Researching Ketamine’s Effectiveness: What Makes a Source Credible?

May 14, 2024 by Steve Suntala

Finding Credible Sources on Ketamine: Where Do I Start?

If you’ve heard about ketamine, you may be wondering how it works. In short, ketamine is an anesthetic that has shown great promise in helping alleviate treatment-resistant depression, anxiety, and other disorders. This innovative mental health treatment influences brain circuits to provide relief often within hours rather than days, weeks, or even years. 

Ketamine can offer hope to those struggling with debilitating mental health symptoms. However, because of its apparent novelty as a mental health treatment, some may have concerns about its effectiveness, possible side effects, or longevity. 

You’re asking yourself: Is ketamine right for me?

If this applies to you, educating yourself before seeking professional treatment can ease anxiety as you explore available options. 

Various resources offer valuable insights into how ketamine can improve your life, and you can find many online in the comfort of your home.

Here, we’ll explain how to vet those resources–and how to avoid misinformation in this emerging mental health space.

First, What Makes a Source Credible?

Because ketamine is still a relatively new treatment for depression, finding reliable and relevant information may prove difficult. However, some sources are inherently more credible than others to help you start gathering insights.

For example, you can generally trust an article published by a university, government agency, or other accredited institution. We’ve shared some of those on our blog. Additionally, peer-reviewed scientific journals through StatPearls Publishing or the National Institutes of Health (NIH) typically involve research conducted by experts in the field. 

If you’re a student, many universities offer online databases with scientific publications you can access for free. You can also often find research studies conducted by fellow students directly through your institution’s website or professors. 

Here are a few examples of where to get reliable sources about ketamine treatment:

  • Scientific journals
  • University publications
  • Peer-reviewed reports
  • Academic databases
  • Vetted news reporters (i.e., New York Times, BBC, etc.)
  • Medical clinics (i.e., Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, New Pathways, etc.)

Other Fact-Checking Methods for Ketamine Research

The internet is full of articles claiming to have the most accurate and up-to-date information about ketamine treatment. Anyone with a computer and website can say they have experience, despite having never tried ketamine themselves–or perhaps relying solely on ketamine’s recreational use for reference. 

Even social media accounts can spread misinformation about available treatments or success rates. Some may even offer readers “special” content if they subscribe to their newsletters or blogs. Celebrity endorsements may carry a lot of weight in the media these days, but how is a patient supposed to make any sense of what a Hollywood actor or a pop singer thinks of ketamine treatments?

Conducting some helpful self-assessments can limit the risk of stumbling across false advertising or ketamine “miracle cures.” 

Examining citations, the author’s authority in the field, and any potential investors that can affect bias (like partnered companies) can help you determine if the information provided is accurate and relevant to your questions about ketamine.

Interested in a free consultation on ketamine treatments? If you’d like to pursue this journey, we have locations in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.

The SMELL Test

One way to test for credibility when researching ketamine is the “SMELL” test. This tactic involves questioning the validity of the entire article, from start to finish. First, ask yourself, “Who wrote this piece?” Is the writer an experienced treatment provider or a random “health aficionado” with a sponsored blog? 

You should also question what the author seeks to gain from the publication and what information seems missing from the text. Does the article answer the overarching question? Does the page use proper citations (if any)? These aspects are all important to consider when educating yourself about ketamine treatment.

Conducting the SMELL test for ketamine research means examining the following aspects:

  • Source: The writer is just as important as the article itself. Finding information published by professors, researchers, and experienced treatment providers is best. Still, you should always check for potential biases that can influence content, such as affiliated partnerships or funding.
  • Motive: A ketamine researcher is likely studying ketamine to benefit others and enhance understanding and accessibility. On the other hand, a blogger who receives compensation for user clicks on an affiliated link likely has less altruistic motives that can muddle information.
  • Evidence: A writer should provide clear, reliable citations for any claims about success rates or adverse effects associated with ketamine infusions. 
  • Logic: This step may take some critical thinking. Based on what you currently know about ketamine, does the article or journal seem realistic? Do their sources and methods support their findings? Do they spend time explaining why they came to these conclusions? If not, you may want to find another resource.
  • Left out: Finally, does the article answer every question you had about ketamine treatment? Are there gaps in the information between research techniques and ultimate outcomes? Do similar journals or publications contain the same data, or is this article missing something?

The CRAAP Test

Like SMELL, the CRAAP test involves a critical assessment of the different aspects of a publication. However, this method also means reviewing the age and relevancy of information. Does this article apply to your situation? Is the data outdated or old? Answering these questions can help you determine whether or not to trust a source.

Conducting the CRAAP test for ketamine research means examining the following aspects:

  • Currency: A research article or publication should be up-to-date with recent findings about ketamine treatment. For example, look for citations that fall within the last five or so years. 
  • Relevance: Reliable sources should also be relevant to your research. Finding an article about monitored ketamine infusions for depression may not answer your questions about recent advances in anxiety treatment options.
  • Authority: Look for the author’s credentials and affiliations. If they don’t have documented experience with ketamine, consider finding an alternative article.
  • Accuracy: Does the writer use neutral, objective, and unbiased language? Or, is the article heavy with definitive or unsubstantiated claims? Reliable sources provide information based solely on their findings, not personal opinions.
  • Purpose: As with SMELL, you should always question the why behind a publication. For example, a professor may study the effects of ketamine on college students to help address a depression epidemic at their university. Conversely, a personal blogger partnered with a ketamine provider may skew or exaggerate evidence to boost revenue. 

What Red Flags Should I Look For?

Luckily, certain red flags can help you differentiate between reliable and false resources. 

As mentioned, academic or scholarly articles remain generally neutral as they present evidence. In most cases, the main premise of their work is to educate themselves and others about a topic, meaning they are less likely to use confusing or misleading language. Credible sources also clearly explain their methods so readers understand the entire process. 

Here are a few warning signs to consider when choosing reliable sources:

  • Broad generalizations: Baseless claims about success rates, treatment methods, or potential reactions usually indicate a source may be less than dependable. Everyone responds to mental health treatment differently, so watch out for overarching or broad generalizations about ketamine.
  • Lack of citations: Evidence should be backed by citations from other credible sources, including scientific publications, double-blind studies, or similar data.
  • Poor controls: Inconsistent research methods can influence outcomes, leading to false information or misinterpretation.
  • Misleading language: A biased author can easily skew data to fit their narrative with the right language. Keep an eye out for vague, overly complex, or ambiguous sentences. 
  • Too much personal language: Research should just state the facts. An article riddled with personal experiences or ideas can distract from the overall message and evidence.
  • Anecdotal stories: While hearing from others about their experiences is helpful in some contexts, you don’t necessarily want this from a research-based publication. Small amounts of anecdotal evidence are okay–only if measurable and fact-checked data matches the claim.

What About the Illusory Truth Effect?

The illusory truth effect refers to the tendency to accept false information after prolonged exposure. A writer can easily confuse readers by repeating the same claim throughout an article. With ketamine, audiences are beginning to see something of an echo chamber forming, due in part to increased celebrity discourse and high-profile cases. 

For example, an article may claim everyone experiences headaches from caffeine withdrawal. After reading this numerous times throughout the publication, someone may learn to anticipate this outcome if they stop drinking coffee–even if they don’t drink it regularly. They may also spread that misinformation to others. Eventually, this false claim can deter people from cutting down on caffeine.

Why Reliable Sources Are Important When Researching Ketamine

Accurate and relevant information equips you with the tools necessary to take your mental health treatment into your own hands. You can gain valuable knowledge from online or printed text about everything from side effects to infusion options. Psychoeducation also reduces the risk of venturing into dangerous territory by working with unaccredited or suspicious clinics. 

Taking the Next Steps for Ketamine Treatment

Knowing what to expect during your sessions can help you determine whether or not ketamine infusions are right for you. We at New Pathways are here to help you find relief from symptoms and joy in life. We have a heavy focus on overall wellness, and we aim to make care more accessible. Once you’ve conducted your research, we can assist you in choosing the best approach.

Interested in a free consultation on ketamine treatments? If you’d like to pursue this journey, we have locations in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati.

At New Pathways Clinic our heartfelt mission is to establish a holistic mental wellness campus that touches the lives of individuals in the greater Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati regions. We are dedicated to combining state-of-the-art mental health treatments, like Ketamine therapy infusions and Spravato nasal spray, with the expertise of compassionate mental health professionals to treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, migraines, and bipolar disorder.

Our unwavering commitment drives us to continuously evolve and adapt as the scientific landscape of ketamine research expands and diversifies, leading to innovative mental health treatments. We are determined to pave the way for a healthier future for Cleveland, central Ohio, and southern Ohio.

New Pathways Clinic also offers Semaglutide & Tirzepatide weight-loss shots, ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, and  ketamine/Spravato support groups for patients.

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