New Treatment Uses Ketamine to Curb Alcoholism

It may seem counter-intuitive, but some are calling for ketamine to be administered to those struggling with alcoholism.


The scientists who support the treatment argue that ketamine can be used to “erase” memories related to drinking, allowing clients to overcome their alcohol addiction. Tests are underway at University College London, where psychologists are attempting to determine whether a one-time dose of ketamine might help drinkers who feel they are losing control to develop more restraint when it comes to their consumption of alcohol. Because there are so few effective therapies for alcoholism, the scientists are especially keen to determine whether or not ketamine might provide a successful route to recovery.


While some might find the utilization of a substance that is often used for recreational ends to be counterintuitive, there is a fair amount of research that points towards ketamine’s ability to disrupt potentially harmful behavior patterns. The researchers maintain that evidence suggests that it might be successful for the treatment of alcoholism.


The researchers believe that ketamine’s ability to affect the formation of memories might be utilized in order to “hijack” certain recollections in order to overwrite certain memories that might lead to substance abuse. For example, if a certain person has a strong association between a certain location and the desire to drink, that memory might be eradicated in order to prevent the person from succumbing to the temptation instilled by that location.


In fact, scientists are hopeful that ketamine might be used to subvert a plethora of memories that someone with a dependency on alcohol might find to be triggering, including stimuli like the sound two glasses make when clinked together, or even seeing a glass of beer.


When our brain accesses a particular memory, the neural pathways that reach the memory are destabilized for a moment. This provides the opportunity to modify the recollection before it is returned to “storage.” This can be a contributing factor when two people who witnessed the same event recall a different version.


However, the scientists at University College London perceive this moment of alteration to present a window of opportunity. By taking advantage of the momentary destabilization of the neural pathways, they believe they may be able to prevent the memory from returning to the same recollection. Ketamine blocks the NMDA receptor in the brain, which is necessary for memory formation. As such, they hope administering ketamine can either cause the memory to fade or eradicate it all together.


Related studies have shown some success in using ketamine to combat certain issues. In one example, people who had a phobia of spiders were able to better face their fear after being treated with ketamine. An experiment using rats showed that cocaine addiction could be usurped using ketamine (although in this case, ketamine was injected directly into the rats’ brains). As the study involving alcoholism is conducted, the scientists hope that they will develop a new protection against substance abuse.


If you’re struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, one of the addiction recovery facilities in the American Drug Testing Network may be able to help. Contact us today!

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