young black woman struggling with ketamine addiction

Is Ketamine Addictive? Effects, Signs, & How To Get Help

Ketamine is a dissociative drug that can cause a person to feel like they are detached or separated from their body. This drug has been historically used in anesthesia. It is also used in the treatment of depression. Because of its dissociative properties, some people abuse ketamine. Is ketamine addictive? With so much positive news and anecdotal evidence coming out about ketamine in recent months, it can be easy to gloss over some of the deeper details of this substance. T

The simple answer is that ketamine abuse can lead to addiction, even if you’re using it to treat depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition. This post covers common questions about ketamine addiction that might be on your mind after seeing some telltale signs.

picture of ketamine
The simple answer is that ketamine abuse can lead to addiction, even if you’re using it to treat depression, anxiety, or another mental health condition.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a short-acting general anesthetic that has been in use since the 1970s to manage pain among soldiers on the battlefield. There is a misconception today that ketamine is a legal, FDA-approved substance. While some forms of ketamine do have limited approval, ketamine is not approved for broad medicinal use.

Ketamine is what’s known as a dissociative anesthetic. It can have hallucinogenic effects that leave a user feeling disconnected from reality. Patients who are given ketamine report feeling detached and apathetic about both their pain and environment. According to research, ketamine likely works by binding to the brain’s N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor to block an important neurotransmitter called glutamate. It’s also known ketamine partially affects brain receptors for opioids, serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).

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What Happens When You Take Ketamine?

Within a few minutes of taking ketamine, a person may experience increased heart rate and blood pressure. From the outside, the person taking the ketamine may appear detached and unresponsive. They may experience dilated pupils, rapid eye movement, tear secretions, stiffening of the muscles, and nausea.

The most common feeling associated with taking ketamine is being “checked out.” This can also be accompanied by euphoria, dizziness, incapacitation, delusions, and disorientation. Ketamine’s ability to incapacitate a person so quickly is one of the reasons why this substance is commonly used as a “date rape” drug that is slipped into an unsuspecting victim’s beverage.

Is Ketamine Legal?

Yes, ketamine can be taken legally under the right circumstances. Currently, ketamine can only be administered for medical purposes under the careful supervision of a qualified medical professional. In 1999, ketamine was listed as a Schedule III non-narcotic substance under the Controlled Substances Act.

As of 2019, ketamine has FDA approval when prescribed as a nasal spray for treatment-resistant depression at certified medical clinics. Additionally, ketamine can be used for short-term sedation and anesthesia under certain conditions in medical settings. For instance, ketamine is often given to cancer patients or patients in burn units.

Other Names Of Ketamine

When ketamine is taken recreationally, it is often referred to under the street names of Special K, Cat Tranquilizer, Cat Valium, Jet K, Kit Kat, Super Acid, Super K, and Vitamin K. Ketamine is what’s known as a “club drug” that is often taken at concerts, festivals, and nightclubs. While ketamine was formerly known as a drug for teenagers and “club kids” in the 1990s, it is now commonly abused by people of all ages.

Unfortunately, most of the ketamine that is illegally distributed in the United States comes from dubious and dangerous sources. Much of the ketamine available on the street is veterinary-grade ketamine that was stolen from animal clinics. A large portion of the ketamine floating around on the streets was smuggled into the United States from Mexico.

Read about the difference between drug abuse and misuse.

a young man feeling disconnected from reality after abusing ketamine
The most common psychological feeling associated with taking ketamine is being “checked out.” This can also be accompanied by euphoria, dizziness, incapacitation, delusions, and disorientation.

What Are Some of the Negative Side Effects of Ketamine Abuse?

Like all abusable substances, ketamine can quickly create negative physical and emotional consequences.

  • Feeling out of control: The most common experience that someone has after abusing ketamine is feeling out of control, detached, or disconnected from reality.
  • Anxiety and other mental health issues : A ketamine user is also at risk for anxiety, forgetfulness, and psychosis. While the mental effects of ketamine can be devastating, the drug can also have long-lasting physical side effects.
  • Bladder damage: Ketamine use is associated with irreversible bladder damage. Bladder damage is so common among people who abuse ketamine that researchers have named the condition ketamine bladder syndrome. Experts estimate that between 26% and 30% of ketamine abusers experience at least one adverse bladder symptom, and it only takes two weeks to alter bladder function. Bladder damage can cause extreme shrinking of the bladder that can result in pain, bleeding, and malignancy. In some cases, the damage can be so severe that the only option left is to remove the bladder.
  • Infections and vein damage: Another serious health concern affecting ketamine abusers is that continuously injecting ketamine can cause infections and vein damage.
  • Liver and organ damage: There is almost no limit to the ways that ketamine can destroy the body. Ketamine abuse can lead to liver damage and lead to organ dysfunction.
  • Heart attack
  • Respiratory distress
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Skin abscesses (from injection)
  • Painful abdominal cramps

Is Taking Ketamine Without A Prescription Abuse?

Taking ketamine in any capacity outside of the FDA-approved methods offered under the care of a licensed and credentialed medical professional is problematic and considered ketamine misuse. Ketamine is not approved to be used recreationally, treat psychiatric disorders, or self-manage pain. With the rise of online sellers setting up fake pharmacies that sell ketamine, some people who have not looked beyond the recent headlines about the benefits of ketamine may incorrectly believe they are taking legal medication.

young black woman struggling with ketamine addiction
Ketamine is a dissociative drug that can cause a person to feel like they are detached or separated from their body.

Signs of Ketamine Addiction

While all unapproved ketamine use is indicative of a problem, you might be wondering how to know if you’re dealing with ketamine addiction or dependence. The answer is that behaviors that indicate ketamine addiction are similar to behaviors that are present for all addictive substances. Here are some telltale signs that a person may be addicted to ketamine:

  • Using multiple times per week
  • Always wanting more
  • Committing risky actions to get ketamine
  • Needing more for the same effect because of tolerance
  • Mixing with other drugs
  • Being secretive or dishonest
  • Avoiding friends or family to hide changes in behavior
  • Stealing to afford ketamine
  • Missing personal, work, or school duties
  • Having vivid dreams or flashbacks
  • Zoning out
  • Hearing or seeing things that aren’t real
  • Losing memory
  • Trouble thinking or concentrating
  • Feeling disconnected from reality or dead
  • Being more aggressive
  • Acting violently, which isn’t usual
  • Experiencing delirium
  • Distorted perception of time, reality, and surroundings
  • Feeling detached from the body

Ketamine And Memory Lapses

The lapses in time and memory that affect persistent ketamine users can create serious risks for harm. While ketamine users are sometimes injured because they misjudge the physical space and objects surrounding them, there is also a risk for others to take advantage of a person who is under the influence of ketamine. Ketamine users are especially vulnerable to risks of sexual assault when in the company of people who are aware that they are incapacitated. With ketamine being such a widely used social drug, there is a “perfect storm” scenario with devastating implications.

Read about another substance that can induce severe mental health issues.

Are You Covered For Treatment?

Oasis Recovery Center partners with numerous private insurance providers. Our team is committed to assisting you in quickly and effortlessly verifying your insurance coverage for treatment.

How Does Ketamine Addiction Treatment Work?

Ketamine addiction requires the same attention as all forms of substance use disorder (SUD). Like other drugs, ketamine can cause painful withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, insomnia, physical discomfort, emotional discomfort, and vivid flashbacks. For this reason, a medically supervised detoxification program is highly recommended for someone who is trying to get sober from ketamine.

Once the detox phase is over, it’s important to transition into an inpatient, partial hospitalization, or another intensive treatment program to overcome the enticing effects of ketamine, which can seem like a good way to escape problems like depression and anxiety.

If you or someone you know has been using ketamine outside of the confines of a medically appropriate setting, it’s important to seek substance abuse resources. Look for a center offering the latest science-backed and holistic substance abuse treatment resources.

Contact Oasis Recovery Center

If you or someone you know is addicted to or abusing ketamine, contact Oasis Recovery Center in Asheville, North Carolina. Our addiction treatment center was founded by members of the recovery community who wanted to build a program that treats the mind, body, and soul of every individual who walks in our doors. We believe ketamine addiction treatment isn’t a one-size-fits-all situation, and each client at Oasis Recovery receives a personalized treatment plan that follows them through every hurdle and accomplishment. Call today, and one of our admissions agents can help you learn more or get started.

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