Treating alcoholism is often an intensive clinical process that involves ongoing behavioral therapy and medication that slowly reduces the desire to drink. But what if there was an easier and quicker option available? New research from FSU’s College of Medicine shows ketamine's potential to help those suffering from alcoholism.
How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?
Alcohol is the most abused drug in the United States and affects more than 27 million individuals. But how do you know whether you’re drinking too much? The drinking level standards are different between men and women:
- Moderate alcohol consumption: 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.
- Binge drinking: 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men—in about a 2-hour span.
- Heavy alcohol use: Binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.
Alcoholism, on the other hand, isn’t defined by a particular number of drinks. The characteristics of alcoholism include an inability to control drinking, an increased tolerance to alcohol, and continued drinking in spite of negative consequences. Alcohol dependence develops over time, leading to more severe health problems and loss of control.
Both binge drinking and alcoholism are considered alcohol use disorders (AUD) that pose serious risks, but not all who suffer from alcoholism engage in binge drinking, and not all binge drinkers are alcoholics. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) puts the number of heavy drinkers who are also alcohol dependent at just 10%.
Alcohol and Depression
Some people drink alcohol in an attempt to cope with their depression, while others develop depression as a result of their battle with alcoholism. The latter happens much more frequently and typically perpetuates the drinking-depression cycle further.
About a third of those who suffer from major depression have a co-occurring AUD. People are often drawn to the sedative effects of alcohol as a kind of self-healing form of medication. Alcohol distracts a person from overwhelming feelings, providing temporary relief from depression symptoms. However, this temporary respite actually worsens depression on a long-term basis, impacting finances, careers, and physical health. Alcohol often leads to longer periods of depression and can even make antidepressants less effective.
Ketamine Treatment for Alcoholism
Currently, the traditional treatment for alcoholism is moderately successful at best, with nearly 75% of alcoholics drinking again after six months. Many alcoholics resort to rehab, recovery programs, and even prescription drugs in order to get better, but these treatments don’t always work. Experts are in agreement that there is a dire need for a new and more effective addiction solution.
Ketamine infusion therapy has been generating significant interest amongst psychiatrists and addiction medicine physicians as a potential treatment for patients suffering from substance addiction or alcohol dependence. Since traditional alcohol treatment continues to have such a high relapse rate and few people are able to successfully quit over the long term, ketamine may be a viable option for treating alcoholism.
Ketamine therapy is being recognized as the biggest breakthrough treatment for depression, suicidal thinking, and PTSD. While other treatments take weeks or even months to work, ketamine therapy for anxiety and depression can provide significant relief from mood disorders as early as one hour after the first infusion. And thanks to many researchers around the world, there is now credible evidence that ketamine may be helpful in treating alcohol addiction.
The FSU study found that ketamine reduced alcohol intake in high-consumption male rats previously exposed to unlimited alcohol. This effect lasted three weeks after the ketamine treatment ended, a long time in proportion to the average lab rat’s three-year lifespan. With further research, this could potentially be reproduced and translated to several years of a human male’s lifetime.
Other researchers are studying how ketamine could help heavy drinkers seeking to decrease their alcohol dependence. According to psychologists at University College London, ketamine may be useful in disrupting negative behavioral patterns that lead to addiction. Ketamine can distort memory formation, helping overwrite the memories that fuel alcohol addiction and other harmful behavioral patterns.
With more clinical studies, researchers are hopeful they’ll soon have the information they need to safely prescribe ketamine to those suffering from an assortment of disorders. At Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles, our patient care specialists have made it a priority to track patients’ long-term progress. They’ve found that 83% experience long-lasting relief after completing a series of six infusions. If you suffer from alcohol use disorder, contact the patient care staff at KCLA to see if ketamine therapy could help you.