SNHS Spotlight: Ketamine Found Helpful for Treating Alcoholism

Ketamine, a non-function-depressing anesthetic, mild hallucinogen, and potent antidepressant, has been found to be very effective in treating those with alcohol use disorder. 

Ketamine compound courtesy of

In a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, participants were given a 52-minute injection of ketamine paired with motivational therapy and were monitored for the next three weeks. Individuals in the control group were given midazolam, a drug that has similar symptoms to ketamine, but is not associated with alcoholism and would therefore have no desired effect on the participants. According to Psychology Today, during the multiple week study, 53% of the experimental group abstained from alcohol, while only 41% of the control group was able to do the same. Furthermore, 18% of participants infused with ketamine had what was considered a heavy drinking day (more than four drinks in a day for a man, more than three drinks in a day for a woman) while 41% of the midazolam group did. The positive effects of the ketamine lasted throughout the experiment and didn’t dull as time went on, which is promising. Though the experimenters acknowledged that the sample size was relatively small, at 40 people total, and the length of monitoring should be longer in replicated studies in order to gather more information. 

According to Psychology Today, another study examining the effects of ketamine on alcoholism was posted in Nature Communications. This experiment was done on 90 participants and tested the relationship between ketamine and memory reconsolidation. People with alcohol use disorder have formed associations between specific aspects of their environment and drinking and therefore, when stimulated, will produce biological and psychological cues to drink. The study showed that if ketamine is introduced during the process of recalling and reconsolidating memories, it can modify those memories and make them less triggering. Throughout the nine month evaluation, alcohol use was significantly lower in participants, another promising outcome supporting the positive effects of ketamine. 

Katherine Conway ‘21, Local and World News Editor

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