A Medical Research Council (MRC)-funded study which
aims to evaluate the use of the drug ketamine as a
treatment for people with severe alcohol disorder,
or alcoholism, is currently recruiting volunteers.
‘KARE’ (Ketamine for Reduction of Alcoholic Relapse)
was awarded funding through the Biomedical Catalyst,
a joint initiative between the MRC and Innovate UK
to support translational research that will benefit
The study aims to recruit 96 recently abstinent
volunteers with severe alcohol use disorder, a
condition which affects nearly four million people
in the UK, often with devastating consequences.
A team led by Professor Celia Morgan, Professor of
Psychopharmacology at the University of Exeter, is
collaborating with researchers at University College
London and Imperial College London to create a
multi-site project in both the South West of England
The participants will receive a low-dose of ketamine
by injection once a week for three weeks in
conjunction with seven 90 minute sessions of
Previous studies in mice suggest ketamine could
produce changes in our brains that make it easier to
make new connections and learn new things in the
short-term. The team hope this could make the
sessions of psychological therapy more effective.
A control group will receive the same amount of
therapy but be given an injection of saline solution
instead of ketamine so that the researchers can
compare the results.
All participants will be asked to wear a device on
their ankle that will monitor their alcohol intake
over the following six months by measuring the level
of alcohol in their sweat.
A pilot study found that three doses of ketamine in
conjunction with psychological therapy reduced
average 12-month relapse rates from 76 per cent to
34 per cent. It is thought that ketamine’s
antidepressant properties could contribute towards
When used in a controlled environment, ketamine is a
safe drug and is not addictive. It is commonly used
as an anaesthetic in medicine but when used as an
anaesthetic, the dose - which is often given several
times over a much shorter period - is much higher
than will be used in this particular study.
Participants may experience some effects such as
changes in their vision and hearing during the
infusion of ketamine, but any changes should be mild
and people in other studies given similar doses have
not found them to be unpleasant.
Project lead, Professor Celia Morgan from the
University of Exeter, said “Previous research has
told us that 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.
“This trial will allow us to examine whether
ketamine, combined with therapy, can indeed help
people stay abstinent from alcohol”.
Dr Kathryn Adcock, head of neurosciences and mental
health at the MRC, added: “Alcoholism can have a
terrible impact on both the individual and those
around them, but current treatments for alcohol
dependence are associated with high relapse rates –
with people often return to drinking after only a
short time of abstinence.
“We are constantly looking for new ways to help
change this pattern and we look forward to the
results of this innovative trial.”
The team plan to start the trial in the South West
and London later this month. If you would like to
find out more or are interested in taking part,
please visit the KARE website.
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with depression risk (15/11/2012)
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For more information
The KARE website
University College London
Imperial College London
Medical Research Council MRC