Drug trial: Participants will have three doses of Ketamine. PA How to treat alcoholism.
Party drug Ketamine is being trialled as a treatment for alcoholism after studies showed it could help our brains learn new habits.
A pilot study found that relapse rates for alcoholics were reduced from 76 to 34 per cent after they received three doses of the class B drug.
The Medical Research Council believe the drug, also used as a horse tranquilizer and anaesthetic, could produce changes in our brains that make it easier to make new connections and learn new things in the short-term.
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The project, called KARE (Ketamine for Reduction of Alcoholic Relapse) is recruiting 96 volunteers with severe alcohol use disorder.
They will have a low dose of Ketamine once a week, seven sessions of psychological therapy and will have to wear a tag on their ankle to monitor alcohol consumption through their sweat.
The MRC emphasised that, when in a controlled environment, ketamine is safe and not addictive but participants in the trial may experience a change in their vision or hearing.
Celia Morgan, Professor of Psychopharmacology at the University of Exeter and leading the trial, said: “Previous research has told us that Ketamine is a well-tolerated drug and can help alleviate the symptoms of depression, with a pilot study suggesting that it could cut alcohol relapse rates by more than half.
“This trial will allow us to examine whether Ketamine, combined with therapy, can indeed help people stay abstinent from alcohol”.
Dr Kathryn Adcock, head of neurosciences and mental health at the MRC, added: “Alcoholism can have a terrible impact on both the individual and those around them, but current treatments for alcohol dependence are associated with high relapse rates – with people often return to drinking after only a short time of abstinence.
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“We are constantly looking for new ways to help change this pattern and we look forward to the results of this innovative trial.”