How Well Do Ketamine and Psilocybin Therapies Work for Treating Alcohol Addiction?

Addiction Recovery Publishing Alcohol Addiction December 13, 2023

How Well Do Ketamine and Psilocybin Therapies Work for Treating Alcohol Addiction?

There is something in the recovery realm, especially regarding alcohol addiction, known as “the three-part illness.” This refers to alcohol addiction as a disease that consists of a “physical allergy,” a “mental obsession,” and a “spiritual malady.” Many people believe that three parts must be addressed for one to heal from alcohol addiction at the cellular level. Also, many people believe that ketamine and psilocybin therapies can work to effectively address all three of the parts of alcohol addiction.

Understanding the Prevalence of Alcohol Addiction

Many people may not realize that alcohol addiction remains the number one addiction both in the United States and around the globe. This may be for several reasons. One may be that alcohol still remains one of the most socially used legal substances. Another may be that it is easy to access and affordable. Yet another reason is that there is still some stigma against individuals who do not engage in drinking alcohol.

According to the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA) and a 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), “29.5 million people ages 12 and older (10.6% in this age group) had [alcohol use disorder] in the past year. This includes: 16.6 million males ages 12 and older (12.1% in this age group) [and] 13.0 million females ages 12 and older (9.1% in this age group).” These numbers and other similar findings make it all the more clear that alcohol addiction remains a serious problem that requires serious attention. This reality becomes even more compounded when we realize just how prevalent relapse rates are for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction.

Understanding the Dangers and Prevalence of Addiction Relapse

Relapse from alcohol addiction is highly prevalent. This has been shown in several studies across many populations and demographics.

According to the Journal of Psychiatric Research, “Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is the most prevalent and costly of substance use disorders, with an incidence rate of 13.9% across the U.S. population… Despite the ongoing development and refinement of pharmacological and psychosocial treatments, at least 60% of those with AUD will relapse to hazardous drinking within 6 months following treatment. Furthermore, relapse within 6 months of treatment is associated with extended periods of hazardous drinking and adverse psychosocial consequences, marking a critical need to understand factors related to relapse.” Many argue that these factors are directly associated with the three-part illness mentioned earlier. This illness has been shown to be effectively treated with psychedelic therapies. 

What Are Psychedelic Therapies?

Psychedelic therapies have been around for over 70 years. However, due to the belief by many that the substances used in psychedelic therapies can be harmful or are solely recreational, the research was both halted and stymied. But, there has been a resurgence of studies and trials on psychedelic therapies in recent years.

According to the peer-reviewed article, Psychedelic Medicine: A Re-Emerging Therapeutic Paradigm,” “In clinical research settings around the world, renewed investigations are taking place on the use of psychedelic substances for treating illnesses such as addiction, depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since the termination of a period of research from the 1950s to the early 1970s, most psychedelic substances have been classified as ‘drugs of abuse’ with no recognized medical value. However, controlled clinical studies have recently been conducted to assess the basic psychopharmacological properties and therapeutic efficacy of these drugs as adjuncts to existing psychotherapeutic approaches.” Two of the most predominant types of psychedelic studies right now are ketamine and psilocybin therapy.

What Is Psilocybin Therapy?

Psilocybin is a psychoactive chemical that can be derived from over 200 types of mushrooms and fungi. It is also now widely synthesized. Psilocybin has also been utilized for thousands of years in both religious and cultural practices.

According to the 2021 article, The Therapeutic Potential of Psilocybin, “Despite thousands of years of psychedelic use in religion and recreation, the earliest known written record of magic mushroom use in the Florentine Codex (a manuscript of ethnographical research of Mesoamerica, particularly of Mexico and the Aztecs, compiled between 1529 and 1579).” Also, “Classic psychedelic compounds like psilocybin, mescaline (isolated from the peyote cactus in 1897 by Arthur Heffter), and dimethyltryptamine have been used in religious ceremonies in indigenous societies in South and Central America for centuries.” However, while it is still used religiously, psilocybin has shown itself to be highly beneficial for treating alcohol addiction.

More and more studies are being conducted on the benefits of psilocybin therapy for alcohol addiction. According to the 2022 article, Protocol: Psilocybin-assisted therapy for reducing alcohol intake in patients with alcohol use disorder: Protocol for a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled 12-week clinical trial, “Alcohol use disorder is a difficult-to-treat psychiatric disorder and a major burden on public health. Existing treatment efficacy is moderate, and relapse rates are high. Preliminary findings suggest that psilocybin, a psychedelic compound, can safely and reliably occasion highly meaningful experiences that may spur a positive change in drinking behavior when administered in a therapeutic context.”

These are very promising findings, but they do not just reside in the arena of psilocybin therapy. Ketamine therapy has also been shown to be highly effective at treating issues of addiction, particularly that of alcohol addiction.

What Is Ketamine Therapy?

Ketamine is a drug that has been used since the 1960s. It has predominantly been used as an analgesic and anesthetic. According to the article, A Review of Nonanesthetic Uses of Ketamine, “Ketamine administration has long been known to mediate a wide variety of pharmacological effects, including dissociation, analgesia, sedation, catalepsy, and bronchodilation. Though ketamine is known most widely for its anesthetic properties, recent research has uncovered multiple novel uses for this drug, including neuroprotection, combatting inflammation and tumors, and treatment of depression, seizures, chronic pain, and headache.” It has also been shown to be highly effective at treating alcohol addiction.

More and more studies are coming out that show the efficacy of ketamine therapy. According to the 2023 article, Ketamine Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder: A Systematic Review, “Collectively [some] studies reveal that ketamine treatment may lower the probability of alcohol use, reduce heavy drinking days, and increase the proportion of post-infusion abstinent days. These findings are a step in the right direction for the management of alcohol use disorder, a complex condition that currently presents challenges for successful treatment with FDA-approved first-line agents.” This last mention of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is important.

The fact of the matter is that “traditional” FDA-approved pharmaceutical therapies do not work for everyone. Many people are resistant to the medications that these therapies utilize. Still, others, are understandably leery of the potential side effects that these types of medications present. For example, there is a side effect that can come from addiction and mental health medications known as tardive dyskinesia. This side effect can cause involuntary head, mouth, and body movements, and in some instances, it has been shown to persist long after a medication has been stopped. Side effects like these have not been shown in ketamine and psilocybin therapies.

How Well Do Ketamine and Psilocybin Therapies Work?

The efficacies of psilocybin therapy continue to be bolstered by additional studies. For example, a study reported in the article, How Does Psilocybin Therapy Work? An Exploration of Experiential Avoidance as a Putative Mechanism of Change, “With psilocybin therapy, but not escitalopram, improvements in mental health outcomes (i.e., well-being, depression severity, suicidal ideation, and trait anxiety) occurred via reductions in experiential avoidance. Exploratory analyses suggested that improvements in mental health (except for suicidal ideation) via a reduction in experiential avoidance were serially mediated through increases in connectedness. Additionally, experiences of ego dissolution and psychological insight predicted reductions in experiential avoidance following psilocybin therapy.” Similar promising results have been found with ketamine therapy.

Ketamine therapy works especially well when previous FDA-approved therapies do not. Also, there is now an FDA-approved type of ketamine known as “esketamine.” According to the 2023 article, The Therapeutic Use and Efficacy of Ketamine in Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome: A Scoping Review, “Due to the difficulties in treating AUD and severe AWS [alcohol withdrawal syndrome], there is a need to find additional efficacious pharmacotherapies to aid in the management of AUD and AWS. Among emerging therapies, ketamine has been demonstrated to manage both symptoms of AWS and to address AUD. Following the FDA approval of intranasal esketamine for treatment-resistant depression and suicidal ideation, recent studies show the rapid onset efficacy of intravenous ketamine for treatment-resistant depression.”

These root/core causes that often underlie the behaviors of addiction, such as depression and anxiety, are what ketamine and psilocybin therapies best address. However, while effective in doing so on their own, their benefits can be compounded when they are used in tandem with other types of treatment.

Utilizing Ketamine and Psilocybin Therapies Alongside Other Modalities for Treating Alcohol Addiction

Now, as with any type of addiction and mental health therapy, ketamine and psilocybin therapies are often best utilized when they are part of a comprehensive recovery plan. In fact, even though they are highly effective, it is not recommended that they be the only therapies that are used for treating alcohol addiction. This is also why it is so crucial to find a recovery center, like Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, that values comprehensive recovery.

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we believe that utilizing a vast array of modalities is the best way to treat mental health and addiction issues, including alcohol use disorder. We have seen that “one-note,” “one-size-fits-all” recovery is rarely effective.

Just because many people struggle with alcohol addiction, it does not mean that they should all be treated the same way. Many dynamics must be taken into account. These include family and home life dynamics, career and social situations, and potential genetic variables. Now, these specific factors are what make comprehensive and individualized recovery so crucial. This means that ketamine and psilocybin therapies are best utilized alongside modalities that include “traditional” psychotherapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), experiential therapies like horticulture therapy, and holistic practices like meditation and yoga. Also, nutritional therapy can be essential as well.

Utilizing Ketamine and Psilocybin Therapies Alongside Nutritional Therapy

Nutrition is crucial when it comes to recovering from addiction. This includes alcohol addiction. In fact, many people don’t realize just how depleted of essential nutrients an individual who struggles with alcohol addiction actually is.

According to the peer-reviewed article, Mechanisms of Vitamin Deficiencies in Alcoholism, “Chronic alcoholic patients are frequently deficient in one or more vitamins. The deficiencies commonly involve folate, vitamin B6, thiamine, and vitamin A… Alcoholism can affect the absorption, storage, metabolism, and activation of many of these vitamins.” These deficiencies can often be fully rectified via nutritional therapy.

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we hold true to the maxim, “Food is medicine.” This is why we have a large focus on nutritional therapy. Also, this is why we have licensed dieticians and nutritionists available onsite and on-call 24/7. 

Nutrition is as much about what we take into our bodies as what we leave out. According to the peer-reviewed article, New Approaches to Nutritional Therapy, “Nutritional Therapy uses food to prevent and reverse diseases that plague most Western societies: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, arthritis, and depression. In order for food to be therapeutic, it must be nutrient-dense, measured in part by the nutrients and anti-nutrients, contained in consumed foods.” 

Also, here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we focus on nutrition, but we do not take the joy out of eating either. Our world-class chefs offer exceptional “gut-healthy” foods that can be individualized for each client. We also know that when an individual’s nutritional needs are met, they will be in the most optimal shape to engage in ketamine and psilocybin therapies. This is ultimately how one can heal at the cellular level.

Utilizing Ketamine and Psilocybin Therapies Alongside Horticulture Therapy

Now, just as we believe that food is “medicine,” we also believe that homegrown food makes for the best medicine. That is why we grow some of our foods right on our luxury 30-acre property. When clients come to our recovery center, they will be greeted by rows and rows of citrus and fruit trees (orange, tangerine, lime, and longan), lush pineapple patches, abundant garden beds, and bushes heavy with guava fruits. 

Also, we don’t just grow our own food for consumption (though that is essential), we utilize this opportunity to allow our clients to engage in horticulture therapy. While it may not have had the specific designation, horticulture has long been used as a form of therapy. Now, it has been found to have specific benefits for individuals struggling with issues of addiction and mental illness.

According to a study reported in the scientific article, Horticultural Therapy Program for People with Mental Illness: A Mixed-Method Evaluation, “The study results indicate that the HT [horticulture therapy] program was effective in increasing the engagement, mental well-being, and sense of meaningfulness and accomplishment of the participants.” These are similar benefits that have been reported by individuals who engaged in ketamine and psilocybin therapies. Also, these are benefits that are essential for whole-mind-body healing from alcohol addiction.

Exclusive Hawaii Rehab: The Importance of Comprehensive Addiction Care For Healing at the Cellular Level

Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we believe in addressing alcohol addiction and the three-part illness head-on with all of the best most innovative treatments available. This includes ketamine and psilocybin therapies.

There is a sacred Hawaiin saying here on the Big Island that goes, “E hele me ka pu’olo.” This translates to the importance of leaving everything we touch in better condition than we left it in. Also, this is what our clients do when they enter recovery with us. With our help, they advocate for themselves, with the sole aim of leaving us in better condition than when they arrived. Here at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, we not only make that possible but also make it a reality.

Psychedelic therapies like ketamine therapy and psilocybin therapy have been shown to be particularly effective in treating alcohol addiction. These types of psychedelic therapies can help reduce cravings, quell mental obsession, and help with the lack of spiritual fulfillment often associated with alcohol addiction. If you feel like you or someone you love is struggling with issues of alcohol or other types of substance addiction, we can help get you on the right road to long-term recovery. For more information on ketamine therapy and psilocybin therapy and how they can help to treat both issues of addiction and mental illness, please reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab today at (808) 775-0200