Are you a recently recovered alcoholic worried about relapsing? Are you living in London? If you meet these two criteria, British scientists would love to slip you a dose of ketamine.
The euphoria-inducing ‘90s club drug, better known as Special K, has undergone a rebrand in recent years as a potentially therapeutic drug for treating depression. Now, scientists at Exeter University are looking to use it to treat alcoholism. On the website for the clinical known as KARE — that’s short for Ketamine for Reduction of Alcohol Relapse — the researchers are actively recruiting 96 recently abstinent volunteers with severe alcohol use disorder to take part in a study exploring how useful ketamine could be in preventing former alcoholics from hitting the sauce again.
The six-month study, which received funding from the UK’s Medical Research Council, is a follow-up to a pilot study showing ketamine coupled with psychotherapy could reduce the rate of relapse from 76 percent to 34 percent. This impressive decline has been being chalked up to ketamine’s antidepressant qualities, but more research — and more test subjects — are needed to know for sure. That’s why the KARE researchers have set up multiple test sites, recruiting volunteers living in the southwestern parts of the UK or in London for their research and offering participants compensation for travel.
People signing up for the study will get a single low dose of ketamine once a week for three weeks, together with seven 90-minute psychotherapy sessions. They’ll each also have to wear an ankle monitor to keep track of any alcohol that might show up in their sweat if they relapse.
As far as illicit party drugs go, ketamine is relatively safe at low doses, and it’s not really all that illicit. Both in the UK and stateside, it’s been approved for use as an anesthetic since at least the 1970s. It can, of course, cause hallucinations and changes in vision, hearing, and the sense of touch, but these are generally mild.