Scientists say that ketamine, otherwise known as' ket' - a recreational drug and animal tranquilliser, could potentially "rewrite" drink-related memories. Researchers are now considering whether the drug could be used as a form of treatment for alcohol addiction.
“There was a really big drop-off, which was maintained or got even better up to nine months [after treatment]. I was surprised by how effective it was,” says Dr Ravi Das, a psychologist at University College London.
“Every behaviour is encoded in our memories,” Das continues. “An important takeaway is that these habits and unhelpful memories can potentially be unlearned.”
Previous research has suggested that there are growing benefits of microdosing.
For the study, scientists recruited 90 people who drank heavily but were not formally diagnosed of a drinking disorder. On average, they consumed the equivalent of roughly 30 pints of beer. That's five times the recommended limit.
As part of their experiment, researchers placed a beer in front of participants. They were told they could have the drink after viewing images of beer and people drinking.
On the second day, the process was repeated. However, this time they took the beer away.
The theory behind the experiment was that removing a reward that was expected temporarily disrupts learned associations. The drug ketamine, however, blocks the bran receptor known as NMDA - an important function in forming memories. The team hoped to use the drug to permanently re-write any drinking-related memories.
So when they took the beer away, they handed volunteers an intravenous ketamine infusion. Meanwhile others were given a placebo. A third group also received a dose of ket but were without psychological supervision.
Interestingly, 10 days later, results showed that those who took ketamine under psychological supervisions saw a significant reduction in the urge to drink and ultimately drank less than the rest of the study group.
Even after nine months, the benefits were sustained.
In recent times, growing evidence has suggested that ketamine can have multiple benefits. Research is also underway to investigate the benefits of ket on adult depression.
However, despite the science coming to light, we don't endorse the use of heavy drugs - all doses have been taken under the supervision of medical professions.