For severe alcoholics ketamine and psychological therapy showed positive results

Research has shown that severe alcoholics could benefit from ketamine and psychological therapy and they were able to stay off alcohol for longer.

The clinical trial named Ketamine for reduction of Alcohol Relapse (KARE) trial was led by the University of Exeter wherein researchers administered low doses of ketamine combined with psychological therapy. This was a phase II trial and results indicate that this combination therapy could prevent people from quickly returning to heavy drinking after stopping.

This controlled ketamine therapy can reduce the numbers of alcoholics who relapse and these are just preliminary results. Currently, few effective treatments exist for severe alcoholism, which has a devastating impact on lives. The KARE trial was the first trial to compare ketamine with and without therapy in any mental health context.

Published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, the study included 96 people with alcohol problems who were abstinent at the time of the trial. The team found that people who had ketamine combined with therapy stayed completely sober for 162 of 180 days in the six month follow-up period, representing 87 per cent abstinence. This was significantly higher than any of the other groups, indicating that the therapy may also have promise for preventing relapse. This group was more than 2.5 times more likely to stay completely abstinent at the end of the trial than those on placebo.

The team also found some evidence that ketamine and therapy may prevent any drinking over six months, though the results were more mixed. Patients having ketamine also had lower depression after three months, and better liver function than those on placebo, regardless of whether it was combined with therapy or not.

Before the trial, participants were drinking every day, consuming the equivalent of 50 pints of strong beer on average per week (125 units). Participants given ketamine and therapy drank over the recommended guidelines on just five days in total over the six month trial period on average. This represents cutting the risk of death from alcohol-related problems from one in eight, to one in 80.

For one of the participants in the trial interviewed, thinking less about their own problems and feeling more connected with the world around seemed to affect their relationship with alcohol. Many of the participants saw the combination of ketamine and therapy as a beneficial combination.

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