Addiction is a chronic and debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. While traditional treatments such as therapy and medication-assisted treatment have been helpful for some, they do not work for everyone. Recently, ketamine therapy has been used as a treatment option for addiction. In this article, we will examine what ketamine is, how it works for addiction, the evidence supporting its use, the potential risks and side effects, and practical considerations for those considering using ketamine infusion therapy for addiction treatment.
What is ketamine?
Ketamine is a fast-acting anesthetic and dissociative drug. It was first developed in the 1960s as a surgical anesthetic and is still used today. In recent years, ketamine has gained attention for its potential to treat a variety of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and addiction.
How ketamine works for addiction
Ketamine works by altering the activity of neurotransmitters and receptors in the brain. Specifically, it affects the activity of glutamate, a neurotransmitter involved in several essential brain processes, including memory, learning, and emotions. By affecting glutamate activity, ketamine infusion therapy can reduce the severity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction.
Ketamine works by stimulating the production of new connections between brain cells, which can help break the addiction cycle. Additionally, ketamine is proven to increase the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein involved in the growth and survival of new brain cells. BDNF can lead to an increase in the number of new brain cells and a reduction in the severity of addiction-related symptoms.
Research and evidence on ketamine therapy for addiction
While research on the use of ketamine for addiction is limited, many clinical trials and studies have explored the benefits of ketamine infusion therapy and its potential as a treatment. The results of these studies have been mixed, with some showing promising results and others showing little to no effect.
One study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that ketamine infusion effectively reduced the severity of cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with addiction to alcohol and opiates, such as heroin. Another study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry reached similar conclusions.
Potential risks and side effects of ketamine for addiction
Like any drug, ketamine carries potential risks and side effects. Short-term effects of ketamine use include dizziness, confusion, impaired judgment, and loss of motor coordination.
Practical considerations for using ketamine for addiction treatment
Before opting for ketamine therapy treatment for addiction, it is crucial to consider several practical factors. One of the main considerations is the cost of ketamine infusion therapy.
In addition to the administration of ketamine, treatment costs include a private room with a recliner, a registered nurse or paramedic monitoring to track your vital signs and ensure your comfort, and any additional medications needed during the session. The initial treatments, usually condensed into a single week, are referred to as stabilizing treatments. After the stabilizing period, ongoing treatments are referred to as maintenance treatments. The clinical team will evaluate your progress closely after the stabilizing period, and the maintenance protocol is tailored to the patient’s needs to prolong the intervals between treatments.