, these medications can take several weeks to build up in your system before they relieve symptoms.

Ketamine works differently. It’s an NMDA receptor antagonist that can trigger changes in mood much faster than oral medication. Experts believe that ketamine helps promote synaptic plasticity and the release of neurotransmitters like glutamate, which play a role in mood regulation. Because of these differences, ketamine can be an effective treatment option when antidepressants don’t work well enough.

Choosing the correct treatment for your needs

Both antidepressants and ketamine offer benefits when treating depression, and it’s important to work with your healthcare provider to find the best treatment for you. Albalira and our team recommend starting with a depression assessment and discussing your options.

We review your medical history, your current medications, and your response to any depression treatments you’ve tried in the past. Next, we establish treatment goals and review side effects. Ketamine can offer rapid relief from severe depression but may cause dissociative or hallucinogenic effects during administration.

Traditional antidepressants work more gradually over time, which can be appealing if you’re interested in long-term depression management. However, they can cause side effects like weight gain, sexual dysfunction, or sleep disturbances.

Whatever treatment you choose, we closely monitor your progress and adjust your treatment plan to help you get maximum relief from your depression symptoms.

Get your customized depression treatment plan at Horizons Wellness Family Health. Call our Middletown, New York office today at 845-673-5885 or request an appointment online.