It is especially important to understand the nuances of this situation and not vilify ketamine or discount the potentially lifesaving and therapeutic potential of it. Seeing headlines that only say ketamine caused Matthew Perry’s death, without the full context, may lead to further apprehension or shame in people who are considering or receiving ketamine for legitimate indications. There is a possibility that someone struggling with thoughts of suicide or severe depression, after reading such headlines, will shy away from starting treatment with ketamine. The consequences of this can also be deadly.
Ketamine should be taken appropriately under medical supervision and within a monitored clinic setting, with involvement by mental health specialists such as psychotherapists and psychiatrists. Over the past several years there has been a rapidly growing body of published research and real-world clinical data that supports the notion that ketamine has a critical role in the treatment of severe medication resistant depression, PTSD, and substance use disorders.
Why is it so important for ketamine to be taken in a monitored clinic setting? The ability for it to cause dissociation as well as changes in blood pressure and heart rate are the obvious reasons to start with. Taking unsupervised ketamine at home, whether illicitly or through a prescription, leads to many other risks too. There is a possibility of falls, impaired coordination, inappropriate dosing, concurrent alcohol or drug use, and diversion.
Over the last 7 years of treating patients in a comprehensive and safe clinical setting with IV ketamine therapy, I have seen many lives improved and saved. The risk to benefit ratio changes dramatically when taking it without medical supervision and clinical support. It is very unfortunate what happened to Matthew Perry, but we should take the right lessons and message from his death as it relates to the role ketamine played.