This article by Elisabetta Fato was originally published on Microdose and appears here with permission.

In the last decades, there has been a growing interest in psychedelics for the treatment of mood and behavioral disorders, among which are substance use disorders.

Lately, the psychedelic compound ketamine is gaining particular attention for the treatment of alcohol use disorder (AUD), with clinical studies being conducted to explore its potential. In this article, we’re going to get a closer look at phase 2b ketamine trial for alcohol dependence, soon going into phase 3, conducted by the biotech company Awakn Life Sciences.

But before diving into the current clinical developments, let’s first discuss some key points: the importance of new treatments for alcohol addiction, why ketamine therapy looks so promising, and the preclinical studies supporting its potential to treat alcohol use disorder.

Epidemiology of alcohol addiction

Alcohol abuse causes millions of deaths worldwide, by producing physical damage as well as triggering mental and behavioural conditions. In the US, for instance, almost 7% of adults suffer from alcohol use disorder, while nearly 30% of the American population has experienced problems with alcohol during their lives. Given its prevalence across the world and its impact on healthcare, it is of major importance to establish an effective treatment. Given the limits of existing solutions like behavioural therapy and medications such as naltrexone, which sometimes present its own problems, new therapies are needed to face this crisis and one might be ketamine.

Ketamine psychedelic therapy

The mechanism behind the effectiveness of psychedelics for the treatment of substance misuse is based on reduction in the activity of a brain network known to be overactivated in mood disorders, called the Default Mode Network (DMN). DMN is associated with ruminative and self-reflective states, overactivated depression and other mental diseases. Consequently, disrupting its activity in mood disorder patients was shown …

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