Alcoholics could be treated with ketamine to help break their addiction, scientists have suggested.
A trial has found that a low dose of the illegal party drug could combined with psychological therapy helped patients being treated for alcohol addiction to maintain their sobriety for a longer period.
The phase II trial, understood to be the first of its kind, was conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter and funded by the Medical Research Council, and followed an earlier study that suggested controlled use of ketamine combined with therapy helped reduce the number of patients who relapsed.
The Ketamine for reduction of Alcohol Relapse (KARE) trial found that patients who were treated with a combination of ketamine and therapy stayed sober for 162 of 180 days over a six-month period – an 87% abstinence rate – and were twice as likely to stay abstinent at the end of the trial as patients given a placebo.
According to results published this week in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the study also found ‘mixed’ results showing that the combination could help prevent patients from relapsing at all over a period of six months.
‘This is extremely encouraging, as we normally see three out of every four people returning to heavy drinking within six months of quitting alcohol, so this result represents a great improvement,’ lead author Professor Celia Morgan said, per Sky News.
‘We’re certainly not advocating taking ketamine outside of a clinical context,’ she added, warning, ‘Street drugs come with obvious risks, and it’s the combination of a low dose of ketamine and the right psychological therapy that is key, as is the expertise and support of clinical staff.’
The study’s authors are now calling for a larger trial of the treatment to take place, pointing to the lack of effective existing medical treatments for alcohol addiction.
Around three in four alcoholics return to heavy drinking within six months of quitting, current figures show.
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