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Behaviour, Addiction and Memory study (BAM)

We are beginning to understand more about memory processes and how they help us respond to rewards, such as food, money and drugs. We think these memories may be important in people using drugs and alcohol or engaging in other unhealthy behaviours e.g. gambling.

The BAM study will set out to look at memories of money and explore if these may be changed by giving a low dose of a ketamine, which is an anaesthetic drug that blocks a receptor important in learning and memory.

Frequently asked questions

Ketamine is an anaesthetic widely used across the world in hospitals. The dose of ketamine used in this study is substantially less than that used in hospitals.

People sometimes abuse ketamine because of the effects it can have at a high dose. However, the dose chosen for this study is well tolerated in humans. Participants may experience some changes in vision and hearing and other senses like touch while having the ketamine as part of this study. Participants do sometimes report hallucinating. Any changes experienced should resolve quickly.

While ketamine is perhaps best known for its use in veterinary medicine, it was initially developed for use in humans as an anaesthetic. Ketamine is widely used in general hospitals across the world for this purpose. It is important to note that it is not uncommon for medicines to be effective and safe in both animals and humans: alongside ketamine, a number of antibiotics, anti-hypertensives and pain medications are used in both veterinary and human medicine.

Ketamine is safe and well tolerated in humans at the doses chosen for this study. Like all medicines, ketamine can cause side effects. Common side effects include hallucinations, increased blood pressure and increased heart rate. Not everyone will experience side effects, however, any side effects experienced will resolve quickly. All participants in this study will be supervised while the ketamine is taken and in the short term afterwards.

Since ketamine can be abused recreationally, one concern is that participants may become dependent on ketamine. The trial involves only one, low-dose wafer of ketamine, with no scope for further treatment once participation ends. We have shown that doses of ketamine used in this study are not in themselves rewarding. The risk of an individual becoming dependent on ketamine because of this trial is therefore low.