- Ketamine infusions with psychological therapy could represent “hope” for alcohol abuse, scientists say.
- Ketamine and therapy reduce the risk of relapse by 2.7 times at six months, according to the study authors.
- It won’t work for everyone, and others may need “refills,” the scientists warned.
An infusion of the widely used anesthetic ketamine could represent “new hope” in treating millions of people with alcohol problems, scientists studying the drug have said.
According to the results of a study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Psychiatry, people with severe drinking problems who received ketamine infusions in addition to psychological therapy quit drinking longer than those who had. received standard treatment for alcoholism.
The risk of relapse in the group who received ketamine-plus-therapy at six months was 2.7 times less than in those who received placebo plus alcohol-stopping education, researchers said. the University of Exeter and Awakn Life Sciences, an American biotech, in a press release.
Celia Morgan, Ketamine Trial Manager for Alcohol Relapse Reduction (KARE), said of the results: “We have not had any new treatments for alcoholism in the past 50 years. We have found that low, controlled doses of ketamine combined with therapy can offer alcoholics new hope and save lives. “
Ketamine is widely used to relieve pain and put people to sleep during surgery. The World Health Organization has called it an “essential medicine” since 1985.
Ketamine can cause hallucinations, dissociation, and changes in perception, which is why it has the potential to treat mental health issues characterized by rigid behavior, such as drug addiction.
Morgan, professor of psychopharmacology at the University of Exeter, told Insider the approach was “a radical departure from normal drug treatment services, especially using drug as a catalyst for psychological therapy.” .
Morgan, also head of ketamine-assisted therapy for addiction at Awakn Life Sciences, said participants received three infusions over three weeks with a final therapy or education session in week four.
“It is really promising that effects were seen six months after a fairly short treatment duration,” she said.
“We are hoping here in the UK that it will be something that will be more widely available within three to five years,” she said, adding that the team was preparing for its release as a treatment in countries like the United States as well.
Morgan warned that the treatment would not work for everyone and that others may need “recharge” sessions. “Although the effects last for a long time in some, it is unlikely to be a ‘once and for all’ treatment for everyone,” she said. “We will need to explore more in the future how booster sessions can be given.”
Experts have warned that a larger study will need to be undertaken to better understand the potential benefits of using ketamine to treat alcoholism.
Allan Young, director of the Affective Disorders Center at King’s College London, who was not involved in the study, told Insider there was a “great need” for new treatments for substance use disorders alcohol – an area in which we had under-invested.
The results provide evidence that this approach could be beneficial, which “deserves further study,” he said. “You have to have very large numbers in a study to show that a drug is safe,” and we have to know if its effects last beyond six months, he added.
“At this time, there is no justification for taking ketamine as a treatment for your alcohol. But it is possible that it will lead to some form of medical treatment in the future,” he said.
Morgan told Insider the team plan to start one final try this year.