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Since the first reporting of ketamine’s antidepressant effects in 2000, there has been growing public interest in this novel rapid-acting treatment for depression despite its abuse potential. Online media is an increasingly popular way for the general public to source information. Our objective was to examine how online news outlets have portrayed ketamine as an antidepressant by ascertaining the volume and content of relevant articles and trends over time.
In this semi-quantitative study, we identified articles regarding ketamine’s use in depression from the 30 most popular English-language online news-generating sources over 18 years (2000–2017). Articles were then blindly assessed by 2 independent raters, who analysed the texts by quantifying the presence/absence of 12 content items.
We identified 97 articles, the number of which has increased since the first online news report in 2006. Most (69%) came from the USA and nearly all correctly stated the indications for ketamine. About half of the most recent articles mentioned abuse potential and 27% of articles referred to risks of unregulated use of ketamine. Just under 20% of articles referred to the lack of evidence regarding direct comparisons between ketamine and other currently available antidepressants. There was no difference in the overall level of detail within the articles during the study time period.
Online news media articles have been generally positive about ketamine for treating depression but need to be interpreted with caution as many of them did not discuss negative aspects of ketamine and made unsubstantiated claims about ketamine.
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