Ketamine - It’s Not Just for Depression Anymore...Can It Help Cure Addiction?
By Ketamine Institute staff
Ketamine is gaining widespread acceptance as a fast and effective treatment for depression. It is so successful that ketamine has been called “the most important discovery in depression research in half a century” says Ronald Duman MD, Professor of Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine. “A single dose of ketamine alleviates depressive symptoms within hours in patients who have failed to respond to two or more conventional antidepressants” he states in a scientific article published in the respected journal Science.
Researchers now believe it can treat more than depression and anxiety. Ketamine has recently generated a lot of interest among psychiatrists and addiction medicine physicians as a potential new and rapidly effective approach to treating struggling with other difficult-to-treat conditions such as substance abuse disorders and alcohol dependence.
"Current treatments benefits for alcoholism are at best modest, about three quarters of people return to drinking after 6 months, so there is a great need for new and more effective therapies" said Dr. Grass, Director of the Ketamine Institute in Pensacola Fl. “Many patients who come to us for ketamine therapy with conditions such as depression, anxiety or PTSD have self-medicated with alcohol or opioids to find relief. Initially, they find that alcohol seems to help their symptoms until it doesn’t anymore and it then become another serious medical issue in their lives” says Dr. Grass.
Can Ketamine Cure Alcoholism or Drug Addiction?
Research studies are currently underway at Yale and Columbia University in the United States and the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom to explore the beneficial effects of ketamine infusions on substance abuse disorders. Ketamine has already been shown to be an effective for depression, something that many people with substance abuse issues encounter as they try to become sober. As an antidepressant, it's unique in that it acts very quickly, with patients often reporting an improvement in their mood over just one or two days. That could make it ideal for treating active, as well as, recovering alcoholics, who often suffer from depression immediately after quitting.
“This form of therapy is not new, says Dr. Grass. We have known for almost 30 years that ketamine may be effective in dealing with substance abuse issues.” In the 1990’s, Dr. Evgeny Krupitsky published research documenting over 10 years of observations utilizing ketamine for substance abuse disorders. His results suggest that ketamine can be remarkably more effective that current treatment options. Few people with substance abuse disorders can maintain abstinence following therapy with traditional approaches. However, Krupitsky found that as many as 66% remained alcohol free after one years as compared to only 24% with traditional treatment.
In addition, Krupitsky also found that the beneficial effects were dose dependent and that those people who received higher dosages of ketamine did better than those who received lower amounts. Following the study, psychological testing revealed that ketamine treated patients showed improvement on tests such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) personality profile. Changes seen included a positive transformation of self-concept and emotional attitudes, positive changes in life values and purposes. Patients also experienced important insights into the meaning of life and an increase in the level of spiritual development. Most importantly, these psychological changes tend to favor a sober lifestyle.
“We see many patients with depression, anxiety or PTSD who have at one point or another turned to alcohol or other substances to find relief only to become dependent upon these drugs”, says Dr. Grass. “A ketamine infusion, given at the right dose, can be a remarkably effective therapy in reversing these symptoms and alleviating their dependence upon alcohol or opioids. Often after just several ketamine treatments they can stop drinking and have no interest in alcohol or drugs after that.”
Ketamine – It’s Just the Beginning
Although more research is needed to determine exactly why there’s such a strong correlation between ketamine therapy and decreased use of alcohol and opioids, this observation does appear to validate the experiences of many people who have found substances like ketamine be life-changing tools that have helped them lead happier, more fulfilling lives. For many, this therapy has helped them cut back or quit their use of alcohol, opioids or other substances with which they have had a problematic relationship. One day, doctors may use ketamine routinely not only to help severely depressed people, but many who suffer from related conditions such as alcohol and substance abuse issues. “While the science is very promising, ketamine is not to be considered lightly and must be carefully monitored when used. But with the excitement generated by early results, we will have more information soon,” Grass says.
Duman RS, Aghajanian GK, (2012) Synaptic Dysfunction in Depression: Potential Therapeutic Targets. Science. 338(6103):68-72.
Krupitsky EM, Grinenko AY, (1997) Ketamine Psychedelic Therapy (KPT): A Review of the Results of Ten Years of Research. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 29(2):165-83