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Goodbye Alcohol, Hello Ketamine

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Ketamine may be an effective treatment for excessive alcohol and drug consumption. Findings from a recent University College London study on ketamine’s treatment potential need further verification.

In the 2019 study, researchers dosed a group of heavy beer drinkers with ketamine. They set the minimum beer intake at of 30 pints or more per week. Each subject in the study received a shot of ketamine after researchers elicited pleasurable memories of beer. By activating the pleasurable memory while administering ketamine, researchers were able to block the memory and reduce the participants’ urge to drink. 

Shaun Linter, Health Correspondent for The Independent, described the study’s methodology and results. “First, [participants] were given a glass of beer after completing a task. They were shown images of beer while rating their desire, which activated their memories of drinking. On the second day, the glass of beer was taken away, triggering the brain to restore the reward memory of beer drinking. A third of the participants were given a dose of ketamine after the beer was taken away. Another group received a placebo. And a third group was given ketamine without previously completing the beer-drinking task. 

After 10 days, the group who received the ketamine after the beer drinking task showed significant reductions in their urge to drink. The effect was sustained over a nine-month follow-up.”

Encouraging Research for Addiction

This research is still in its preliminary phase, and not yet an official clinical trial. However, the results suggest exciting possibilities for future treatment and therapies for individuals working to overcome alcohol addiction, opioid addiction, and more. In theory, ketamine therapies could work to block urge-causing memories that affect self-control and addiction recovery. 

If a single dose of ketamine has the potential to reduce excessive drinking for nine months, who knows what possibilities this promising new therapy could have in store? Some medical professionals have already begun using ketamine therapies to treat conditions like depression and PTSD. But could the psychedelic provide a way to overcome addiction once and for all? 

Featured image commissioned by RS from Kaitlin Sobiesiak.

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