Can Ketamine Treat Alcohol Addiction? In-Clinic Therapy Vs. Retreats

(Part four of a four-part series - Read part three)

The reason why companies offering psychedelic-assisted therapy only use ketamine is that at the moment it is the only one that holds a medical license. While psilocybin and MDMA are showing enormous promise, they are still in clinical research stages.

MDMA is likely to receive approval sometime in 2024, initially as a treatment for PTSD, and psilocybin is expected to follow soon as it is undergoing clinical trials at the moment.

The three substances can be effective for treating several disorders. Awakn's AWKNF Dr. Ben Sessa predicts that within 5 to 10 years all three will “be available for use in different ways for all host of conditions.” Specifically, he believes that short-acting ketamine is effective for addictions, “unsticking a stuckness, pushing through a rigidity,” and therefore “will always have its place.”

The conversation about psychedelics as potential prevention treatments for mental health disorders, before a person becomes ill is already happening per the term behavioral psychedelics

“Psychedelics are very good at spontaneously encouraging lifestyle change. There’s pretty robust evidence from large population studies that people who take them recreationally in a non-hedonistic pseudo-clinical way have better physical mental health from people who don’t,” Dr. Sessa explained.

These drugs tend to generate a sense of connectivity and community with others as well as a positive lifestyle.

Dr. Sessa says psychedelics play a role within the non-clinical population. “It shouldn’t just be people that are unwell. There should be retreats, wellness centers, where people can go for personal growth and development, community growth and development, family growth, which will protect them, prevent them from mental health problems. It’s a very interesting idea.”

As such, psychedelics can help people change behaviors and make healthier lifestyle choices. Recent research proved these substances enhance neuroplasticity, new brain connections thought to grow from binding to the 5-HT2AR proteins and allowing the formation of new behavioral pathways.

Psychedelic Clinical Treatments Vs. Retreats 

Besides life choices people might make after insights resulting from psychedelics, these substances also act on people’s perception of nature, encouraging a closer relationship with it through physical activity and sustainable behaviors like changes in diet, all of which leads to a healthier lifestyle.

According to Awakn’s head of psychedelic medicine, the key difference between in-clinic treatment and psychedelics taken within a retreat context is people’s mental health states’.

So patients undergo an eligibility test and assessment, where they must demonstrate that they have significant mental health problems, while also proving to have tried other treatments and not responded to them. 

“We screen you out if you’re not unwell enough, while a wellness clinic is kind of the opposite: you are screened out if you are too mentally unwell. They tend to be more directed towards healthy people who wish to use psychedelics for personal growth and development,” Dr. Sessa explained.

The clinical approach deals with much more severe cases, focusing on setting and the patient’s mindset as well as preparation sessions without the medicine and then guided sessions with integration. “It’s very much about a total cause of psychotherapy, using the medicine on a number of occasions as an adjunct to psychotherapy. Our focus is very much on mental health as opposed to just wellness or relatively healthy people,” explained Sessa. 

Current Awakn courses are outpatient-based, taking between 6 and 8 weeks in which 3 or 4 sessions of ketamine are administered. This is essentially different from what usually happens in a retreat, where people are residential in a setting not necessarily prepared to deal with such a long cause.

Nonetheless, retreats might be considered as part of complementary activities for addiction cases after clinic treatment. “If we were to expand to open a medical retreat center, that would be a really interesting development for the company, but it’s not something that we’ve talked about much at this (initial) stage.”

See the previous three stories in this series

Can Ketamine Treat Alcohol Addiction? Clinics & Hospitals In Europe And North America Are Already Doing It

Can Ketamine Treat Alcohol Addiction? This Is How Therapy Actually Functions

Can Ketamine Treat Alcohol Addiction? The Awakn Approach

Photo courtesy of Lukasz Szmigiel on Unsplash.

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