Researchers are currently working with party drug ketamine to determine whether or not it can actually be used in lower doses to treat alcoholism and its effects. The idea is that ketamine causes changes in the brain, so it may actually increase the chances that psychological treatment will be more effective and will help an alcoholic avoid relapse.
The results of the pilot study have thus far proved very promising. When combined with therapy, ketamine was effective in reducing patients’ depression (and therefore their relapse rates) over the course of six months from 76 percent to 34 percent. That stunning number is a significant enough drop to continue pursuing the effects that ketamine can have on an alcoholic’s rate of recovery.
Changes in brain chemistry as a result of the drug were recognized after laboratory tests were performed on mice who were better able to learn new things after being introduced to the drug. And while ketamine has earned a reputation over the years for being a “party drug” that is consumed recreationally, it can actually be used safely when the user is in a controlled environment. Ketamine is also routinely administered in medicinal settings as an anesthetic.
Ketamine usage is particularly popular in the U.K., but a successful treatment in one part of the world is a successful treatment for all of us, so what better place to study the effects of a drug than in an area where it is used most often? Though, despite the positive effects that ketamine are being documented to have on an alcoholic, users should still be careful not to abuse the drug, as heavy users can succumb to such severe bladder damage that some users have actually been forced to have the organ removed. This condition is referred to as “k bladder.”
While alcoholics are making the right choice in deciding to drop the habit, depression tends to be the darker follow-up and most common response to drying out, and it tends to hit the hardest immediately upon quitting. So while the alcoholic is trying to do the right thing, s/he may have to overcome yet another difficult challenge, and that’s where ketamine may soon be able to come in.
While it sounds like ketamine would need to be taken habitually in order to stave off the depression, the opposite is actually true. Because ketamine changes the brain’s pathways, it can actually help therapeutic efforts to “stick.”
Though of course, as with any drug, it is possible to overdose on ketamine. Symptoms of ketamine overdose include psychosis, sleepiness, and severe sedation, with a serious risk of respiratory failure. The problem, though, is that ketamine is one of those drugs that affects every user differently; some may experience severe side effects from a small amount, while others may need more of the drug to even feel its effects.
This is why it is important to monitor a user’s consumption of ketamine in a controlled setting, so that if anything happens to go awry, interventions can be taken so that the user can be properly revived, should the need to revive the user actually arise.