Ketamine Addiction: Side Effects, Detox, Withdrawal, and Treatment
Ketamine is a complex drug with a complicated history and current status. Classified as a dissociative anesthetic, ketamine has the ability to create out-of-body experiences in users when it is abused. On the other hand, it has also been used medically for the last 50+ years to sedate people before medical procedures. Recently, the FDA has also approved a ketamine nasal spray for treatment-resistant depression.
Although some studies have shown ketamine to be an effective treatment for depression and suicidal ideation, medical experts still aren’t exactly sure how it works to treat depression. What they do know, is that it works differently than other popular antidepressants like Prozac, Cymbalta, and Zoloft.
In low doses, ketamine is an effective treatment for pain and depression and can greatly reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviors. However, since ketamine is a dissociative drug, it can also distort a person’s sight and sound, inhibit physical movement, and produce a euphoric high that may couple with what is described as an “out-of-body experience.” These effects are only a result of abusing the drug and taking it in very large doses.
When it is abused recreationally, ketamine can cause harmful physical and psychological side effects. Because the side effects can be felt very quickly and generally wear off in an hour or less, ketamine is often abused among those in the party scene. It is a well-known club drug or party pill.
Ketamine may be sold illegally as a white powder or made into tablets and pills. Although it is not technically considered an addictive drug, ketamine does have the potential to cause dependence and addiction, especially if it is used on a long-term basis.
Brand names for ketamine drugs include:
- Spravato (ketamine nasal spray)
The following terms are street names or slang for ketamine:
- Special K
- Cat valium
- Cat tranquilizer
- Jet K
- Kit Kat
- Special La Coke
- Super acid
- Vitamin K
Ketamine is often abused for its ability to produce euphoric highs and out-of-body experiences. Some people refer to these euphoric effects as the “k hole.” While ketamine abuse can definitely lead to unpleasant side effects, at least half of all ketamine users also report pleasant side effects like feeling relaxed, happy and experiencing enhanced perceptions of the world around them.
For these reasons, ketamine is most often abused by people who are looking to escape reality or who have trouble coping with life circumstances. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the most common abusers of ketamine are young adults ages 18 and older. This is also true for other hallucinogen drugs like ecstasy and LSD.
Some of the most common side effects of ketamine abuse include:
- Increased blood pressure
- Difficulty concentrating, learning, and retaining information
- Lack of coordination or difficulty moving
- Slurred speech
- Skin redness
- Bladder pain and/or incontinence
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Low blood pressure
- Difficulty breathing
- Abnormal movements
Although researchers aren’t exactly sure about the long-term effects of ketamine abuse, the results of one study found that chronic ketamine abuse can cause a variety of harmful effects such as:
- Verbal problems
- Short-term memory loss
- Visual memory loss
- Urinary problems
- Irreversible brain damage
Ketamine can also be used as a date rape drug, which puts party-goers and clubbers at an increased risk for physical assault.
The signs and symptoms of ketamine abuse and addiction are similar to those of other substance abuse issues and may include:
- Isolating oneself from friends and family
- Losing interest in hobbies or daily activities
- Experiencing relationship problems
- Having financial problems related to ketamine abuse
- Being preoccupied with using ketamine
- Having strong cravings for ketamine
- Continuing to abuse ketamine despite the negative consequences
If you abuse ketamine recreationally for a long period of time, you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you suddenly stop. Ketamine withdrawal symptoms may include:
- Cravings for ketamine
- Excessive sweating
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Suicidal thoughts
Although not all ketamine users will experience withdrawal and it is not generally physically dangerous, the psychological side effects of ketamine withdrawal can be serious. Depending on the severity of your ketamine abuse and addiction, it may be beneficial for you to detox in a medical facility like a detox center.
A professional ketamine detox program can provide a period of safe, medical observation and treatment to ensure that you remain comfortable and safe throughout your detox experience. Additionally, if you experience any fluctuations in heart rate or blood pressure, having a medical team on-site to treat those symptoms can prevent any life-threatening medical situations from occurring.
If you are physically dependent on ketamine, a professional drug detox program can also provide clinical counseling which will prepare you for entry into a rehab program. If you choose to go to rehab, you will have the opportunity to address the behavioral and psychological issues that contribute to your substance abuse problems and ideally, make lasting life changes.
Ketamine takes about two to four days to completely leave your body. The withdrawal experience will vary greatly on a case-by-case basis, but ketamine withdrawal symptoms will most likely subside a day or two after the last dose. Although you may experience some psychological symptoms of withdrawal for weeks or months after you complete detox, symptoms like depression, anxiety, and cravings will eventually dimish and can be treated with medication and therapy in the meantime.
Enrolling in a drug rehab program after detox may be helpful if you are severely dependent on ketamine and feel like you need it to function on a daily basis. During rehab, you’ll work with a qualified and experienced team of addiction treatment professionals who will help you overcome your psychological addiction to ketamine and establish life skills and a support system that will help you stay sober long after your detox and rehab treatment is over.
There are many different types of drug rehab programs out there, including online self-help programs or 30 to 60-day rehab programs, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends enrolling in treatment that lasts at least 90 days for the best results. Research shows most people need at least 90 days of continuous addiction treatment to make positive strides toward recovery that last.
While you are in drug rehab, you may do the following things:
- Attend educational lectures and learn about the disease of addiction
- Work through the 12-Step Program or a similar recovery program
- Learn about relapse prevention and how to identify and avoid high-risk situations
- Learn how to self-monitor to recognize cravings early
- Attend group counseling and individual counseling that may use cognitive behavioral therapy, other behavioral therapies, and specialized therapies
- Gain important life skills
- Practice living sober in a safe and supportive environment
- Establish a peer support system for ongoing recovery
If you’re considering enrolling in rehab for ketamine addiction, it’s important to consider all your options and make sure you’re receiving high-quality treatment and care that addresses your individual needs. Two of the most common types of drug rehab programs are inpatient (residential) drug rehab and outpatient drug rehab. Here are some of the main differences between the two.
In residential rehab, you can expect to:
In outpatient rehab, you can expect to:
A residential drug rehab program isn’t necessarily better than an outpatient program or vice versa, but one or the other may be better suited to your individual lifestyle and treatment needs. For example, if you have a stable career and want to maintain it while you also work to get sober, an outpatient program may provide the flexibility you need to continue working while you focus on your recovery.
Just as rehab centers and programs will vary greatly, the cost of treatment will also vary. Fortunately, there are several different ways to pay for rehab with or without health insurance, such as:
- Health insurance benefits
- Employee Assistance Program (EAP) benefits
- Financed healthcare loans
- Credit cards
If you choose to continue your addiction treatment after rehab, you may want to consider enrolling in a sober living program or an aftercare program. Both types of continued care programs offer peer support in a supportive, accepting, and open environment. By continuing your addiction treatment for as long as possible, you further reduce your risk of relapse.
Sober Living Programs
Sober living programs act as a buffer between rehab and the “real world.” If you need additional support transitioning back into society after rehab, enrolling in sober living may be a wise decision. Sober living homes offer safe, structured, and gender-specific living environments for people in recovery and many even offer additional recovery support services like:
- Peer-led recovery programming
- Personal monitoring programs
- Tiered recovery programs for residents
- Employment and volunteer assistance
- Educational planning
- Regular drug and alcohol testing
Sober living homes are designed to house people in all stages of recovery, but they are particularly advantageous for those who have just gotten sober for the first time or who have recently relapsed.
The cost of sober living programs will vary on a case-by-case basis, but it often depends on the location, the recovery support services offered, the amenities, the type of home, and other factors.
Aftercare programs are designed to provide peer support and ongoing recovery maintenance for people who have recently completed rehab. Aftercare consists of a series of outpatient meetings where clients participate in open discussions concerning common challenges and issues in sobriety.
Aftercare meetings are designed to be welcoming, accepting, and supportive to all clients in recovery. It’s a place where people can be honest and real as they learn how to navigate a new life in recovery.
If you or a loved one is struggling with ketamine abuse or addiction, Nova Recovery Center can help. It is possible to overcome your addiction to ketamine and start living a fulfilling and rewarding life in sobriety. Call to get started today.
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- Evidenced-based treatment
- 12-Step immersion
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