News Release

Hundreds of clinics may be guilty of false or misleading claims in ketamine advertising

CU Anschutz Medical Campus and Johns Hopkins University say the advertising does not adequately outline the potential risks

Peer-Reviewed Publication

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Hundreds of clinics may be using false and misleading statements in online advertising campaigns by offering off-label and unapproved ketamine to treat a variety of mental health and pain conditions, according to researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Johns Hopkins University.

The study was published in JAMA Network Open.

“These are expensive treatments for which patients generally must pay out of pocket and the evidence base is often not robust for many of the advertised uses,” said Michael DiStefano, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Pharmacy at the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and co-lead author of the study.  “It is important that people considering these treatments are provided with an accurate and balanced statement of the possible risks and benefits,”.

In the paper, the researchers note that intravenous ketamine is not FDA approved to treat any mental health condition but is sometimes used off-label for it. Oral formulations are unapproved drugs that are often advertised to produce a hallucinogenic experience at home.

For this cross-sectional study, the team identified online direct-to-consumer ketamine advertisers with at least one clinic in Maryland and a website by using six national ketamine databases. They found 17 advertisers operating across 26 locations in Maryland that promoted infusions or ketamine assisted therapy for a wide range of conditions including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and chronic pain. The advertising revealed numerous misleading representations regarding treatment and safety.

While the study focused on clinics in Maryland, DiStefano said their compilation of the six directories for ketamine treatment suggests that there are approximately 800 such clinics across the US. He said there are also several companies that will send customers oral ketamine through the mail.

“Psychedelic or hallucinogenic substances are increasingly being considered as mental health treatments. For example, Colorado is at the vanguard of developing policies to govern the use of psilocybin in depression.” DiStefano said. “It is important to be transparent and accurate when explaining the potential risks and benefits of these treatments. While these treatments can provide hope and will be effective for some patients, there are real risks associated with ketamine use, especially over the long-term. There are high financial costs to consider as well.”

DiStefano says they hope to do a national survey with an expanded analysis soon.


About the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus is a world-class medical destination at the forefront of transformative science, medicine, education and patient care. The campus encompasses the University of Colorado health professional schools, more than 60 centers and institutes, and two nationally ranked independent hospitals - UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and Children's Hospital Colorado - that treat more than two million adult and pediatric patients each year. Innovative, interconnected and highly collaborative, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus delivers life-changing treatments, patient care and professional training and conducts world-renowned research fueled by over $690 million in research grants. For more information, visit

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.