Ketamine Infusions for Addiction: Escape the Vicious Cycle

Ketamine Infusions for Addiction

Ketamine infusions for addiction are being used as a tool in treating addiction from alcohol and other substances. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, I want you to know that there might be a ray of hope on the horizon.  As an experienced doctor specializing in ketamine treatments, I’ve witnessed firsthand the remarkable effects it can have on individuals battling drug and alcohol addiction.

Understanding Addiction

Addiction is a complex and debilitating condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It takes a toll on not just the individuals but also their families and communities. Traditional treatment approaches, such as counseling and support groups (Alcohol Anonymous), are instrumental in the recovery process but we can’t ignore their limitations. That’s where alternative treatments like ketamine infusion come into play.

Ketamine Infusions for Addiction: A Different Approach

Ketamine, originally used as an anesthetic, has shown promise in treating various mental health conditions, including addiction. Unlike traditional treatments, which often take time to show results, ketamine infusion therapy can provide rapid relief from withdrawal symptoms and cravings.

The secret behind ketamine’s effectiveness lies in its unique mechanism of action. It targets specific receptors in the brain, promoting neuroplasticity and allowing new connections to form. This can be particularly helpful in breaking the cycle of addiction and rewiring the brain for healthier behaviors.

Ketamine mostly acts on a specific receptor in the brain called the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor which modulates the release of neurotransmitters, such as glutamate, in the brain. This leads to a cascade of events that promote neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form new connections and reorganize itself.

In the context of addiction, the neuroplastic effects of ketamine are particularly intriguing. Prolonged substance abuse disrupts the brain’s reward circuitry and impairs its ability to regulate emotions and cravings effectively. Ketamine infusion therapy offers a unique opportunity to counteract these effects by potentially creating new neuronal pathways. This process allows the brain to rewire itself, promoting healthier behaviors and reducing the grip of addiction.

Furthermore, ketamine also influences other neurotransmitter systems, such as serotonin and dopamine, which play crucial roles in mood regulation and reward processing. By modulating these systems, ketamine can help alleviate the depressive symptoms often associated with addiction and restore a sense of well-being.

When someone abruptly stops using drugs or alcohol, their brain and body undergo a period of adjustment, resulting in a range of uncomfortable and sometimes severe withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia, nausea, and physical discomfort.

Ketamine infusion therapy can help ease these withdrawal symptoms through its unique mechanism of action. By targeting the NMDA receptors in the brain, ketamine helps regulate glutamate, an excitatory neurotransmitter involved in withdrawal symptoms. By modulating glutamate release, ketamine can attenuate the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, providing individuals with much-needed relief.

Furthermore, ketamine’s impact on other neurotransmitter systems, such as serotonin and dopamine, can help stabilize mood and reduce the emotional and psychological distress associated with withdrawal. This can be particularly beneficial during the early stages of recovery when individuals are vulnerable to experiencing intense cravings and negative emotions.

It’s important to note that ketamine’s effects are not limited to the acute infusion period. Studies have shown that ketamine can have lasting effects on neural circuits involved in addiction. By promoting neuroplasticity and modulating neurotransmitter systems, ketamine infusion therapy provides a unique window of opportunity for individuals to engage in therapy, develop coping strategies, and solidify positive behavioral changes.

Effectiveness of Ketamine Infusions for Addiction

Scientific studies and clinical trials have demonstrated the potential benefits of ketamine infusions for addiction treatment.

For example, a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2018(1) examined the effects of ketamine on individuals with cocaine use disorder. The study involved 70 participants who were randomized into two groups: one receiving the ketamine infusion combined with mindfulness-based therapy, and the other receiving a placebo infusion combined with the same therapy. The main highlights of the trial indicated that the group receiving the ketamine infusion demonstrated a significantly higher rate of abstinence (48.2%) from cocaine use compared to the placebo group (10.7%). A single ketamine infusion significantly reduced cocaine cravings and depressive symptoms compared to a placebo group.

The ketamine group was 53% less likely to relapse (dropout or use cocaine) compared with the placebo group, and craving scores were 58.1% lower in the ketamine group throughout the trial.

The study’s findings suggest that a single ketamine infusion, when combined with mindfulness-based behavioral modification, could be a promising approach for treating cocaine dependence.


Another study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2019 investigated the use of ketamine for alcohol use disorder. The results showed that participants who received ketamine infusion had a significant reduction in alcohol craving and consumption compared to the control group.

Additionally, a systematic review published in Frontiers in Psychiatry in 2020 analyzed multiple studies on ketamine infusion therapy for various substance use disorders. The review concluded that ketamine infusion showed promising results in reducing cravings and improving mood, ultimately supporting its potential as an adjunctive treatment for addiction.  Ketamine has been shown to effectively prolong abstinence from alcohol and heroin in detoxified alcoholics and heroin dependent individuals, respectively. Most patients with substance use disorders also have underlying depression which ketamine also addresses which also could be a mechanism of why ketamine is effective in treating substance use disorders.

Personal Anecdote: I remember a patient of mine, let’s call him Mark, who had been struggling with alcohol addiction for years. Traditional treatment methods had limited success in helping him achieve long-term sobriety. When Mark opted for ketamine therapy, his journey took a positive turn. Not only did he experience reduction in alcohol cravings, but he also reported a increased motivation to engage in therapy and support groups. Witnessing his transformation reaffirmed my belief in the potential of ketamine therapy as a powerful tool in a comprehensive care approach.

Integration with Traditional Treatment Approaches

Ketamine infusion therapy can be a powerful addition to existing addiction treatment methods. It has the potential to enhance outcomes and improve the overall success of traditional therapies. By alleviating the intensity of withdrawal symptoms and cravings, ketamine infusion therapy allows individuals to better engage in counseling, support groups, and other treatment modalities. It’s like giving them a boost on their road to recovery.


In the realm of treatment, ketamine infusions for addiction are a potential game-changer. Its rapid relief from withdrawal symptoms and cravings, coupled with its ability to promote neuroplasticity, offers new hope for those fighting drug and alcohol addiction. Ketamine therapy is not a standalone cure, but when used in addition to traditional treatment approaches, ketamine therapy can make a significant difference in the lives of individuals seeking recovery.

As an experienced doctor specializing in ketamine infusions for addiction, I’ve witnessed the transformative effects it can have on patients like Mark. Seeing individuals regain control over their lives and embark on the path to lasting recovery fills me with hope and inspires me to continue exploring the potential of ketamine infusions for addiction.

Remember, there is always hope, and the journey to recovery starts with taking that first step.

  1. Dakwar, E., Nunes, E. V., Hart, C. L., Foltin, R. W., Mathew, S. J., Carpenter, K. M., Choi, C. J. “Jean,” Basaraba, C. N., Pavlicova, M., & Levin, F. R. (2019). A single ketamine infusion combined with mindfulness-based behavioral modification to treat cocaine dependence: A randomized clinical trial. American Journal of Psychiatry, 176(11), 923–930.
  2. Ivan Ezquerra-Romano I, Lawn W, Krupitsky E, Morgan CJA. Ketamine for the treatment of addiction: Evidence and potential mechanisms. Neuropharmacology. 2018 Nov;142:72-82. https://doi: 10.1016/j.neuropharm.2018.01.017. Epub 2018 Jan 12. PMID: 29339294.
  3. Goldfine, C. E., Tom, J. J., Im, D. D., Yudkoff, B., Anand, A., Taylor, J. J., Chai, P. R., & Suzuki, J. (2023). The therapeutic use and efficacy of ketamine in alcohol use disorder and alcohol withdrawal syndrome: A scoping review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 14.