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Ketamine could have health benefits for heavy drinkers

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It’s hard to fight a drinking habit and there are all sorts of methods to try and kick the addiction - but most of us wouldn't consider drugs to be the answer. As it turns out, however, there might be some health benefits to ketamine.

Scientists at UCL are exploring how ketamine can help heavy drinkers. The clinical psychopharmacology unit team have called for participants who might consider themselves heavy drinkers (consuming 30-40 units of alcohol per week). The study will include around 100 respondents.

The drug has previously been trialled for depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, with research into the potential PTSD treatment first starting in the 90s with veterans from the Gulf War. However, the idea that Ketamine might be able to combat alcohol addiction is a new phenomenon.

Participants of the study will be administered with a dose of intravenous ketamine or a placebo and the scientists will be mapping out how memory and learning new behaviours can be moulded by the drug.

Dr Sunjeev Kamboj, deputy director of CPU at UCL told Dazed magazine: “Ketamine has some very unusual properties that encourage rapid synaptic plasticity, which helps the brain to reshape very quickly. It’s a drug that under various circumstances can both enhance learning or disrupt it. Both of these strategies could potentially be helpful in treating addictive disorders.”

Kamboj explained that they will be measuring brainwaves, looking at the way people allocate their attention to alcohol and how ketamine might affect this. They will also look at how it affects craving and the behaviours that surround addiction.

The respondents for the current study are heavy drinkers, rather than alcoholics – the next logical step, if the study is successful, is to test higher levels of addiction.

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