According to the study published Tuesday in the American Journal of Psychiatry, when Ketamine infusion with psychological therapy was given to alcoholic people, they quit consuming alcohol for longer than those who received a standard alcoholism treatment.


What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is an anesthetic drug that is widely used for pain relief and to put people into a sleep-like state during surgical operations.


Since 1985, the World Health Organization has labeled it as an “essential medicine.”
In general anesthesia, patients start to feel hallucinations, dissociation, and changes in perception after taking Ketamine drug.
That’s why it has the potential to treat mental health conditions such as addiction.



How can Ketamine help?

The World Health Organization estimates that three million people are dying every year in the world as a result of harmful use of alcohol, this represents 5.3 % of all deaths.


In a press release, researchers from the University of Exeter and Awakn Life Sciences said that when Ketamine drug was given with psychological therapy, the risk of relapse in the people who received ketamine-plus-therapy for six months was 2.7 times lesser compared to those who received a placebo plus alcohol cessation education.

Ketamine infusion with psychological therapy could treat people suffering from alcohol addiction
Ketamine infusion with psychological therapy could treat people suffering from alcohol addiction



Celia Morgan, lead of the Ketamine for reduction of Alcohol Relapse (KARE) trials, said that “Alcoholism can destroy lives, and we urgently need new ways to help people cut down. We found that controlled, low doses of ketamine combined with psychological therapy can help people stay off alcohol for longer than a placebo. 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.”

“We’ve had no new treatments for alcoholism in the last fifty years. We found that controlled, low doses of ketamine combined with therapy can offer new hope for alcoholics and save lives,” she said.


The finding also shows that the patients who received ketamine drugs had lower depression after three months, and better liver function compared to those on placebo.

Before starting the trial, researchers found that the participants were consuming an average of 50 pints of strong beer in a week. that is equal to 125 units of strong beer.

After they received the ketamine drug along with the psychological therapy, they consumed alcohol over the recommended guidelines in just five days in total.


Professor Anne Lingford-Hughes, a co-author on the study said “The KARE trial is a significant step towards investigating a new approach to meet the immense unmet treatment need associated with alcoholism. The trial shows that ketamine therapy may be one way we’re able to reverse alcohol-related harms experienced by so many.”


This proves that ketamine infusion with psychological therapy will cut the risk of death from alcohol-related problems from one in eight to one in 80.
The KARE trial was the first to compare ketamine with and without psychological therapy.

Professor Morgan said: “The number of alcohol-related deaths has doubled since the pandemic begun, meaning new treatments are needed more urgently than ever. Previously, there were some concerns about using ketamine in alcoholics due to liver problems, but this study has shown that ketamine is safe and well-tolerated in clinical conditions. In fact, we found liver function improved in the ketamine group due to them drinking much less alcohol.”

“This was a phase II clinical trial, meaning it’s conducted in people primarily to test how the safety and feasibility of the treatment. We now have an early signal this treatment is effective. We now need a bigger trial to see if we can confirm these effects.


A participant was interviewed in the trial.
He felt less depressed and thinking less about their problems compared to the previous situations. He felt more connected to the world.

“The sense of oneness that I felt and the sense of moving away from focusing on the worries and the small stuff is helpful in terms of improving my relationship with alcohol. Because I think I used alcohol as a self-medication and as a blocking and avoiding mechanism. And I think feeling that those issues are less prevalent or at least less important means I feel less motivated to drink,” he said.

The University of Exeter was in collaboration with the Imperial College London and University College London.
The study was conducted in the NIHR Exeter Clinical Research Facility at the NIHR UCLH Clinical Research Facility.


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