Ketamine-Assisted Therapy Could Help Combat Drug Abuse
Drug addiction (clinically known as substance use disorder) is a significant concern in the United States. One out of every ten Americans will experience drug use disorder at some time in their lives. This means 23 million people are impacted. However, 75% will never receive any treatment.(1) Of those that do seek help, 40% to 60% of individuals struggling with a substance use disorder will relapse.(2)
What is Drug Addiction?
What are the Symptoms of Drug Addiction?Drug addiction presents in many forms. Symptoms can be physical, behavioral, and psychological.
They can include:(4)
What are Some Commonly Abused Drugs?
Some commonly abused drugs include:(5)
Can Ketamine Help with Opioid and Opiate Addiction?
Fortunately, researchers have found that ketamine may provide a new tool for combating drug addiction and abuse. This promising research suggests that ketamine is a viable solution for those struggling with opioid addiction.
Ketamine and Cocaine Use DisorderKetamine may also work to help individuals with addiction to cocaine. A study was done on eight individuals dependent on the drug. The participants were divided into three different groups: two ketamine groups, one low-dose (0.41mg/kg) and one high-dose (0.71 mg/kg), and a placebo group (IV Lorazepam). The results showed that the group with the low-dose infusion of ketamine had a greater motivation to quit using cocaine than the placebo group. Additionally, those that received low-dose ketamine significantly reduced the number of days they used cocaine (22 out of 28 days before treatment was reduced to five out of 28 days following treatment, four weeks later).(8)
What Causes Addiction?Addiction is a complex condition that can have a range of underlying causes.(9) Age, stress, environment, occupation, and mental health are contributing factors. In many cases, these stressors can cause people to seek a means of escape or reprieve. This need for release and escapism may cause some individuals to seek out substances that make them feel good or allow them to temporarily avoid the problems that are causing them stress and pain, whether emotional or physical.(10)
This “feel-good” sensation is largely due to a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is released when we’re engaged in activities we enjoy and is produced in greater amounts when users ingest certain drugs, such as narcotics, amphetamines, and opioids. Specifically, drugs that work as dopamine agonists (meaning it activates and binds to dopamine receptors). Over time, users need greater amounts of dopamine to feel good. This never-ending drive to re-experience the initial dopamine rush is one of the key factors in addiction.
What is Ketamine Therapy for Drug Addiction?Ketamine has the potential to help people struggling with drug addiction by reducing their cravings. Once someone has this aspect of their condition under control, they may begin taking other steps to help them continue their recovery. Ketamine therapy is not a cure-all, but early trials are very promising.
How Does Ketamine-Assisted Therapy Work for Drug Addiction
To understand how ketamine therapy treats drug addiction, we first need to understand how the brain works. In addition to dopamine, our brains possess over 100 types of neurotransmitters.(11) Neurotransmitters are tiny messengers that allow the cells in our brains to communicate. Dopamine, as noted, is one of many chemicals that tell our brains to experience pleasure.
One of the primary neurotransmitters involved in drug addiction and recovery is glutamate. Glutamate, among other things, allows our brains to learn and remember. Glutamate is so important that without it, we would have a hard time functioning at all.
Is Ketamine for Drug Addiction Effective?
Some recent trials have shown that high-dose ketamine treatments and ketamine-assisted psychotherapy may successfully treat opioid addictions, particularly heroin abuse. High-dose ketamine therapy produced a significantly greater rate of abstinence in heroin addicts within the first two years of follow-up, a greater and longer-lasting reduction in craving for heroin, and more positive change in nonverbal unconscious emotional attitudes than low-dose ketamine therapy did.(16) They also experienced fewer cravings and increased positive attitudes.
How Safe is Ketamine for Drug Abuse?The good news about ketamine is that it is being studied widely. The results of preliminary studies indicate ketamine may effectively combat drug and alcohol addictions and overcome conditions like depression and anxiety. Significantly, the drug has shown to be relatively safe and well-tolerated throughout these various trials.(17,18)
Given its relative safety and apparent efficacy when used in therapeutic settings, ketamine could be a promising option for individuals struggling with drug addiction.
Could Ketamine Help You Overcome Drug Addiction?Ketamine, like any treatment for drug addiction, should be discussed with your physician, psychologist, or other health care provider. Ketamine therapy could be a good treatment option for drug addiction and substance use disorder. If you and your doctor believe ketamine is the appropriate treatment for you, you can explore ketamine clinics in your area.