Is Topical Ketamine Effective?

If you suffer from chronic pain, you may have heard about ketamine’s pain-relieving effects. This article will describe whether ketamine is effective in cream/gel form and compare it to IV infusions. Keep reading to learn more about the different forms of ketamine and determine which one is the right choice for you.

What is ketamine, and how does it work?

Ketamine (also known by the brand name Ketalar) is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States as a dissociative general anesthetic. This means that it makes you feel disconnected from reality and your surroundings and puts you in a sleep-like state. Doctors use ketamine to induce short-term loss of consciousness for medical procedures such as repairing wounds in uncooperative patients (such as children) or treating dislocated joints.

However, ketamine also has some off-label 1 (unofficial, non-FDA-approved) uses. Doctors sometimes prescribe it in lower doses to treat:

Low doses of ketamine that do not cause dissociation can be used to treat severe pain caused by a variety of conditions, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Arm pain
  • Leg pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Fractures
  • Trauma

Unfortunately, ketamine has also developed a reputation as a popular street drug because it can relieve pain, distract users from reality, and cause hallucinations if used incorrectly. However, recreational users initially reported in 1975 that ketamine had effects similar to antidepressant medications2. But this anecdotal evidence could not be used because ketamine was illegal. The first study of ketamine’s therapeutic effects on humans was published in 2000.

Which ketamine therapy is more effective at treating pain – topical or infusion?

Some studies show that pain medications, antidepressants, and low-dose ketamine infusion therapy can effectively treat complex regional pain syndrome 3 (CRPS) and residual limb pain4. Because ketamine can treat pain and depression, taking ketamine to treat CRPS or residual limb pain may make it possible for you to manage your symptoms with fewer medications.

There are several risks and benefits5 associated with using ketamine to treat chronic neuropathic pain.

One of the benefits of ketamine for chronic pain management is that it inhibits the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR), which sends pain signals to your brain.

One of the risks of using ketamine to manage chronic pain is that long-term infusion therapy is needed every 4-6 weeks, and repeated treatment can cause damage to your internal organs in the long term.

Ketamine is also an expensive medication, which can put financial stress on users over time.

More research needs to be done to determine whether the benefits of using ketamine for chronic pain outweigh the risks and costs. Until the benefits have been fully proven, ketamine should only be used to treat neuropathic pain that is severe and treatment-resistant.

However, a randomized controlled trial 6 (RCT) that involved 21 patients with refractory CRPS showed that receiving ketamine infusions for four hours each day for five days (0.35 mg/kg/h max dose) reduced their pain by 21.4% compared with patients who received placebo.

The importance of medical guidance when using ketamine

Ketamine should only be taken with the supervision and guidance of an experienced and licensed healthcare professional. Some of the risks that a healthcare professional can help you avoid by properly monitoring your ketamine treatment include the following:

  • Addiction is a concern because there is a potential for misuse of ketamine.
  • Cognitive (thinking) defects can occur in children who are given ketamine.
  • Emergence reactions, such as agitation or confusion, may occur when waking up from ketamine anesthesia.
  • Increased intracranial pressure should be monitored if you have a history of increased intracranial pressure.
  • Liver injury, which the administration of ketamine can cause.
  • Respiratory depression can occur if ketamine is administered too quickly or if you overdose on it.
  • Unstable blood vessel function may temporarily increase or decrease your blood pressure.
  • Unstable heart function may temporarily increase or decrease your heart rate and/or cause abnormal heart rhythms.


With proper supervision by a licensed and trained doctor, ketamine infusions can effectively address pain symptoms better than treatments administered topically. Intravenous (IV) ketamine is more effective than topical ketamine cream and gel because it goes directly into your bloodstream and begins to take effect immediately.

In contrast, topical ketamine is absorbed into your body by passing through your skin cells, which can take a long time and delay the effectiveness of the treatment. IV ketamine infusions can also be given in higher doses than topical ketamine treatments.

Taking ketamine to treat CRPS or residual limb pain can help you reduce the number of medications you take to manage your pain. For example, ketamine may be able to replace antidepressants and pain medications used to treat CRPS and residual limb pain.

Contact your doctor today to discuss whether ketamine is the right chronic pain management treatment.

At-Home Ketamine IV Therapy

Ketamine IV Therapy is the most bioavailable way to treat and regulate brain synapses and chemical imbalances. With our services, you can book an appointment and a certified nurse will come to your location to provide Ketamine IV treatment. Any serious side effects will be prevented, and misuse would be impossible with the help of our nurse on-site, during and after therapy.

Click the button to learn more about the benefits of Ketamine IV therapy and book an appointment or schedule a free consultation which will help you make your decision.

Ketamine IV - Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare for a ketamine IV appointment?

Don’t eat anything 4-6 hours before treatment. Clear out your schedule for much of the day to lower your stress levels. It is not recommended to have the session late at night as treatment may impact sleep.

What are the ketamine IV post-session recommendations?

Avoid large social gatherings and work obligations in the coming days as you may feel vulnerable. Avoid driving or the use of machinery for 4-6 hours after treatment.

Can you use ketamine for depression treatment?

Yes, ketamine can be used as a treatment for depression. It is a fast-acting medication that has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression in people who have not responded well to other forms of treatment. 

Can you use ketamine for chronic pain treatment?

Yes, ketamine can be used to treat chronic pain. It is a fast-acting medication that has been shown to be effective in reducing pain in people who have not responded well to other forms of treatment.

Can you use ketamine for anxiety treatment?

Ketamine is a fast-acting medication that has been used to treat anxiety in people who have not responded well to other forms of treatment. However, it is not currently approved by the FDA for the treatment of anxiety, and should only be used under the supervision of a qualified healthcare provider.

Can you use ketamine for ptsd treatment?

Yes, ketamine has been studied as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, it is still a relatively new treatment and more research is needed to understand its long-term effects.

What happens if you mix ketamine and alcohol?

When ketamine and alcohol are mixed, they can have a synergistic effect, which means that the combined effects of the two substances are greater than the sum of their individual effects. Mixing ketamine and alcohol can be dangerous and can cause a number of adverse effects, including increased risk of injury, impaired judgment and coordination, and increased risk of overdose. 

Can you use ketamine for bi-polar disorder treatment?

Yes, ketamine has been investigated as a potential therapy for bipolar illness. It is a quick-acting medicine that has been demonstrated to be useful in lowering bipolar disorder symptoms in persons who have not reacted well to other kinds of therapy.

How does Ketamine work?

Ketamine works by blocking certain receptors in the brain that are involved in the perception of pain. It also affects other brain chemicals, such as dopamine and glutamate, which can help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. The exact way in which ketamine produces these effects is not fully understood, but it is thought to involve changes in the communication between different brain regions. In addition to its pain-relieving and mood-enhancing effects, ketamine can also cause a dissociative state, in which a person feels detached from their surroundings and their own thoughts and feelings.

Can you use ketamine for OCD treatment?

Yes, ketamine has been examined as an obsessive-compulsive disorder therapy (OCD). It is a short-acting medicine that has been demonstrated to be useful in lowering OCD symptoms in persons who have not reacted well to conventional treatments. It is, however, a relatively new medication, and further study is required to understand its long-term implications. It is critical to consult with a doctor about the possible advantages and hazards of taking ketamine to treat OCD.

Can you use ketamine for seizure treatment?

In individuals with SRSE(super-refractory status epilepticus), ketamine therapy is related to a reduction in seizure load. As a result, findings support the idea that ketamine IV treatments reduce seizures in patients.

Can you give ketamine to your pet for pain relief?

Ketamine can be given to your pet for pain relief but it is also often used on pets for sedation, restraint and anesthesia. However, make sure you consult with your veterinarian before giving ketamine to your pet. 

Is topical ketamine effective?

The effectiveness of topical ketamine is not well-established. There is limited research on the use of topical ketamine for any condition so more research is needed to understand the potential benefits and risks of using this form of ketamine.

What are the most common types of ketamine?

There are three different types of ketamine including RS, S and R ketamine.

What is Ketamine used for medically?

Ketamine is primarily used as an anesthetic for surgical procedures and other medical procedures that require pain management. It is also used for managing pain in certain chronic pain conditions, such as complex regional pain syndrome and phantom limb syndrome. In addition, ketamine is sometimes used as a sedative for people who are undergoing mechanical ventilation, and it may be used in emergency situations to help manage symptoms of severe depression.

What are the side-effects of Ketamine IV therapy?

The most common side effects of ketamine IV therapy include dizziness, drowsiness, and blurred vision. Other potential side effects include increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, and temporary numbness or tingling in the skin. In rare cases, ketamine IV therapy can cause more serious side effects, such as hallucinations, agitation, and increased risk of seizures. It is important to talk to your doctor about the potential risks and benefits of ketamine IV therapy before starting treatment.

Is Ketamine addictive?

There is some evidence to suggest that ketamine can be addictive, especially when it is used recreationally. However, when it is used as prescribed by a doctor for medical purposes, the risk of addiction is much lower. This is because ketamine is typically only used for short periods of time, and it is often given in controlled medical settings.

How can Ketamine be administered and what is your best option?

Ketamine can be administered in several ways, including as an injection, intravenous infusion, or nasal spray. The best option for administering ketamine will depend on the specific situation and the person's individual needs. 


[1] Alexandra Perez - What are the uses of ketamine?;

[2] Theodora Blanchfield, AMFT - What Is Ketamine Infusion Therapy?;

[3] Mayo Clinic - Complex regional pain syndrome;

[4] Mayo Clinic - Residual limb pain;

[5] Marieke Niesters, Christian Martini, and Albert Dahan - Ketamine for chronic pain: risks and benefits;

[6] Madhuri S. Kurdi, Kaushic A. Theerth, and Radhika S. Deva - Ketamine: Current applications in anesthesia, pain, and critical care;