A low dose of ketamine could be used alongside psychological therapy to help reduce alcohol relapse, according to a new study.

The research, led by the University of Exeter and funded by the Medical Research Council, is the first of its kind with clinical trials producing “extremely encouraging” results.

A report on the findings has since been published in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

A great improvement

The trial, titled ‘Ketamine for reduction of Alcohol Relapse (KARE)’, found that controlled low doses of ketamine combined with psychological therapy helped people stay off alcohol for longer than the placebo.

To gain the most conclusive insight, 96 people with alcohol problems took part in the study. They were abstinent at the time of the trial.

It was found that people who took ketamine combined with therapy stayed completely sober for 162 of 180 days in the six-month follow-up period, representing 87 per cent abstinence.

Professor Celia Morgan of the University of Exeter and lead author on the study said: “Alcoholism can destroy lives, and we urgently need new ways to help people cut down.

“This result is extremely encouraging, as we normally see three out of every four people returning to heavy drinking within six months of quitting alcohol, so this result represents a great improvement.”

Professor Morgan added: “We now need a bigger trial to see if we can confirm these effects.

“We’re certainly not advocating taking ketamine outside of a clinical context. Street drugs come with obvious risks, and it’s the combination of a low dose of ketamine and the right psychological therapy that is key, as is the expertise and support of clinical staff.”

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