Ketamine infusion therapy has already been established as a treatment for depression, anxiety and PTSD. More recently it has become a promising treatment for alcoholism by addressing the underlying causes of substance use. Depressed mood, anxiety and stress are major determinants in alcohol use disorder and relapse. IV Ketamine infusions may reduce relapse, increase abstinence, and disrupt the positive memories of drinking. This makes ketamine an idea treatment for alcohol substance. In a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, one infusion of IV Ketamine therapy in conjunction with Ketamine assisted psychotherapy (KAP) showed improved rates of abstinence, prolonged time to relapse, and fewer days of heavy drinking.
Another study published in Nature Communications, a single IV Ketamine infusion was used to interfere with memory reconsolidation related to drinking cues in a group of young adults (55 men and 35 women) with harmful/hazardous drinking patterns. These study participants had a decrease in alcohol use during the first week after the procedure and at all study time points during the 9 month follow up period.
In a UK study looking at the efficacy of Ketamine for alcohol use disorder published in 2022 the patient participants were assigned to four different groups: ketamine-plus psychotherapy, ketamine only, psychotherapy only, and full placebo. When the patients were followed six months later, the ketamine-plus psychotherapy group had much better outcomes (measured by days of abstinence from alcohol) than the other three groups. The clinical research has shown that the combination of ketamine along with ketamine assisted psychotherapy (KAP) yields the best results in treating depression, anxiety, PTSD and substance use disorder /alcohol use disorder.
There are many causes of addiction including psychological, biological, social and cultural factors. Alcohol use disorder and depression/anxiety are two conditions that often co-occur. One can make the other worse, ending in a cycle that is ongoing and pervasive. Many people with depression or anxiety “self-medicate” with alcohol or other substances. By treating the underlying mental health disorder, a person has a much higher chance of maintaining sobriety.
Unlike antidepressants which work on serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, ketamine works by improving neuroplasticity and neurogenesis in the brain. Ketamine can turn down the volume on negative thinking, obsessive thoughts, and ruminations allowing for new constructive ways of thinking and positive habit formation. Ketamine is often seen as a “reset” for the brain and can be a catalyst for positive change in one’s life. Ketamine offers the opportunity to let go of what is no longer serving you and welcome in changes that support mental health, stability, and sobriety. Many patients state that IV Ketamine therapy and Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) helped change their relationship with alcohol making it less appealing. After treatment, they naturally sought out healthy coping mechanisms that didn’t involve alcohol. They started utilizing the tools of mindfulness, self discovery, emotional self regulation, self soothing, and newly learned distress tolerance tools, that they learned in Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP). We continue to see positive outcomes in the current research for IV ketamine therapy for mental health and alcohol use disorder.