OOvercoming substance abuse is really hard.  In fact, on average, 40-60% of those who pursue sobriety relapse. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 19.7 million American adults battled a substance use disorder in 2017. From those, nearly 74% of them struggled with alcohol abuse. 38% of those adults battled illicit drug use. While there is debate over what causes addiction—genetics, environment, personal choices—the solution for it remains the same: in-patient care for severe cases, regular psychotherapy sessions, and prescribing pharmaceutical medications. Drug abuse and addiction costs American society over $740 billion annually, due to lost workplace productivity, healthcare expenses, and crime-related costs. And, while those struggling with an addiction are worth the money spent, it is important that treatment is as effective as possible. 

Those who struggle with an addiction due to psychological issues—to escape troublesome situations, memories, or environments—may benefit the most from psychotherapy and medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps to teach the individual how to rationalize and separate issues into small, realistic and actionable pieces. This makes it possible for them to navigate through their issues without relinquishing control of their health, and in some cases, their lives.

However, sometimes there is not an immediate psychological reason for an addiction. In these situations, failing to receive adequate treatment could result in a relapse—perhaps out of desperation. When such a thing occurs, alternative or newer treatment options become crucial for their recovery.

One alternative is ketamine, an intravenous (IV) anesthetic, which has been used medically for sedation since the 1970’s. While it has been traditionally used as a surgical anesthetic, studies have shown it to be effective in treating things like depression and substance use disorders. Traditional antidepressants attempt to offset the damage caused by depression by promoting serotonin production, while ketamine works a bit differently, blocking NMDA receptors and working to repair damaged neural connections in the brain, thereby reducing depressive symptoms—oftentimes in just a few hours. Even better, while traditional antidepressants require daily dosing, and whose effects can take weeks to become noticeable, patients will feel the impact of ketamine infusions almost immediately—oftentimes within 1-2 hours of their initial infusion.

The reason why researchers are now looking at ketamine for alcoholism and addiction is because scientists have discovered that ketamine affects memory formation. It promotes the growth of new neural connections in the brain. Specifically, the growth of dendritic spines in the prefrontal cortex. Interestingly, it is believed that these processes are impaired in those who are depressed or have addiction issues. Therefore, treating these symptoms with ketamine could make it possible for them to form new memories, and make it easier to adopt new behaviors. There is still much more research to be done about the potential use of ketamine to treat alcoholism and addiction before it becomes available, but the potential for new hope is promising—and much needed.

ketamine for depression

Contact Ketamine Greater Boston

If you, or someone you love is struggling with severe depression or anxiety and have tried everything to no avail, ketamine infusions may be able to help you. Contact our Boston, MA or West Hartford, CT ketamine clinics for more information on these innovative and life-changing infusions and find out if you’re a candidate for ketamine treatments!

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