British scientists are recruiting volunteers to test whether ketamine, also known as the party drug "Special K", may be helpful in reducing relapse rates among people with severe alcoholism.
After pilot studies that showed ketamine combined with psychotherapy might make detoxing alcoholics less likely to relapse, the scientists are looking for 96 volunteers with severe alcohol disorder who have been "recently abstinent".
Ketamine is a licensed medical drug, widely used as an anaesthetic and to relieve pain. But it is also used as a recreational drug and can lead some people into drug abuse.
"Ketamine is a well-tolerated drug and can help alleviate the symptoms of depression, with a pilot study suggesting that it could cut alcohol relapse rates by more than half," Celia Morgan, who will lead the research at Exeter University, said.
"This trial will allow us to examine whether ketamine, combined with therapy, can indeed help people stay abstinent from alcohol." Half the participants will get a low-dose ketamine