Street Drugs Merging: Framing of Ketamine Treatment for Depression and Traditional Antidepressants within Major U.S. News Outlets


Jake Twer

Strategic Communications, Elon University

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements in an undergraduate senior capstone course in communications


Ketamine began as a recreational street drug but was recently found to have antidepressant properties. Mainly used in low doses as an intramuscular injection, or IV, ketamine treatment causes rapid effects, unlike traditional antidepressants, yet is not FDA approved. With nearly 50 million Americans experiencing mental health issues, and over half of them not receiving care, finding an effective form of treatment is vital. For people with suicidal ideation, a rapid form of healing such as ketamine treatment could be lifesaving. This research explores how major U.S. news outlets frame ketamine treatment and traditional antidepressants. Quantitative content analysis was used to manually code 64 articles. The researcher found that ketamine treatment was framed more positively, and traditional antidepressants were framed negatively. These articles often did not include primary background information such as side effects, and this exclusion affects how the article is framed and may influence the consumer.

Keywords: ketamine treatment, antidepressants, depression, mental health, content analysis

1. Introduction

Ketamine was once a party drug but is now merging off the streets and into a clinical setting. It is used recreationally for its effects of hallucinations and feelings of dissociations, yet has the possibility to cause poisoning and seizures within its street form of “Special K.” However, recently, ketamine was found to have antidepressant properties and is emerging as a form of treatment that helps with depression and other mental illnesses (NYU, 2021). Mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States. More than 50% of Americans will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime (CDC, 2021). Finding an effective form of treatment is crucial for people battling mental illness to develop a healthier lifestyle.

Even as ketamine treatment surfaces, traditional antidepressants, or SSRIs, are seen as the main form of treatment as a first-line antidepressant. However, not everyone responds well to these drugs, they can take many weeks to take effect, and patients may experience relatively high side effects (Allied Psychiatry, n.d.). There is a battle – not only for people facing mental health issues – but for which treatments are deemed the most effective for healing depression and which ones are depicted as the most beneficial within the media landscape.

This research will explore how articles from 2019-2022 within The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New York Post, CNN, and a Google News search each frame ketamine therapy and traditional antidepressants as treatments for depression. This study will inform communications research of how the media is presenting these options for depression treatments to consumers.

II. Literature Review

Previous research largely looks at the efficacy of traditional antidepressants and ketamine treatment. However, few articles exist on how these forms of treatment are framed in the media, and none examine the framing of both within their research. The articles that do study framing of these treatments are primarily based in Europe, so this research will provide a fresh lens into the landscape of these medications in the U.S. Including statistics on mental illness within the U.S. is important to set the stage for the prevalence of mental illness and accentuate the need for quality, timely forms of treatment. The manner in which the media frames these treatments plays a vital role in the sanity of our nation.

Mental Illness

A mental illness is “a condition that affects a person’s thinking, feeling, behavior or mood. These conditions deeply impact day-to-day living and may also affect the ability to relate to others” (Mental Health America, 2022). In 2022, 19.86% of adults experienced a mental illness – that is nearly 50 million Americans. However, more than half of these adults are experiencing a mental illness and receive no treatment (Mental Health America, 2022).

This research looks specifically at depression, a subset of mental health, and a few treatments used to combat it. Major depressive disorder, a more severe form of depression, “involves recurrent, severe periods of clear-cut changes in mood, thought processes and motivation lasting for a minimum of two weeks. Changes in thought processes typically include negative thoughts and hopelessness. Depression also affects sleep, energy, appetite, or weight” (NAMI, 2022). As of 2022, nearly 1 in 10 Americans suffer from depression (Reinberg, 2022).


Antidepressants can help relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders. They fix chemical imbalances of neurotransmitters in the brain, causing changes in mood and behavior. There are primarily five types of antidepressants: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and noradrenaline and specific serotonergic antidepressants (NaSSAs). However, these drugs can take six to eight weeks to enact change on depressive symptoms (Nordqvist & Barrell, 2022). Side effects may include nausea, weight gain, lower sex drive, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and anxiety, among others. (Ellis, 2021). In 2020, one scholar found that 74.13% of patients in a psychiatric hospital experienced significant antidepressant side effects (Marasine et al., 2020).

There is also controversy in the effectiveness of antidepressants. An earlier study found that “to cast [antidepressants] as ineffective is inaccurate” in response to placebo trials invalidating the effects of these medications (Penn & Tracy, 2012). However, one study from April 2022 found that patients’ health-related quality of life (HRQoL) did not improve from antidepressants. The researchers used data from the 2005-2015 United States’ Medical Expenditures Panel Survey (MEPS), a large longitudinal study that tracks the health services that Americans use. The MEPS files contained any person with a diagnosis of a depression disorder. Over the duration of the study, there were 17.47 million adult patients diagnosed with depression each year, and 57.6% of these people received treatment with antidepressant medications. The researchers concluded that using antidepressants is not associated with significantly better quality of life when compared to people with depression who do not use medication (Almohammed et al., 2022). However, in 2020, more than 37 million Americans were taking antidepressants (Hastings, 2020).

Ketamine Treatment

Ketamine began as an anesthetic in the 1970s. It was first used in the U.S. for sedation and pain management during the Vietnam War. However, it was also popular for its recreational use because of its dissociative effects. The drug was known as “Special K” on the streets. Ketamine’s side effects include sedation, dizziness, euphoria, hallucinations, etc., and it is known to be a potentially addictive substance (Ghoshal, 2022). As of 2000, ketamine was found as having fast-acting antidepressant effects. Yet, the precise antidepressant effect of ketamine is not fully understood. Low-dose ketamine, around 0.4-0.8 mg, is used via an IV or arm injection, and the initial effects start occurring within a few minutes and last for around 40 minutes, with the patient staying in the clinic for up to two hours to be monitored. S-ketamine, or esketamine, is a compound of ketamine which is primarily used as an intranasal spray for depression which was approved by the FDA in 2019. It is mainly used on treatment-resistant depression (Gallagher et al., 2021). Treatment-resistant depression (TRD) typically refers to when there is an inadequate response to at least one antidepressant trial of sufficient doses and proper duration (Fava, 2003).

Scholars have looked at the effectiveness of ketamine for depression and patient perspectives on the treatment. In one study, researchers have found that ketamine treatment has a robust and rapid effect on depression, as their patients had significant improvement for their depression within one hour of the treatment (Mandal et al., 2019). Another study used three focus groups of patients with prior diagnoses of depression but no experience with ketamine treatment. The patients explored their views on ketamine and the researchers found that participants were conscious of the stigma of ketamine as a street drug but wanted better public education and more information on its antidepressant use. The patients were enthusiastic about ketamine treatment but wanted more information before it was rolled out nationally (Jilka et al., 2021).

Media Framing Theory

Robert Entman molded the concept of media framing in 1993. Entman defined framing as “selecting and highlighting some facets of events or issues, and making connections among them so as to promote a particular interpretation, evalutation, and/or solution” (Rosenberry & Vicker, 2017, p. 88). He mostly looked at political crisis situations such as how President George W. Bush defined the 9/11 attacks as an “act of war” and “evil” which became important concepts for the public. There have been a variety of research studies which proved that the way an issue is framed affects how the public interprets the issue (Rosenberry & Vicker, 2017).

There is limited literature on the framing of ketamine treatment, and many of these studies are European based. In one study, data analysis was performed on 2,809 articles from 30 English-language news websites, specifically about ketamine and its role in treating depression. Only 26.8% of the articles mentioned the risks of unregulated use of ketamine, 62.9% mentioned side effects, and 14.4% did not quote a patient. The researchers concluded that news media articles are generally positive about ketamine treatment, but they should be interpreted with caution as many did not discuss the negative aspects of ketamine (Gallagher et al., 2021).

Another scholar looked at antidepressant framing in British newspapers such as The Sun, The Guardian, and The Telegraph. She found that the articles were framed extremely positively and are encouraging more Brits to use antidepressants, however these articles generalized information, lacked evidence of the science, and did not mention side effects (Adlington, 2018). Another study showed that the negative framing of traditional antidepressants in Danish media articles could have caused the decrease in the use of these prescription drugs in Denmark. The researchers discovered that the main coding theme from the articles was negatively associated side effects. This primes the public to use side effects as a main factor for judging antidepressants (Lauridsen & Sporrong, 2018).

One study examined 43 newspaper articles covering the uses of ketamine within North America and found the most frequent themes were abuse, legal status, and clinical use within anesthesia. The researchers found positive changes in the portrayal of ketamine in news coverage over time and found that this might influence consumers of this material to engage in ketamine treatment (Zhang et al., 2017).

This research is significant because there are no previous scholarly articles juxtaposing both the framing of ketamine therapy and traditional antidepressants. There are studies performed on the framing of these treatments individually, but there is limited research based on media sources in the United States. This paper intends to fill the gap in communications research of how the media presents these medication options for healing depression by identifying the thematic components of media articles.

Purpose and Research Questions

RQ1: How is ketamine treatment for depression framed in the selected news stories?

RQ2: How are traditional antidepressants framed in the selected news stories?

RQ3: What are the similarities and differences between the framing of ketamine treatment and antidepressants?

This research will provide insight on how the media portrays these medications that help with depression because news coverage can influence people’s opinions and behavior. There is a large population within the U.S. that struggles with mental illness, especially depression, so this research is vital to provide consumers a lens into how forms of treatment are presented in the media. Starting a form of treatment could completely alter a person’s lifestyle, either for the better or worse, and these articles may not include all the important information on medications, which could greatly affect a consumer’s decision and overall health.

III. Methods

The researcher conducted a quantitative content analysis of various U.S. news sites. Content analysis is “a family of systematic, rule-guided techniques used to analyze the informational contents of textual data” (Forman & Damschroder, 2007). Content analysis is prominent in medical and bioethics literature, which supports this method as a quality choice for analyzing the media framing of medications. The researcher looked at articles within The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New York Post and CNN from 2019-2022, and used a Google News search of “ketamine treatment” and “antidepressants” to complement this with additional articles. The researcher analyzed 64 articles total: 32 on ketamine treatment and 32 on traditional antidepressants. From the four main news sites, 36 articles were included, and 28 were from media channels found under a Google News search.

Next, the researcher constructed a codebook to identify the optimistic and more negative language in articles on ketamine therapy and/or traditional antidepressants. The keywords manually coded for positive language were “treat,” “improve,” “healing,” “cure,” etc. For words containing a cautious or more negative tone, the key terms were words such as “little use,” “harmful,” “risks,” “wean/withdrawal,” “drinking/drugs,” or “distressed.”

An Excel spreadsheet was created for ketamine treatment articles and was organized based on the themes of “Name of News Outlet,” “Year,”  “Overall Tone of Treatment (positive/negative/neutral),” “Quote from Patient (yes/no),” “Quote from Doctor (yes/no),” “Side Effects Mentioned (yes/no),” “Riskiness (low/moderate/high),” “Includes Medical Study (yes/no),” “Other Drugs Mentioned (identify which ones),” “Tone of Headline (positive/negative/neutral),” “Tone of Pictures and/or Videos (positive/negative/neutral),” “Mentions FDA (yes/no),” and “Mentions Cost in Numerical Form (yes/no).”

These elements were important to code for because of how they potentially could influence the viewer’s perception of a form of treatment. If an article on a form of medical treatment does not include a medical study and/or information from a patient and doctor, then it may appear less credible and would not be presenting valuable scientific and first-hand experience to the consumer. This would greatly influence how the article is framed. The other categories are significant because they focus on important information about the treatment which if left out, could completely change how the consumer views the treatment.

A separate Excel spreadsheet was made for traditional antidepressant articles and was coded almost identically to the ketamine treatment articles, but with a few changes. “Withdrawal Symptoms” were included in the section “Side Effects Mentioned” as it was found in the articles that many patients weaned off or attempted to wean off antidepressants. The category of “Mentions Cost in Numerical Form” was not included within the coding for traditional antidepressants as they are generally covered by insurance. “Mentions FDA” also was omitted because all common, traditional antidepressants are FDA approved, and “Other Drugs Mentioned” was not included as it was found these articles rarely mention other drugs. Lastly, a new section was added called “Includes Statistics Separate from Medical Studies (yes/no).” This category was important to code as there is a plethora of data on traditional antidepressants and including these statistics within articles can make them more credible and less biased or framed in a particular light.

Intercoder reliability is when two different researchers agree on how to code the same content. It ensures that multiple researchers come to the same conclusions from their coded data. The method did not use intercoder reliability as this tool is not typically used within exploratory studies such as this research (Delve, n.d.).


The news sites The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New York Post and CNN were chosen as they are among the largest news outlets within the United States. The New York Times had 6.14 million paid subscribers for their digital-only news product within the second quarter alone of 2022 (Statista, 2022). The New York Post is the oldest continually published newspaper in the U.S., founded in 1801 by Alexander Hamilton (New York Post, 2021). The New York Post’s online circulation numbers are impressive as well with 144.2 million visits to their online news site (SimilarWeb, 2022). The Washington Post has an extremely well-established digital publication, with more than 60 million people visiting its website per month (The Washington Post, 2022). As of 2022, CNN Digital is “the number one online news destination, routinely registering more than 200 million unique visitors globally each month” (CNN Press Room, 2022).

Google Search was used as a complementary form of attaining articles because there are limited articles within major media channels on ketamine treatment and antidepressants. This search engine reveals the most recent articles on the internet and specifically adds to the depth of articles found on ketamine treatment. Only credible news sources from the Google search were incorporated into this research, and any articles within a scientific journal were omitted based on their direct access to the source of trials. Also, any PR or advertising media sites were excluded based on their expertise in crafting stories to meet a specific purpose, making for a direct form of bias. The timeline of 2019-2022 was used to provide relevant information for the consumers of this research. Also, there has been more awareness of mental health and a greater discussion on the topic since the coronavirus pandemic first surfaced in 2019.

IV. Findings

Manual coding examined 12 themes total in 32 articles on ketamine treatment and 32 articles on traditional antidepressants to uncover the tone of the media content and what valuable information each treatment article included or may have omitted. The framing of these treatments is depicted through the theme of “Overall Tone” which encapsulates the other codes.

Table 1: Ketamine treatment tone in 32 articles

Code Positive Negative Neutral
Overall tone of treatment 46.9% (15) 9.4% (3) 43.8% (14)
Tone of headline 50.0% (16) 12.5% (4) 37.5% (12)
Tone of pictures/videos 15.6% (5) 6.3% (2) 78.1% (25)

Table 2: Traditional antidepressants tone in 32 articles

Code Positive Negative Neutral
Overall tone of treatment 6.3% (2) 71.9% (23) 21.9% (7)
Tone of headline 6.3% (2) 78.1% (25) 15.6% (5)
Tone of pictures/videos 9.4% (3) 43.8% (14) 46.9% (15)
RQ1: Framing of Ketamine Treatment

Ketamine treatment articles were framed more positively. Of 32 articles on ketamine treatment for depression, the most frequent overall tone was positive at 46.9%, and the second most frequent tone was neutral at 43.8% (Table 1). Looking only at ketamine articles from The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New York Post and CNN posed different data: 26.3% had a positive tone, 63.2% had a neutral tone, and 10.5% had a negative tone.

RQ2: Framing of Traditional Antidepressants

Traditional antidepressant articles were framed more negatively. Of 32 articles on traditional antidepressants, an overall negative tone was the most frequent at 71.9%. The articles containing a positive tone were scarce at only 6.3% (Table 2). Focusing only on those 4 main news sites for antidepressants made for similar data: 5.9% had a positive tone, 17.6% had a neutral tone, and 76.5% had a negative tone.

Tone of Headlines

The headlines of ketamine treatment articles conveyed a more positive or neutral tone, with over half of the articles containing positive headlines. Articles on ketamine treatment included headlines such as “Nothing seemed to treat their depression. Then they tried ketamine” (Kornfield, 2022), and “Ketamine infusions improve symptoms of depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation, study says” (Dillinger & McPhillips 2022). Articles on traditional antidepressants contained more negative tones at 78.1%. Some articles on traditional antidepressants contained the headlines, “How much do antidepressants help, really?” (Moyer, 2021) and “I spent half my life on antidepressants. Today, I’m off the medication and feel all right” (Siem, 2020).

Table 3: Ketamine treatment themes of 32 articles

Code Number Relative Frequency (%)
Side effects 16 50.0%
Quote from patient 16 50.0%
Quote from doctor 27 84.4%
Includes medical study 23 71.9%
Mentions FDA 25 78.1%
Mentions cost 20 62.5%

Table 4: Traditional antidepressants themes of 32 articles

Code Number Relative Frequency (%)
Side effects/withdrawal symptoms 20 62.5%
Quote from patient 13 40.6%
Quote from doctor 26 81.3%
Includes medical study 24 75.0%
Includes statistics 19 59.4%
RQ3: Comparing the Framing of these Treatments

Exactly half of the total articles on ketamine treatment included side effects (Table 3) and 62.5% of articles on traditional antidepressants mentioned side effects or withdrawal symptoms (Table 4). When examining only the content of The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New York Post and CNN, 52.6% of articles did mention side effects. Regarding articles on traditional antidepressants, 47.1% of these articles mentioned side effects or withdrawal symptoms.

Half of the total articles on ketamine treatment contained a quote from a patient and 84.4% incorporated a quote from a doctor (Table 3). One patient was quoted on her ketamine treatment experience: “I remember floating, I was really high,” said Theresa, an adjunct English professor in New York. “I was tripping on sounds, textures and shapes, that was very much a part of it” (Carey, 2019). Articles on traditional antidepressants used a quote from a patient 40.6% of the time, whereas 81.3% used a quote from a doctor (Table 4). Another patient, 37-year-old Mags Baker who has been on and off SSRIs since she was 20, said, “All of these years I took a pill because my doctors kept telling me my brain just needed a boost because of my ‘chemical imbalance.’ I believed them and I ended up staying depressed for a decade longer than I needed to” (Settembre, 2022). Articles on ketamine treatment and traditional antidepressants included roughly the same frequency of medical studies – 71.9% and 75.0% respectively.

Among the articles on ketamine treatment (Table 3), SSRIs/traditional antidepressants were mentioned in 37.5%. No other drugs were included in nearly one-third of articles, other psychedelics and SSRIs were in 18.8% (six articles), and other psychedelics were evident in 12.5% (four articles). Articles on ketamine treatment mentioned the FDA 78.1% of the time and included the cost of the injection or IV in numerical form 62.5% of the time. Articles on traditional antidepressants (Table 4) included statistics separate from information on medical studies in more than half (59.4%).

Table 5: Treatment riskiness (32 articles on each treatment)

Code Low Moderate High
Ketamine treatment riskiness 18.8% (6) 62.5% (20) 18.8% (6)
Traditional antidepressant riskiness 9.4% (3) 40.6% (13) 50.0% (16)

Articles on ketamine treatment tend to contain language that suggests a moderate level of riskiness (Table 5), while half of the articles on traditional antidepressants suggest a high level of riskiness. Another 40.6% of traditional antidepressant articles indicate a moderate level of risk to those treatments.

V. Discussion

If an article does not include important information such as the side effects of the drug or narratives from a doctor on the medication, it can frame the form of treatment in a certain light. If side effects are severe for one drug and the media does not cover this information within their content, then it could make for a more positive framing of the treatment.

Ketamine treatment was framed mostly positively within the media, and traditional antidepressants generally were framed negatively. An Irish Journal study found similar results: news media articles were generally positive for treating depression yet should be interpreted with caution as many of the articles did not include the negative aspects and potential risks of ketamine such as unregulated use of the drug or abuse potential (Gallagher et al., 2021).  Side effects and withdrawal symptoms were mentioned more frequently in articles on traditional antidepressants than ketamine treatment; the fact that only half the articles on ketamine treatment included the side effects of the drug plays a factor in how it is framed. The side effects of ketamine such as dissociation, nausea, and hallucinations are intense, and if these facts are included within articles, it could cause that source to appear more cautious or neutral, instead of positive. The fact that most articles on traditional antidepressants included the difficult withdrawal period and/or general side effects, could hint at why most of them are displayed negatively.

The tones of the headlines within ketamine treatment articles were more positive. The majority of Generation Z has an attention span of about eight seconds (Sklencar, 2022), so some may only be able to focus on the headline or opening paragraph. Based on this, just those few words could heavily influence how some readers would interpret that drug. Articles on traditional antidepressants tend to have negative headlines such as “How the debate over antidepressants puts millions in danger” (Spichak, 2022). This framing could cause consumers to instantly see this form of treatment in a more critical light and not pursue it further.

Both forms of treatment included a quote from a patient in roughly half of the articles. It’s important to include a patient’s experience or perspective so that the reader can understand how these drugs may affect them. A quote from a doctor was included in about 80% of both types of treatment articles. It’s vital for these media sources to integrate doctors’ information on these drugs for depression as it could make the reader feel safer in their decision knowing that an expert weighed in on the matter.

For example, Dr. Phillip O’Carroll said in The Los Angeles Times, “The allure of esketamine is that it works quickly. Instead of four to six weeks as with other medications, it may take four to six hours, and in the case of suicidal ideation, it brings people back from the brink” (Curwen, 2022). The doctor provides valuable information for the reader, serving as an important addition for the background of the treatment. In a Fox News article on traditional antidepressants, Dr. Lynn Bufka said, “People should be comfortable that medications can be beneficial, but they don’t answer everything. You will get some changes, but medications alone won’t give you an amazing quality of life – it just gives us a glimpse” (McGorry, 2022). Dr. Bufka gives an objective take on medication and gives the article a more neutral framework.

Additionally, medical studies were included in about three-quarters of the sources. Just as it is important for a doctor to relay background information on the topic, medical studies serve as credible sources of information for the reader. Many of the articles on traditional antidepressants included the large-scale MEPS medical study on how antidepressants may not be more effective than placebo in elevating HRQoL levels (Almohammed et al., 2022). By including this study, it gives the reader a more complete, credible evaluation of antidepressants and their effect, even if it causes the framing of these articles to become more negative. It is important for news media to be transparent about all the effects of these forms of treatment.

These results are significant because the way these articles are framed could lead to more alternative forms of treatment to be used instead of just pills. The media affects what consumers think, so more people might try ketamine treatment based on the positive framing. Other psychedelic healing is coming onto the scene in other forms such as psilocybin and MDMA, and the media could cause for an uptick in these drugs to be used for mental illness (Heacock, 2020). With the faster-acting forms of treatment being incorporated into the mental health world, more people might find the help they need in a quicker fashion and possibly more effective form, whereas traditional antidepressants do not take effect for many weeks. If consumers listen to the headlines and content of traditional antidepressant media articles, then less people may use SSRIs based on the evidence of its lack of efficacy and how it contains prevalent side effects. This could cause healthier lifestyles for people if they find a treatment that is more tailored to their cognitive needs. However, looking at the other side, this could become an issue because antidepressants are effective for many people, but they might choose to wean off them or consumers may not start taking medication they truly need based on the media’s framing.

The idea of taking a psychedelic to help with depression is a captivating concept, as the future could be a parent driving their child to experience a guided drug session. This could become a political issue in a way, as more liberals support marijuana use (Jaeger, 2019), and one party may favor the use of this drug over the other. In the end, what’s important is that the individual gets the right form of treatment for them. Psychedelic treatment is fast-acting and could save many lives of patients who are suicidal and/or have treatment-resistant depression. But where there are limited trials of ketamine treatment, patients should be cautious when pursuing this treatment. Across the U.S., well over 300 ketamine treatment clinics are established in which providers make sure to screen if a client is a suitable candidate or not (Bricken, 2022). Whatever form of treatment an individual explores or may find is a good fit for them, it’s important to supplement that with psychotherapy because one treatment or drug is not a cure (McGorry, 2022).

VI. Conclusion

This study looked at the framing of ketamine treatment and traditional antidepressants within media channels such as The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New York Post, and CNN. Ketamine treatment was framed more positively within the media whereas traditional antidepressants were framed more negatively.

It is important for articles on depression healing to include all information, especially side effects. Articles, most notably on ketamine treatment, only occasionally mentioned side effects of the drug. If the risks are not included within these articles, then it can make for a more positive framing and tone of the content, causing consumers to perceive content in a certain way when they do not have all the vital information. In addition to the content of these articles, the word choice of their headlines plays a huge role in how the drug is framed especially with the lower attention span of generations born in the 2000s and later. The negative framing of traditional antidepressants may make less consumers pursue this form of treatment, especially as more studies are published on the drugs’ potentially lower efficacy and their intense side effects.

Limitations of the research are important to address. The sample size is only 64 articles, which provides a small slice of the population of news media articles. Also, manual coding may lead to subjectivity and introduce bias when categorizing the tone of an article and differentiating neutral from positive, or neutral from negative, especially when looking at syntax. Using a coding software could be more objective. Only looking at coverage from 2019-2022 is another limitation as it may not include how the framing of these forms of treatment potentially shifted in the media over a longer period of time.

There needs to be more future research done on the efficacy of ketamine treatment and traditional antidepressants, as well as the framing of these treatments within the media. As more studies are produced, consumers will have more data and information to gather their own perspectives. Individuals struggling with mental illness will have an easier time finding the treatment that’s right for them when there is more access to trials and data. The media is at their fingertips, so it is vital that more information is provided for these news channels to cover. If future research covered a wider range of news channels, including print news, then this could provide an even larger index for patients with depression and other mental health issues to reference.


I want to thank Dr. Daniel Haygood for guiding me through this process as my mentor and giving quality feedback to push me to produce engaging and relevant scholarship. I also would like to thank Dr. Jane O’Boyle for helping the brainstorming process for what my topic would be, which I found was one of the most difficult aspects of this research journey: to find an intriguing, relevant concept to build on.


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