This Is How Ketamine Might Help Addicts

By David Jenison on February 28, 2018

Recent studies suggest ketamine can play a role in treating depression and cocaine, heroin and alcohol addiction, but a new study published in Neuropharmacology considers how the drug potentially helps. British and Russian researchers explained that the dissociative anaesthetic drug might aid addiction recovery through various possible mechanisms, which include the following:

  • Enhancement of neuroplasticity and neurogenesis
  • Disruption of relevant functional neural networks
  • Treating depressive symptoms
  • Blocking reconsolidation of drug-related memories
  • Enhancing psychological therapy efficacy 
  • Provoking mystical experiences

The latter point regarding mystical experience is particularly interesting as this study in the same journal specifically examined three ketamine-use characteristics—acute mystical-type effects, dissociation and near-death experience phenomena—and identified the mystical-type experience as the primary experience among the three that assists in cocaine-addiction recovery. 

At present, it's uncertain which mechanisms provide therapeutic benefits for addiction recovery, and to what extent. For this reason, the researchers stressed that identifying the efficacious mechanisms "is crucial for advancing this treatment and may have broader implications [in] understanding other psychedelic therapies. In conclusion, ketamine shows great promise as a treatment for various addictions, but well-controlled research is urgently needed."

Photo credit: Trainspotting

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