Study says Ketamine reduces alcohol craving in heavy drinkers

News 27/11/2019

Jamie Ensor | Newshub

A single dose of ketamine could help heavy drinkers resist their urge to grab a pint, a new study has revealed.

According to the experimental study published in Nature Communications, administering a shot of ketamine - a sedative often used on animals - when a heavy drinker starts to remember the "rewards" of alcohol can lead to reduced drinking levels.

Ninety people with harmful drinking patterns were involved in the English study. They were shown a series of images of beer to induce thoughts about the so-called rewards of drinking and then injected with ketamine or saline solution.

Those injected with ketamine reported a reduction in the number of days per week they drunk and the volume of alcohol they consumed for up to nine months following the pharmaceutical intervention. 

"There was a really big drop-off, which was maintained or got even better up to nine months [after treatment]. I was surprised by how effective it was," said Dr Ravi Das, a psychologist at the University College London.

Dr Das said every behaviour is influenced by memories, so disrupting reward memories could be effective in affecting how people act.

Rupert McShane, a psychiatrist and the University of Oxford lecturer, was cited in the Guardian as saying: "If the findings of this study were replicated, it could be very important.

"At its broadest, it could imply that habits of thinking could be provoked and then usefully disrupted by a single ketamine infusion. If proven, this would have many therapeutic applications."

However, ketamine is known to be addictive and can cause harm to the bladder, so experts have warned people against relying upon it.