Ketamine Alcohol Study

We are currently seeking potential research subjects meeting these criteria:

  • Currently depressed
  • Lifetime history of major depressive disorder (if known)
  • Inadequate response to adequate trials of at least 2 standard antidepressant medications, e.g. selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
  • An adequate knowledge of psychiatric and substance use disorders in your family members
  • Social drinking
  • Willingness to receive 2 intravenous alcohol infusions and 1 ketamine infusion in a magnetic resonance scanner
  • No current substance use disorder
  • No lifetime history of alcohol use disorder
  • No lifetime history of hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes or other chronic medical conditions that can affect the brain
  • No metal implants/devices
  • Not claustrophobic

Frequently Asked Questions:


Q. How does ketamine work for depression?

A. This is a contested issue that is only seeming to get more complicated by the day! Suffice it to say, ketamine and/or its bioactive metabolites have effects on the neurotransmitter glutamate and its receptors in the brain as well as effects on other neurotransmitter systems like opioid and dopamine receptors. Nevertheless, your research participation may help us provide more insights into ketamine’s mechanism of action, especially its overlapping effects with alcohol.


Q.  How quickly does ketamine work for depression? How long do the effects usually last?

A. Unlike standard antidepressants, which often require weeks-to-months to reach maximal efficacy, ketamine has been shown in many studies to work within hours-to-days. The average antidepressant response to a single infusion lasts about a week but some patients have longer responses.


Q. If ketamine works for me, can I get more?

A. No, this is a single infusion study. We understanding how frustrating it may be to receive a single infusion, have a positive response and then relapse back into depression. Nevertheless, even a brief respite from depression is valuable to some patients. We will also follow you in a standard treatment phase following research participation and try our best to get you into a better state.


Q. If I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and am currently depressed, can I also participate in this study?

A. Unfortunately, this study is only recruiting subjects with major depressive disorder. There are other studies recruiting subjects with bipolar disorder at the University of Iowa and contacts can be provided if so desired.


Q. Can I participate if I am pregnant or nursing?

A. No, pregnancy and nursing are exclusions for this study as alcohol and ketamine could harm a developing fetus or nursing infant.


Q. I have heard/read that ketamine can cause psychotic-like effects and this scares me. How long to they last? Can these be permanent?

A. The low-dose ketamine can cause temporary psychotic-like experiences. We will discuss the prototypical experience with you during the screening and/or consent processes. These side effects usually don’t last beyond 1-2 hours after the end of the infusion; they are not permanent.


Q. If I received ketamine before for depression, anesthesia, etc., can I still participate in this study?

A. Yes, previous use of ketamine is fine. In fact, we are very curious to hear about your prior experiences.