What to Expect After Ketamine Treatment for Depression

Medically reviewed by Dr. Mark Hrymoc, M.D.

If you have treatment-resistant depression, you may be interested in what to expect after ketamine treatment for depression. After receiving ketamine treatment for depression, many patients may experience rapid improvement in depressive symptoms, with some reporting relief within hours to days. This treatment can lead to varied outcomes, including enhanced mood, increased motivation, and improved emotional stability. However, discussing potential side effects and long-term outcomes with a healthcare provider is essential.

Depression often leads individuals into a seemingly endless tunnel with no light in sight, especially when traditional treatments fail to provide relief.

Ketamine treatment emerges as a beacon of hope, offering rapid and significant improvements where other methods have not succeeded. Understanding the outcomes and navigating the journey post-treatment is crucial for those considering this path.

This article explores what to expect after ketamine treatment for depression.

What to Expect After Ketamine Treatment for Depression

When considering ketamine treatment for depression, many people wonder about the immediacy and nature of its effects. Unlike traditional antidepressants, which can take weeks to show results, ketamine often induces a noticeable improvement in symptoms within hours to a few days after treatment.

Studies show that 55% of people receiving ketamine treatment have long-term improvements with very few side effects, if any. Patients typically experience a significant reduction in depressive symptoms, including feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and worthlessness, which can be a transformative experience for those who have battled persistent depression.

However, it is important to note that while some experience long-lasting relief after a single treatment, others may require multiple sessions to maintain the benefits, underscoring the personalized nature of ketamine therapy’s efficacy.

Here’s what to expect after ketamine treatment for depression.

Immediate Effects After Treatment

After the infusion, you may still feel some of the effects of ketamine, which may linger for thirty or forty minutes. You will spend this time relaxing and enjoying the effects of dissociation or out-of-body experience.

Most people do not experience immediate side effects, but those who do say feeling tired is the primary effect. You will likely feel improvement in your depression symptoms. For some, improvements last weeks. You will notice your heart rate and blood pressure decrease as ketamine exits your body. You may have continued mind-altering effects, dizziness, or lightheadedness briefly after the session.

If you feel nausea or headache, your doctor will treat your symptoms. You will need someone to drive you home from the ketamine treatment for safety purposes, but you can walk and function normally.

Related: What is Treatment-Resistant Depression?

Short-Term Benefits

Severe depression may be a result of dysfunctional neurons in the brain. Ketamine treatment, for many, reactivates the nerve cells, alleviating depression. Ketamine alters the brain positively by helping it get unstuck from negative thoughts.

Ketamine boosts Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), enhancing brain plasticity and forming new neural connections. This effect, combined with its unique impact on neurotransmitters like glutamate, helps the brain escape persistent negative thought patterns. As a result, individuals often see reduced cognitive distortions and improved positive cognitive processes, leading to fewer depressive symptoms and a more resilient mental state.

Ketamine improves depression in those who have tried other drugs and therapies without success. It even helps antidepressants work better. Ketamine also offers the following short-term benefits:

  • Calms the mind
  • Improves mood
  • Relieves pain
  • Works quickly
  • Continues to work after metabolization

When paired with psychotherapy, ketamine treatment for depression opens the mind, allowing change to happen. Ketamine treatment promotes neural growth and functioning and, when paired with psychotherapy, can rewire the brain to function more healthily. Negative thinking is easy to identify and replace with positive thinking, creating better outcomes.

Long-Term Outcomes

Ketamine infusion provides the best outcomes when treatment is grouped into six sessions over three weeks. This helps sustain the short-term effects and produce more significant long-term benefits. Neuroplasticity is a long-term outcome that involves changes in the brain’s neural networks by increasing glutamate, a neurotransmitter that aids in communication.

Many people who live with chronic pain also experience depression. Physical health influences mental health. Ketamine treats pain and depression simultaneously by blocking pain signals from reaching the brain.

Ketamine supports emotional regulation and aids in building resilience. Psychological healing occurs in parts of the brain with damage caused by trauma. You can experience positive mental breakthroughs when undergoing ketamine treatment for depression.
Potential Side Effects

Side effects, if any, are usually mild and brief, lasting no longer than four hours (NIH). Side effects mentioned in the report include feeling strange, spacey, dizzy, or loopy. Other effects include dissociation, visual distortions, and numbness. Like with any medicine, there are potential side effects, even with low-dose ketamine treatments. The most common side effects reported include the following:

  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increase or decrease in blood pressure
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Hallucinations
  • Shallow breathing
  • Nausea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Feeling out of touch with reality

Your doctor will complete a comprehensive evaluation to discuss your physical and mental health and the medications you are taking before you begin ketamine treatment for depression. The assessment can help them minimize, when possible, any potential side effects or interactions.

Follow-Up Care and Adjustments

Ketamine treatments are one part of the healing process. You can do many things after your treatment to continue seeing positive results. Participating in mindfulness activities and cognitive-behavioral therapy can enhance the brain’s neuroplasticity. Practice mental and physical exercises recommended by your therapist. Because your mind is adaptable for days after the treatment, take time to journal your thoughts and feelings. Reflect on the experience and make small behavioral changes. Continue taking your medications as prescribed and attend therapy sessions.

Connect with supportive people who share your goals of improving your overall well-being. Finally, continue ketamine treatment for depression until you complete the recommended protocol. Doing so will help you maintain long-term results.

Looking for additional support?

The Mental Health Center offers a weekly Ketamine Support Group that provides a supportive environment for individuals exploring ketamine therapy. This group meets on Thursdays from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM (PST), is available online via Zoom, and is open to all California residents.

Ketamine Treatment for Depression in Los Angeles

Are you struggling with depressive symptoms? Have you tried treatments for depression but didn’t get the results you were hoping for? You may be the ideal candidate for ketamine treatment for depression. The Mental Health Center at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Towers in Los Angeles is here to help.

The Mental Health Center offers ketamine treatment for depression that can help reduce symptoms.

If you are in Los Angeles and want to learn more about ketamine treatment for depression, contact the Mental Health Center today.


Depression symptoms can be painful and interfere with how you function at work, home, school, and socially.

Ketamine treatments offer hope to those who have not seen success with traditional therapies.

Don’t let your concerns about what happens once you receive ketamine deter you. Instead, let us explain what to expect after ketamine treatment for depression.