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The Truth About Ketamine: Depression Cure, Health Fad, or Placebo?

Boris Heifets, an anesthesiology professor and the author of a fascinating study on ketamine, joins Derek to explain how and why the controversial drug works

Dr. Patrick Oliver of MindPeace Clinics treats patients suffering from chronic pain and depression with Ketamine infusions. Photo by Julia Rendleman for The Washington Post via Getty Images


One week ago, Matthew Perry’s autopsy report came back, finding that the Friends actor died from the acute effects of ketamine overdose. His death has sharpened focus on the popular and controversial drug. Ketamine has been hailed as a miracle cure for depression and anxiety, criticized as a VC-fueled fad, and investigated as a placebo. But what is ketamine, what is its history, what do we know about how and why it works, and how could it help hundreds of millions of people with depression and anxiety? Today’s guest is Boris Heifets. He is an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Stanford University and the author of a much-talked-about and utterly fascinating study on ketamine that came up with a brilliant way to test the effects of ketamine. The study’s surprising results raise big questions about not only ketamine, but the curative power of belief.

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Host: Derek Thompson
Guest: Boris Heifets
Producer: Devon Baroldi

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