Can ketamine treat alcoholism? British university tries to find out

Can ketamine treat alcoholism? British university tries to find out

Ketamine is a medication used to induce anesthesia in humans and animals. The drug’s psychedelic qualities have made it popular as a recreational narcotic prone to abuse. Ketamine’s common street names include K, Special K and Lady K. Higher doses of the drug are associated with hallucinatory or near-death experiences. Ketamine is a popular drug on the club circuit, frequently used by teenagers and young adults at rave parties.

A new trial which is underway at the University College London (UCL) is testing a radical treatment which may help individuals overcome alcohol addiction. Researchers are exploring if a one-off dose of ketamine, used in combination with standard psychotherapy, can potentially reduce hazardous drinking habits. Alcohol-related memories are frequently responsible for high relapse rates after treatment, and researchers believe that the drug may act in a way that these memories are weakened or completely erased.

There is increasing scientific evidence to show that ketamine can assist in reducing harmful behavioral patterns. Clinical trials have indicated its efficacy as a rapid antidepressant in patients with treatment-resistant depression. Ravi Das, one of the lead researchers of the new trial, cites evidence that ketamine can be used to treat alcoholism. He adds that the drug may have the effect of overcoming triggers such as the clinking of glasses, the sight of alcohol or even coming home from work, all of which are memories inducing alcohol consumption.

Ketamine blocks the brain receptor that develops memories

The primary issue with high alcohol consumption is the high relapse rate after treatment. Das explains that while individuals are undergoing treatment in hospital, they are able to successfully quit alcohol during that short period of time. However, once they are back home, familiar environmental settings trigger those cravings again.

Scientific evidence is increasingly showing that every time a memory is retrieved by the brain, the recollection can be altered before it is stored again. This happens because memories are less stable when they are recalled, which makes it possible to alter them. The scientists believe that this temporary phase of destabilization presents a favorable opportunity. Ketamine blocks N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA), a brain receptor required for the development of memories. Administering the drug during the memory destabilization phase may potentially weaken or even totally erase the memory.

As part of the trail, the researchers intend to induce alcohol-related memories by placing glasses of beer in front of the participants, all being heavy drinkers. The next step will be to disrupt the memory by giving them either a ketamine infusion (corresponding to the strength of a high recreational dose) or a placebo. Participants will be monitored for a year to ascertain if their drinking habits have been altered and to what extent.

The study has already seen the participation of over 50 people and the researchers aim to include a total of 90 people. The profile of people includes those who consume unsafe quantities of alcohol but do not fulfill the clinical definition of alcoholism.

Treatment may face resistance

Researchers hope that if the trial demonstrates a positive outcome, treatment with ketamine may become a part of therapy sessions targeted at people battling alcoholism as well as heavy drinkers. However, they admit that such an approach may face resistance due to the fact that ketamine is a recreational drug and society’s perception of all illegal things being dreadful. He argues that if the therapy is safe and suitably effective, it merits recommendation.

The researchers are hopeful that the treatment will benefit large sections of populations who are battling alcohol addiction. Past research shows that in the United States, nearly 30 percent of adults aged 18 or older have suffered from alcohol use disorder (AUD) at some point in their lives. Moreover, instances of binge drinking are becoming more prevalent and increasing in intensity. Corrective measures need to be ramped up for the betterment of the society.

The Alcohol Addiction Helpline of California can recommend inpatient treatment for alcoholism in California to help you or your loved one quit drinking. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1715 or chat online for instant information about the best alcohol rehab centers in California where recovery is facilitated with evidence-based plans in a serene environment.

Continue reading

Leave a Reply