The results of new research have found that a single ketamine infusion, when combined with mindfulness-based relapse-prevention therapy (MBRP) can be effective in improving abstinence rates in cocaine-addicted adults. This treatment has also been found effective in reducing craving rates.
The results from a randomized control trial conducted by researchers at New York City’s Columbia University Medical Center indicate that abstinence rates were “significantly higher” in patients who received the ketamine infusion and MBRP compared to patients in the control group.
Elias Dakwar, a medical doctor and an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, explained that patients receiving behavioral modification treatment may benefit from certain medications, even if they only receive it one time.
What is Ketamine?
Ketamine is an anesthetic that is used for human and veterinary purposes. It is a dissociative drug, which means its use can cause a distortion of sights, sounds and colors. While under its influence, a person may also misinterpret himself or his environment. Ketamine is used in surgery for general anesthesia and as a pain control drug. Research has shown it may be useful for treating severe depression.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently doesn’t approve any medications for treating cocaine use disorder.
Ketamine and Mindfulness Part of Treatment Studied
The researchers pointed out that treating this type of addiction is challenging due to low motivation, high behavioral reactivity and cravings. Ketamine may improve on many of these issues. It may also serve as a stepping stone for mindfulness training for patients.
The researchers assigned 55 participants to two groups in a random manner. All of them were seeking help for cocaine addiction. One group was given a 40-minute ketamine infusion (0.5 mg/kg) or midazolam (an anesthetic used for pre-operative sedation and in surgery) in a five-week trial.
All participants were admitted to a psychiatric research unit for five days. They received an infusion on the second day and MBRP sessions on Days 2-5. After the trial was completed, the participants were referred to follow-up treatment. Six months later, they were interviewed by telephone.
MBRP therapy focused on learning how to be mindful and assimilating this practice into everyday life. It also challenged clients to apply mindfulness when faced with high-risk situations that might trigger a relapse.
Follow-up visits were conducted on a weekly basis starting two weeks after the infusion and ran through the fifth week following the procedure. The participants completed surveys and tests to measure mindfulness, stress sensitivity and cravings.
The researchers found that 92.9 percent of the midazolam group either used cocaine or dropped out, while 57.7 percent of the ketamine group did. At the six-month follow-up interview, none of the participants in the midazolam group had stopped using cocaine. Forty-four percent of the ketamine group were not using cocaine.
The results of the study were published online in the June 24 edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry.