Therapy involving the use of ketamine is showing more promise as an effective part of treatment for addiction as well as a number of mental health concerns. Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy is a unique approach that involves medical support as well as counseling to help the patient work through underlying issues in a safe manner.
The Central Nervous System
Ketamine is defined as a dissociative anesthetic drug. That essentially means that it can produce a kind of disconnection from an individual’s normal way of experiencing or feeling. Ketamine acts on the central nervous system as an antagonist of a receptor known as n-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA). It can be a rapid-acting anti-depressant and can also be useful in reducing problematic drug and alcohol use.
It is thought that ketamine works within addiction by enhancing the ability of the neural networks in the brain to change, through reorganization and growth, as well as enhancing the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain. The drug has been shown to disrupt neural networks as it acts to treat depressive symptoms, blocking drug-related memories and increasing the effectiveness of psychological therapy.
Substance Use Disorder
Recent studies have shown the effectiveness of ketamine in the treatment of substance use disorders, including addiction to alcohol, opioids, and cocaine. Seven studies were conducted on the use of ketamine, particularly as part of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy treatments. Of the seven studies, two focused on alcohol use disorder, two focused on cocaine use disorder, and three focused on opioid use disorder.
The studies on cocaine use disorder both found improvements in motivation, cravings, and decreased rates of use. The studies on opioid use and alcohol use disorders revealed improvement in abstinence rates among the group using ketamine as part of their addiction therapy. These studies and their results suggest that ketamine therapy may facilitate abstinence in other substances that are prone to be abused.
In other studies, ketamine was shown to be effective in prolonging abstinence from alcohol in individuals who had successfully completed detox as well as abstinence from heroin in those individuals who had completed their detox from that drug. In addition, ketamine therapy conducted with cocaine users reduced their cravings and their rates of self-administration of the drug.
For individuals who are challenged with emotional suffering such as depression, ketamine-assisted psychotherapy has been found to be effective as well. In fact, ketamine is the only legal psychedelic medicine available for use by mental health providers for treating emotional suffering. Researchers have determined that the treatment can benefit patients with a variety of diagnoses when administered with psychotherapy.
Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy has been shown to provide a unique experience that includes experiential, biological, and psychological impacts. The researchers’ findings suggest that ketamine-assisted psychotherapy can be effective for decreasing anxiety and depression in a professionally monitored and supervised setting.
Additional clinical studies have investigated the effectiveness of ketamine therapy for the treatment of comorbid pain, substance use disorders, and depression. These studies have shown the efficacy of the drug in both pain disorders and depressive disorders, lasting three to four weeks after its use. The lasting effects of ketamine therapy have also shown promise for individuals with substance use disorders.
Individuals with opioid dependency or addiction can decrease their cravings, given ketamine’s effects on reducing opiate-induced hyperalgesia. It can also help alleviate the symptoms of withdrawal for those who are detoxing from their opioid use.
While researchers caution that ketamine is itself potentially a drug of abuse, when used appropriately by clinical professionals it has been shown to produce positive results. In particular, ketamine-assisted psychotherapy can help those patients who are dependent on substances such as drugs and alcohol to cultivate new ideals and perceptions that are consistent with sobriety in addiction treatment.
Contact Recovery Without Walls for Exceptional Psychotherapy
At Recovery Without Walls, we focus on exceptional psychotherapy, evidence-informed research, and integrative healing methods, to help you with the treatment of depression, anxiety, phobias, chronic pain, and addiction. We also offer help with anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage you to email or call us for care and answers to your questions. Our providers continue to work to help you through treatment and recovery. Contact us today to learn more about the link between mental illness and substance use disorder and to get help.