March 15, 2022 – One afternoon in April 2018 I answered my rarely-used home telephone to a barrage of questions. On a crackly landline, a researcher from the University of Exeter, UK, ran through a standard interview to check my suitability for a clinical trial. She was part of a team seeking to test the effectiveness of ketamine – an anaesthetic drug which is being repurposed as a new antidepressant. It is the first pharmacological treatment for depression to have emerged in decades. The Exeter scientists were hoping to find out if the drug, when combined with psychological therapy, could prevent alcoholics from relapsing.

The questions were designed to establish if I was alcohol dependent, which wasn’t a surprise, as I’d applied to the trial to deal with problems I had with drinking. But there were two questions that left me feeling raw and outraged.

“Have you ever thought of harming yourself or trying to take your own life?” asked the researcher.


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