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Breaking Free: The Benefits of Ketamine IV Infusions for Addiction Treatment

What is ketamine?

Ketamine is an anesthetic delivered intravenously. For decades, the medical community has used it for sedation for both humans and animals. It works by elevating your heart rate, muscle tone, and blood circulation while relaxing the airways (1).

How does ketamine work?

Ketamine works within the central nervous system (CNS). It works by antagonizing the n-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor (2). The NMDA receptor regulates parts of our mood (1).

How does medicine use ketamine?


Ketamine is most commonly used as an anesthetic before and during surgery. It has a fast onset and a short duration of action, lasting around 30 to 60 minutes. This is different from other types of sedatives that take several hours to stop working.


Ketamine is also being studied as a potential treatment for depression. In particular, ketamine administered intranasally represents a fast-acting option to treat depression. Typical antidepressants can take several weeks or months to work because they treat the serotonin levels in the brain. On the other hand, ketamine’s effects can be within hours due to its influence on the NMDA receptor.

Addiction treatment

In addition to its other use cases, ketamine can also be a potential therapeutic agent for substance abuse disorders. The rest of this article will explain the evidence supporting this phenomenon (2).

Ketamine in addiction

How does ketamine work in addiction?

In addition to being implicated in depression, the NMDA receptor in the brain also contributes to your memory. Substance use disorders are intimately linked to your memory of previous substance use. Ketamine prevents memory formation, as it weakens the link between the substance and associated triggers. This could mitigate some of the factors contributing to addiction such as social pressures and triggers (1).

What does the evidence show?

There is substantial evidence showing that ketamine could be effective in treating addiction. Studies show that it can help to:

Researchers think that these effects are due to ketamine’s:

What about ketamine and alcoholism?

Researchers at the University College of London have initialed the KARE trial, which is meant to examine ketamine’s effects on alcoholic relapse. It will follow individuals over the course of six months to see if ketamine supports their maintenance of abstinence (3).

Though research thus far has been promising, there is still much to be done to confirm and contextualize the benefits of ketamine in addiction.

What are the risks of ketamine?

People also use ketamine recreationally outside of its use in the medicinal setting. It can create a dissociative, euphoric experience that some may find pleasant. However, there are several adverse effects of ketamine, including disorientation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, and changes to vital signs.

It is also possible to develop a dependence on ketamine itself. After consistent use, one may experience ketamine withdrawal syndrome.



  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-addiction/201904/what-is-ketamine-and-should-it-be-used-addiction
  2. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-addiction/201904/what-is-ketamine-and-should-it-be-used-addiction
  3. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/brain-sciences/news/2018/nov/ketamine-could-be-used-treat-alcohol-addiction
  4. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/ketamine-abuse/ketamine-side-effects
David Bauder David J. Bauder, PA-C David Bauder, PA-C, is a certified physician assistant and the assistant medical director at Weight Loss and Vitality in Manassas and Alexandria, Virginia, Washington, DC; and Gaithersburg, MD. He enjoys helping patients optimize their physical and mental health to improve their overall well-being. He earned his physician assistant degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Afterward, he gained admission into the reputable graduate program for physician assistant studies at the University of Nebraska Health Science Center in Omaha. David has over 26 years of experience working as a physician assistant. He’s practiced in podiatry, family medicine, emergency medicine, general surgery, urgent care, and functional medicine.

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