First ketamine-assisted psychotherapy clinic opens in the UK
Laurie Higbed, Ben Sessa and Steve O’Brien: Awakn Life Sciences | Photograph: Joel Redman/The Guardian
Awakn Life Sciences has opened a clinic offering ketamine-assisted psychotherapy in the UK, becoming the first of its kind in the country.
The clinic’s lead, Dr Ben Sessa, said he wants to harness the “unique mental state” he claims the drug can induce.
The clinic will offer patients a nine-week course comprising of eleven psychotherapy sessions, four of which involve giving the patient a dose of ketamine.
Research has shown that using psychedelic medicines during psychotherapy allows patients to experience greater neuroplasticity, which allows them to access traumatic memories easier, break out from harmful thought patterns and change their behaviour, with the support of a professional therapist.
This is a critical part of a wider campaign to expand access to psychedelic medicines as treatment-resistant patients, suffering with addiction and mental health conditions, are often left without options once traditional methods fail.
The therapy administered by Awakn will aim to help people with depression and anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Dr Ben Sessa said: “This is the endpoint of 15 years of work in this field working in academic studies and research.
“We are both approved and trained psilocybin therapists so we are going to use that training.”
Also working on the project is the former Chief Drug Advisor to the British Government Professor David Nutt, whose work and research into psychedelic medicines has helped to shape and guide the formation of the psychedelics industry, which is already worth billions in Europe and the US.
Professor David Nutt, acting as the scientific advisor to the clinic, said: “Psychedelics are ushering a whole new paradigm for psychiatry with other countries moving very fast and we don’t want to be left behind.
“Current psychiatric treatments are not adequate for a significant proportion of patients.”
Speaking during The PSYCH Symposium in November of 2020, Professor Nutt delivered a keynote presentation, assessing the impact of LSD as a medicine and as a treatment for addiction-related problems.
Professor Celia Morgan, the lead author of a clinical trial on Ketamin and another of Awakn’s team, said:
“Three-quarters of people who stop drinking and go through detox will be back drinking within 12 months: that’s not a good recovery rate.”
“We designed it to go with the ketamine effects. We wanted something evidence-based, a therapy that has been shown to help people avoid alcoholic relapse. But also something that would work with what we know about the brain in the ketamine state.”
As part of the Kare study, one participant who underwent ketamin assisted therapy, reported that their addiction to alcohol had ended completely and that they had not consumed alcohol since 2019.
“During the Ketamine Psychotherapy sessions, I felt I was able to access a part of my unconscious where I hadn’t gone before.
“Together with the talking therapy, I was able to process the reasons behind my drinking, reset my brain and begin a new life as a permanently sober man.”
Grant Plant, (Bristol Live)
Awakn Life Sciences has plans to open two additional treatment centres, with a clinic in Manchester and London due to open later this year.