US clinic offers ketamine therapy to treat alcoholism

A US clinic is offering ketamine alongside psychotherapy for people suffering from alcoholism as the growing psychedelic industry turns to addiction treatment.

Nushama, who is based in New York, said she would dose her first patients this week with ketamine, a hallucinogenic drug approved by regulators half a century ago as a surgical anesthetic but which has since gained notoriety in as an illegal party drug.

The Wellness Clinic specializes in using psychedelic therapies to treat depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses. He licensed combination therapy to treat alcohol use disorder from Awakn Life Sciences, a UK biotech that develops psychedelic-assisted treatments for addictions such as gambling, compulsive sexual behavior and binge eating. .

Nushama’s four-week ketamine and psychotherapy program costs around $10,000 per person. It is not covered by US insurers because ketamine has not been approved by regulators to treat alcohol use disorder and is therefore prescribed “off label” by clinic physicians.

Anthony Tennyson, chief executive of Awakn, said there is growing scientific evidence that ketamine-assisted therapies administered by properly trained professionals can recalibrate the brain, combat addictive behaviors and prevent relapses. . The company has signed licensing agreements with several third-party clinics in North America and Europe to use the therapy and has established four of its own clinics in the UK and Norway, he said.

“It’s not about walking in, chatting with a doctor for 15 minutes, getting a prescription and going home,” Tennyson said. “We use psychedelic drugs, ketamine, to disrupt operations in (the brain) to some degree. And during this disruption, we offer therapy to allow people to recalibrate and regain control of the cognitive part of the brain.

Last year, a mid-stage clinical trial conducted by the University of Exeter found that people could avoid alcohol for longer when treated with low doses of ketamine combined with psychotherapy. Participants using the therapy were more than 2.5 times more likely to remain abstinent at the end of the trial than those who received a placebo, according to results published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Researchers have reported that the experiences people describe after taking ketamine suggest it can provide new insight that can be helpful in psychological therapy. The drug induces a sense of being outside your body that can help patients step back and consider their thoughts and feelings, they said.

“We use the drug as a way for people to access therapy. It’s potentially useful for people who are stuck in a rut and overwhelmed by their own problems,” said Professor Celia Morgan, lead researcher of the trial at the University of Exeter.

She said ketamine was well tolerated by trial participants and previous concerns that it might impact liver function in alcoholics did not prove to be an issue. Liver function improved for trial participants taking ketamine because they drank less, Morgan said.

Awakn has authorized the University of Exeter Therapeutic Package, which is recruiting participants for a late-stage trial co-funded by the UK government and implemented by the NHS. It also appointed Morgan to its Scientific Advisory Board.

Ketamine is one of many psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin, which is the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, mescaline and ecstasy which are being studied or used “off label” to treat depression, anxiety and a range of other illnesses. They are at the forefront of the psychedelic drug industry, which is expected to grow in value to $8.3 billion in 2028 from $3.6 billion in 2021, according to a report by research firm InsightAce Analytic. .

Several biotechs, including DemeRX and Atai Life Sciences, are investigating whether ibogaine, a psychoactive plant substance found in West Africa, can be used to treat addiction. In 2021, the US National Institutes for Research awarded its first grant in half a century to directly study the therapeutic effects of a psychedelic: a $4 million award to Johns Hopkins Medicine to study the impact of psilocybin on tobacco addiction.

The rewards of obtaining regulatory approval for drugs to treat addiction are potentially enormous, given that excessive alcohol consumption alone is responsible for 140,000 deaths a year in the United States and costs the economy about $249 billion.

Addiction medicine experts have hailed the growing body of research into the use of psychedelics to treat addiction, but say there should be rigorous scrutiny of adverse events during trials. Many psychedelic drugs have side effects, can be addictive and in some cases dangerous, especially if taken without medical supervision, they say.

“It is important to explore the research and therapeutic potential of ketamine in alcohol dependence,” said Professor Michael Farrell, director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Center at the University of New South Wales, in Australia. “(But) caution is warranted as ketamine addiction can be a real risk and a devastating complication.”

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