Ketamine Treatment for Alcoholism
April 22, 2022
Alcoholism is a major medical issue in the US and throughout the world. The World Health Organization estimates that 5% of the population worldwide suffers from the disease. Unfortunately, many patients do not respond to currently available treatment options such as medications and standard psychotherapy. Ketamine therapy for alcoholism may offer an exciting new treatment option.
The Psychopharmacology and Addiction Research Centre at the University of Exeter recently published an exciting new research paper that found significant benefits with intravenous ketamine for Alcohol Use Disorder.
The paper, entitled “Adjunctive Ketamine with Relapse Prevention-Based Psychological Therapy in the Treatment of Alcohol Use Disorder”, was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Feb 2022.
In this double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, a total of 96 patients with moderate to severe Alcohol Use Disorder were enrolled in the study. Half of the patients received weekly intravenous ketamine infusions and the other half received placebo infusions for 3 weeks. The groups were further subdivided to receive either psychotherapy or alcohol education for a total of 7 sessions. The participants were followed for a total of 6 months.
The ketamine was administered as an intravenous infusion over 40 minutes. The authors note that the intravenous route has by now been established as the conventional method for therapeutic uses. The intravenous route is the best method to control blood levels and is associated with fewer adverse events. Patients randomized to the placebo arm of the trial received a similar volume of normal saline given intravenously over 40 minutes.
The patients randomized to the therapy arm of the trial received 7 sessions of mindfulness-based relapse prevention. This type of therapy focuses on mindfulness exercises and practice as well as strategies for relapse prevention and overall wellbeing. Patients randomized to the alcohol education arm of the trial received 7 sessions on topics such as the driving forces of addiction and the biological effects of alcohol. This group received no formal psychological treatment.
Participants in the study were between 18 and 65 years of age with DSM criteria of moderate to severe Alcohol Use Disorder. There were multiple exclusion criteria including uncontrolled hypertension, a history of psychiatric illness other than anxiety or depression, and a history of substance abuse other than alcohol.
The results of the study showed that patients receiving intravenous ketamine had significantly increased days of abstinence during the 6 months of the trial. The study also found a possible added benefit to adding mindfulness-based relapse prevention therapy. Patients in the ketamine group also showed significant improvement in liver function tests during the trial. The ketamine was well tolerated and no serious adverse events were observed.
Finally, the authors note that many patients with Alcohol Use Disorder also suffer from depression. There are many other research studies showing the benefit of ketamine for depression. Current mental health services often struggle to help those with this dual diagnosis. Patients seeking ketamine treatment for alcohol abuse may also get relief from symptoms of depression, possibly solving this long-standing issue.
If you are looking for a ketamine clinic in the Chicago area, MD Infusions is a premier provider of ketamine infusions therapy.