Ketamine and therapy helps alcoholics ‘stay off heavy drinking’ in Exeter University study

  • Watch Bob Cruwys' report

Researchers at the University of Exeter have shown in a trial that more than 80 per cent of people with alcohol problems abstain from drinking six months after using ketamine as a therapy drug.

The treatment involves giving patients small doses of the Class B sedative as part of the Ketamine for reduction of Alcohol Relapse (KARE) trial.

The team found people who had ketamine combined with therapy stayed completely sober for 162 of 180 days in the six month follow-up period - representing 87 per cent abstinence.

Grant, from Glastonbury in Somerset, spoke to ITV News about how his life revolved around alcohol – until he took part in the trial.

  • Watch Grant's interview here:

He said: "Through cognitive behavioural therapy and the ketamine, it takes you back to have a childlike mindset.

"From being scared about alcohol and using alcohol as a crutch and alcohol having a massive hold over me, I went back to the mindset of a nine year old or ten year old who, when I look at alcohol, it means nothing to them and that's what stayed with me.

“Now we're three years down the line near the end. I haven't drunk at all.

"For me I just decided that it’s not something I want to do any more."

The trial involves giving low doses of ketamine in carefully controlled conditions as a catalyst for the psychotherapy.

Patients who took part in the study were drinking the equivalent of fifty pints of strong lager a week before the trial.

It is the first of its kind to examine whether a low dose of ketamine can help prevent people from quickly returning to heavy drinking after stopping.

Grant added: "It’s given me a sense of wonder. It made me realise how restricted you are when you drink.

"You can’t go anywhere in the evenings, you can’t do anything, you don’t get up in the morning and do your exercises – everything revolves around alcohol it’s just ridiculous.

The University of Exeter trial is the first of its kind to examine small doses of ketamine as part of treatment to curb alcoholism

"I don’t have that any more. I can go off to gigs and drive my friends here, there, and everywhere.

"I’m not a slave to this particular legal addictive substance which we call alcohol. I do feel now that these days are much better."

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

"We found that controlled, low doses of ketamine combined with psychological therapy can help people stay off alcohol for longer than placebo.

"This 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."