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- Results from new studies suggest that ketamine may be effective in treating alcohol use disorder.
- Researchers found that when participants were treated with ketamine instead of midazolam, a sedative that helps with alcohol withdrawal, they had higher rates of stopping drinking following treatment.
- They were also less likely to relapse, had fewer days of drinking, and had fewer days of heavy drinking.
Once derided as a “club drug,” the anesthetic ketamine is facing a surge of interest from doctors and researchers who say it could treat certain psychiatric disorders. The most prominent among them: depression.
However, a pair of new studies show promise for a new area of ketamine therapy: alcohol use disorder.
Both studies are early indicators that ketamine could, along with other alcohol interventions like therapy, some day help people decrease or stop drinking. But there’s a lot more research to be done.
The first study, published earlier this month in The American Journal of Psychiatry, was a pilot study, the first of its kind, to test the effects of ketamine and mindfulness practice against a control for alcohol use disorder.
The study included 40 participants who, on average, consumed about 5 drinks per day. Most of the participants were white, and most were employed.
Participants were randomly assigned to either receive a single infusion of ketamine along with a 5-week regimen of motivational enhancement therapy, or midazolam, a sedative that helps with alcohol withdrawal, and the same therapy.
Researchers found that participants who received ketamine rather than midazolam had higher rates of abstinence (stopping drinking) following treatment, were less likely to relapse, had fewer days of drinking, and had fewer days of heavy drinking.
The beneficial results of the ketamine also persisted for several weeks after the single dose infusion.