Ketamine's Use to Treat Substance Use Disorders

In our last post, we answered the question, “Is Ketamine Addictive?”  Now, we want to share ketamine’s anti-addictive properties. In the past year, 20.2 million American adults (8.4%) had a substance use disorder.  Addiction is frequently seen in conjunction with mood disorders and may actually be a form of self-medication in these patients.  So can ketamine play a role in treating these patients, especially those with dual diagnoses?

In a recent review article, Dr. Jennifer Jones et al. identified 7 high quality studies looking at the efficacy of ketamine in the treatment of substance use disorders (cocaine, alcohol, & opioids).

They found two studies on cocaine and found improvements in craving, motivation, & decreased cocaine usage.  One study in particular found that ketamine increased motivation to quit cocaine over lorazepam (median score of 0.15 vs. 3.6, p = 0.012) and reduced cocaine craving on the visual analog scale by a mean of 168 mm (a 60% change, p = 0.012).

Additionally, they identified two studies on alcohol and found improvement in abstinence rates. One study found that 1-year abstinence rates were 65.8% in the ketamine-treated group compared to 24% in the follow-up as usual comparison group (p < 0.01).

Lastly, three studies on opioids found an overall improvement in abstinence rates. Out of these studies, one found that three repeated ketamine treatments with psychotherapy had a 50% abstinence rate at 1 year follow up.

This review article shows that ketamine is efficacious in helping patients suffering from substance use disorders.  Ketamine can not only help those mood disorders but those with substance abuse as well!  If you or someone you know is suffering from addiction, ketamine infusions are another treatment option to consider. 

References:

Jones, Jennifer L., et al. “Efficacy of Ketamine in the Treatment of Substance Use Disorders: A Systematic Review.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, vol. 9, 2018, doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00277