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Ketamine’s Potential Benefits in Alcohol use Disorder Treatment

Derived from PCP, a well-known hallucinogen, Ketamine is a popular psychoactive drug that is used by medical professionals as an anesthetic. Ketamine is safer than other anesthetic drugs and is used for pain management in addition to sedating patients with severe injuries. Ketamine is also an effective antidepressant and has been used to treat people with PTSD and treatment-resistant depression. There is a strong connection between depression and alcoholism, which has led researchers to explore the potential use of ketamine in treating alcohol use disorders. 

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    A Potential Game-Changer in the Fight Against Alcoholism

    Several clinical studies have been conducted to find out if ketamine is an effective way to treat alcoholism and other substance use disorders, and the results are encouraging. Because ketamine has dissociative, psychedelic properties, researchers have hypothesized that ketamine may make people more receptive to therapy, allowing them to make progress where other methods have failed.

    Although this body of research is still developing, there is good reason to believe that ketamine may be a game changer in the fight against alcoholism, a widespread substance use disorder that affects millions of people every year in the United States alone. 

    History of Ketamine and Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment

    Medications such as naltrexone, acamprosate, and disulfiram are often used alongside psychotherapy to treat people with alcohol use disorders. These drugs reduce cravings either by affecting people’s brain chemistry or by inducing unpleasant side effects when alcohol is consumed. Although this approach can help people struggling with an AUD, addiction professionals are interested in finding more effective treatment methods. 

    Clinicians have been interested in the potential of ketamine to treat alcohol use disorders since the 90s. A more recent study was conducted when Dr. Elias Dakwar, an associate medical professor at Columbia University Medical Center found a study on the positive behavioral effects of ketamine on people struggling with cocaine use disorders. Just one dose of ketamine had a long-lasting impact and inspired recipients to get sober, a highly surprising and unusual outcome compared to other medications. 

    Evidence Of Successful Ketamine Treatment

    According to an article published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, study subjects that received one infusion of Ketamine alongside several weeks of therapy experienced significantly lower rates of relapse and fewer instances of heavy drinking than people in the control group who were given Midazolam, another psychoactive drug. 

    A 2022 clinical study conducted by the UK biotechnology company Awakn Life Sciences reinforced these findings when they discovered that people who received a ketamine infusion alongside psychotherapy treatment reported the highest rates of abstinence from alcohol out of the other three control groups for up to six months after receiving treatment. 

    Will Ketamine Become a Mainstream Treatment Option For Substance Use Disorder?

    It is possible that Ketamine will become a more widely available treatment option for substance use disorders. Although ketamine has not been officially approved to treat substance use disorders in the United States, another form of Ketamine called Spravato has been approved by the FDA to treat depression, opening the way for Ketamine to be used in therapeutic settings. 

    Treatment center chains in the United States and Canada recently signed a licensing deal with Awakn, allowing them to use their ketamine-assisted psychotherapy protocol for alcohol use disorders. Now that ketamine treatment is available for people seeking more effective ways of treating alcohol use disorders, it seems that it is only a matter of time before the potential benefits of this approach are more widely realized.  

    Can I become addicted to Ketamine?

    Ketamine is a hallucinogenic drug and poses a risk of psychological, rather than physical dependence. It is a schedule III drug, which means that taking ketamine is illegal unless it has been prescribed by a medical professional. When administered in small doses for therapeutic purposes, the chances of developing a Ketamine dependency are very low. 

    What happens during Ketamine therapy?

    A small dose of Ketamine is injected into the bloodstream while your vital signs are carefully monitored by a doctor or registered nurse. You will be awake during the infusion but may experience some drowsiness. People report experiencing a dreamy, trance-like state while receiving a ketamine infusion that wears off once the treatment is complete.

    Is Ketamine dangerous?

    Ketamine is much safer than other anesthetic drugs, especially when administered in low doses by a medical professional. It can be dangerous when taken in combination with other drugs and may be unsafe for people with certain health conditions, which is why it should never be taken without medical supervision. 

    Alternative Treatments For Alcohol Abuse

    There are several alternative treatments for alcohol use disorders, including light therapy and meditation. Meditation is a useful tool for self-regulation, which may be helpful for people struggling with anxiety or depression, especially when used alongside other forms of treatment. People who struggle with alcoholism often suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders that interfere with their natural circadian rhythms, making it even more challenging to regulate their moods. Light therapy involves being exposed to bright artificial light during daylight hours which helps regulate sleeping patterns while reducing depression, addressing two significant issues that people with alcohol use disorders often struggle with. 

    How We Can Help You?

    At Magnified Health Systems, your healing is our passion. We offer several levels of care including medical detox, dual diagnosis, and medication-assisted treatment. Although Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for alcohol use disorders has not yet been approved by the FDA, we are always interested in cutting-edge, evidence-based treatments for addiction and mental health disorders. We believe in your ability to make a change and all of us at Magnified Health Systems are here to help you live your best life. We have multiple locations and make it easy to get started – contact us today. 

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    Medical Advice Disclaimer

    Magnified Health Systems aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.

    This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

    This content is verified and moderated by Dr. Brendan Bickley

    Dr. Bickley graduated from U.C. Irvine with honors: Phi Beta Kappa, Golden Key International Honor Society, Cum Laude. He has been featured on national radio and print media. He is also a frequent lecturer at National Conferences. He holds an A.S. degree in Drug & Alcohol Studies, and two B.A. degrees in Criminology & Psychology, and masters and doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. He is a licensed California Drug & Alcohol Counselor Level II, a licensed Clinical Supervisor and is certified in treating Eating Disorders.

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