Today’s Solutions: May 22, 2022

In a follow up from a story published earlier this month on ‘How ketamine can help fight depression,’ we are going to report on new data published from a recent clinical trial. This time instead of depression, doctors administered this drug to people suffering from alcoholism.

The clinical trial

96 adults with severe alcoholism who had recently been detoxified, found that ketamine-assisted psychotherapy was more effective than any other treatment at preventing relapse. Details of the trial, dubbed Ketamine for the Reduction of Alcoholic Relapse (KARE), were published in the Journal of American Psychiatry

Different control groups with different types of ketamine therapy, education, and placebos were set up over a six month period. Clinicians tracked the patients abstinence, finding the ketamine-assisted psychotherapy group was 2.5 times less likely to relapse compared to the placebo with alcohol education group.

“Alcoholism can destroy lives, and we urgently need new ways to help people cut down,” said Celia Morgan, lead author on the paper. “We found that controlled, low doses of ketamine combined with psychological therapy can help people stay off alcohol for longer than placebo.”

They continued: “This is extremely encouraging, as we normally see three out of every four people returning to heavy drinking within six months of quitting alcohol, so this result represents a great improvement.”

How does it work?

The exact mechanisms ketamine is triggering in the brain are still unclear. Although, scientists think the drug’s rapid antidepressant qualities have something to do with it. Some studies have shown that ketamine can edit addiction memories and some of the patients testimonies ring true with that fact. With one subject stating: “Not only did I get a life changing and mind-altering experience, but then the therapist did plug some new thoughts to me that made me think differently.”

“The experiences people describe after taking ketamine infusions suggest the drug gives a new perspective that may be helpful in psychological therapy,” says Merve Mollaahmetoglu, a researcher working on the study. “Ketamine induces a sense of being outside of your body that some say can stimulate an ‘observer state’ similar to that described in mindfulness, which may help patients take a step back, and consider thoughts and emotions. Participants told us this experience helped change their relationship with alcohol.”

Source study: Journal of American PsychiatryAdjunctive Ketamine With Relapse Prevention–Based Psychological Therapy in the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder

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