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Ketamine psychotherapy for heroin addiction: immediate effects and two-year follow-up

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Abstract

Seventy detoxified heroin-addicted patients were randomly assigned to one of two groups receiving ketamine psychotherapy (KPT) involving two different doses of ketamine. The patients of the experimental group received existentially oriented psychotherapy in combination with a hallucinogenic (“psychedelic”) dose of ketamine (2.0 mg/kg im). The patients of the control group received the same psychotherapy combined with a low, non-hallucinogenic (non-psychedelic), dose of ketamine (0.2 mg/kg im). Both the psychotherapist and patient were blind to the dose of ketamine. The therapy included preparation for the ketamine session, the ketamine session itself, and the post session psychotherapy aimed to help patients to integrate insights from their ketamine session into everyday life. The results of this double blind randomized clinical trial of KPT for heroin addiction showed that high dose (2.0 mg/kg) KPT elicits a full psychedelic experience in heroin addicts as assessed quantitatively by the Hallucinogen Rating Scale. On the other hand, low dose KPT (0.2 mg/kg) elicits “sub-psychedelic” experiences and functions as ketamine-facilitated guided imagery. High dose KPT produced a significantly greater rate of abstinence in heroin addicts within the first two years of follow-up, a greater and longer-lasting reduction in craving for heroin, as well as greater positive change in nonverbal unconscious emotional attitudes than did low dose KPT.

Krupitsky, E., Burakov, A., Romanova, T., Dunaevsky, I., Strassman, R., & Grinenko, A. (2002). Ketamine psychotherapy for heroin addiction: immediate effects and two-year follow-up. Journal of substance abuse treatment, 23(4), 273-283. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0740-5472(02)00275-1
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