Canada’s ketamine supplies are running low

You may know ketamine by its use as an animal sedative or status as a Schedule 1 drug, but the demand for it as a treatment for anxiety and depression is also booming. 

Driving the news: Canada is currently facing a shortage of the powerful drug, a result of sustained demand combined with a shortage of a variety of ingredients needed to make it. 

Catch-up: In Canada, ketamine is acknowledged to have legitimate uses in medicine. Though often prescribed as an anesthetic or to manage pain, its antidepressant properties and psychedelic effects have spurred its use in treating mental health issues. 

  • Clinics offering ketamine treatments have been popping up across the country, from Ontario to Nova Scotia, charging between $200 and $1,000 per treatment.

  • Even notable names in the medical world, like Toronto hospital network Unity Health, offers treatments to its patients, but wait lists are reportedly months long. 

Why it matters: A recent survey suggests the state of mental health among Canadians is the worst it’s been since early in the pandemic, with adults between 18 and 39 years old reporting the highest levels of feeling anxious or depressed, at 34% and 29%, respectively.

  • With wait times to see mental health specialists rising, it’s no wonder more people are turning to alternative options to try and alleviate their negative thoughts. 

Bottom line: There’s anecdotal evidence that ketamine therapy has helped people battling depression, but doctors admit they still don’t really know how it works (patients experience the effects differently), and it continues to be a costly and controversial option.—SB