Ketamine Misuse: Effects, Dangers & Addiction

Ketamine is a drug used in both medical and illicit settings.1 This article will go over ketamine effects, risks, and addiction treatment options.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine is sometimes used in medical settings as an anesthetic for animals and humans for surgical procedures.2 It may also be prescribed for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and other psychological disorders.3

Ketamine is known to cause dissociative effects (feelings of detachment and altered perceptions).2 It is used illicitly for the “out-of-body” experience and altered perceptions and as a result is often referred to as a “club drug” because it is popular at all-night dance parties.4 Street names for ketamine include:3

  • K.
  • Special K.
  • Kit Kat.
  • Vitamin K.
  • Cat valium.

Ketamine is sold as a powder or liquid. As a powder, the drug is usually snorted, but it may also be smoked or mixed into drinks. In its liquid form, the drug can be injected, sprayed on materials being smoked, or consumed with food or liquids.3

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) classifies ketamine as a Schedule III non-narcotic substance.3 This means it has medical uses but also the potential for psychological and physical dependence.5

Ketamine Effects & Risks

Taking ketamine can make someone experience an altered perception of reality and feel disconnected from their bodies and physical surroundings.2

The use of ketamine may cause:6

  • Distortions in someone’s perceptions of sight and sound.
  • Feeling detached from one’s self or their surroundings.
  • Sedation.
  • Confusion.
  • Slowed respiration.
  • Memory loss.
  • Difficulty learning or paying attention.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Kidney problems.
  • Urinary problems.
  • Ulcers.
  • Unconsciousness.
  • Overdose.

Because ketamine can cause profound sedation and amnesia, some have used the drug on others to facilitate sexual assault.4

Can You Overdose On Ketamine?

Misuse of ketamine can lead to overdose. Symptoms include:6

  • Respiratory depression.
  • Vocal cord spasms (more common with intravenous delivery).
  • Low blood pressure.
  • Slow heart rate.
  • Seizures.
  • Coma.

Overdoses from ketamine are much more likely when taking extremely high doses or combining use with that of other drugs (e.g., alcohol, cocaine).2

Illicitly manufactured drugs may contain dangerous adulterants that could lead to overdose and death.2 For example, fentanyl—a powerful synthetic opioid—is colorless and odorless, making it difficult to detect without chemical testing.2

If an overdose occurs, emergency medical intervention is needed.7 In cases where opioid involvement is suspected, quick administration of Narcan (naloxone) can reverse the overdose and allow time for emergency services to arrive.7

Is Ketamine Addictive?

Addiction to ketamine is relatively infrequent but can occur.6

The clinical term for ketamine addiction is ketamine use disorder. This is defined as the compulsive and uncontrollable use of a substance despite the harm it is causing.8 The development of a substance use disorder may be influenced by the drug itself as well as genetic, environmental, and psychosocial factors.8,9

Signs of Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine use disorder is characterized by the presence of 2 or more of the following diagnostic criteria within 12 months:8

  1. Taking the drug in larger doses or for a longer period than intended
  2. An ongoing desire to use or unsuccessful efforts to control or lower use
  3. Spending an excessive amount of time trying to obtain the drug, using it, or recovering from its effects
  4. Experiencing cravings for ketamine.
  5. Recurring use despite failure to fulfill major obligations in work or relationships
  6. Continued misuse despite ongoing interpersonal or social problems caused by use of the drug
  7. Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities to use ketamine.
  8. Taking the substance in physically dangerous situations (like driving).
  9. Continued usage of the drug despite being aware that it has caused or exacerbated physical or psychological issues
  10. Building a tolerance to ketamine (i.e., the effects of ketamine are diminished when taking the same amount or more ketamine is necessary to experience the desired effects).

Ketamine Detox & Withdrawal

Formal medical detox is rarely needed for ketamine addiction;10 however, some people have reported that abruptly quitting ketamine after chronic use caused some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. These ketamine withdrawal symptoms included:11

  • Cravings.
  • Sweating.
  • Shaking.
  • Anxiety.

Treatment in Nevada for Ketamine Misuse

Ketamine addiction treatment can take place in a variety of settings and typically involves behavioral therapy, peer support, psychoeducation, treatment for co-occurring disorders, and other interventions.

Desert Hope Treatment Center in Nevada provides these approaches to treat addiction through multiple types of rehab, including:

Call to start the treatment admissions process at Desert Hope’s inpatient rehab facility in Las Vegas or the outpatient center. Compassionate admissions navigators can answer questions on what to expect in treatmentinsurance coverage, and other ways to pay for rehab. You can also verify your insurance using the confidential .

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