Ketamine, a synthetic derivative of phencyclidine, is a commonly misused party drug that is restricted in high-income countries because of its addictive potential. Ketamine is also used as an anaesthetic in human and veterinary medicine. In the 1990s, research using ketamine to study the pathophysiology of schizophrenia was terminated owing to ethical concerns. Recently, controversy surrounding the drug has returned, as researchers have demonstrated that intravenous ketamine infusion has a rapid antidepressant effect and have therefore proposed ketamine as a novel antidepressant. This article debates the question of ketamine as an antidepressant, considering the drug's addictive potential, ethical concerns about prescribing a hallucinogen, the evidence base and motives behind ketamine trials.