Psychedelic ketamine plus psychological therapy effectively treats addiction to alcohol

January 14, 2022
Psychedelic ketamine plus psychological therapy effectively treats addiction to alcohol

Ketamine infusions along with psychotherapy has been found to be more effective at maintaining long-term alcohol abstinence than any other treatment methods. According to a group of researchers from the University of Exeter, UK, ketamine-assisted psychotherapy kept adults with severe alcohol use disorder away from heavy drinking for up to six months after treatment.

The small, randomised Phase 2 controlled trial, dubbed KARE (Ketamine for the Reduction of Alcoholic Relapse) recruited 96 adults, split into four groups, who received: ketamine and psychotherapy, ketamine and alcohol education, placebo and psychotherapy, or placebo and alcohol education. The primary outcome measures were tracking overall relapse rates and total days abstinent six months post-treatment.

[Each subject received either ketamine or a placebo accompanied by seven one-hour sessions of either psychotherapy or education about the risks of alcohol use.]

The researchers found the ketamine plus psychotherapy group displayed the highest abstinence rates out of the four groups – ketamine-assisted psychotherapy was 2.5 times more likely lead to abstinence at the six-month follow-up (87% abstinence).

The researchers indicate a synergistic effect to the combination of ketamine and psychotherapy which leads to beneficial therapeutic outcomes exceeding anything seen with each element alone.

“Alcoholism can destroy lives, and we urgently need new ways to help people cut down,” explained Professor Celia Morgan, University of Exeter. “We found that controlled, low doses of ketamine combined with psychological therapy can help people stay off alcohol for longer than 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.”

The professor, however, notes that the trial results does not suggest ketamine can be safely or self-administered outside of clinical contexts. “Street drugs come with obvious risks, and it’s the combination of a low dose of ketamine and the right psychological therapy that is key, as is the expertise and support of clinical staff. This combination showed benefits still seen six months later, in a group of people for whom many existing treatments just don’t work.”

Professor Morgan is currently working with biotechnology companies and other researchers to deliver ketamine-assisted therapy in clinics across the UK and Europe.

Anthony Tennyson, Chief Executive of AWAKN, a biotechnology company developing and delivering psychedelic therapeutics (medicines and therapies) to treat addiction, which has acquired the rights to the KARE research, said, “We are so pleased to see such encouraging results in an area of treatment that has been stagnant for so long, leaving so many people with little or sub-par options available to them. With ketamine being a licensed medicine, it means we can deliver this treatment now in our clinics and through partnerships, which is a radical shift in the alcohol addiction treatment industry.”

Read: Dual-drug therapy may be the answer to alcohol addiction

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Category: Education, Features

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