What Will Happen if You Take Too Much Ketamine?
Pharmaceutical ketamine is a prescription medication, mostly used in veterinary medicine, but diverted and other illicit forms of the drug are often abused recreationally.1 Ketamine is classified as a dissociative drug because it can alter a person’s sense of reality and cause feelings of detachment from one’s body and the environment.2
This page will discuss ketamine use, side effects of ketamine, and other health risks such as ketamine overdose and ketamine addiction.
Ketamine is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines for its use as an anesthetic and analgesic.3 It is considered safer than some other anesthetics because it is less likely to slow down breathing or decrease blood pressure.1,3
Though used in this capacity in low-resource countries and certain emergency settings, people recovering from ketamine anesthesia after surgery may experience negative side effects like extreme confusion, hallucinations, and delusions. For this reason, ketamine is less commonly used with humans but continues to be frequently used in veterinary surgeries.1
Low doses of ketamine can result in perceptual distortions of time and space, hallucinations, and mild dissociation.1,2 At higher doses, it can cause severe dissociation, known by recreational users as a ‘K-hole’—where a person feels completely divorced from reality and their body.1
Users in a K-hole may describe out-of-body or near-death experiences, entering another reality, contacting aliens, or even entering information networks.4 While these sensations may be appealing to some, taking too much ketamine can also lead to:2
- Memory loss.
Ketamine misuse may result in a host of harmful side effects (see below) and may eventually lead to ketamine addiction—an inability to stop using the drug despite the harm doing so causes.1,2
Ketamine Side Effects
Ketamine use may be accompanied by unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects such as:1,4
- Memory impairment.
- Persistent perceptual changes.
- Increased heart rate.
- High blood pressure.
- Severe abdominal pain.
- Urinary tract, bladder, and kidney problems.
Another risk of recreational ketamine use is the potential to develop tolerance, physical dependence and/or addiction.1
Tolerance, which results in the need to keep increasing doses to feel the intended effect, appears to be common among regular users. One study found a 600% increase from first dose to current dose among frequent ketamine users.1 Escalating doses may result in increased risks and may also hasten the development of dependence or addiction.
While there is conflicting evidence on whether ketamine use can lead to physical dependence, some research suggests that regular ketamine users who stop taking the drug may experience withdrawal symptoms like:1
- Heart palpitations.
Those who develop a ketamine addiction and compulsively use the drug put themselves at risk of serious health issues such as urinary, bladder, and kidney complications. They are also more prone to accidents and death.1,4
Even low doses of ketamine can cause extreme disorientation and confusion in users, which can significantly increase the risk for accidents, such as falls or drowning.1,4 This means that driving, operating heavy machinery, and even walking up and down stairs can potentially lead to significant injury while under the influence of ketamine.
Is a Ketamine Overdose Possible?
When used alone, ketamine overdose is rare, though ketamine toxicity can cause numerous health problems.1,4 The majority of ketamine-related emergency room visits involve ketamine mixed with other drugs, particularly alcohol, GHB, and MDMA.1
People presenting to the emergency room report symptoms such as:1
- Altered consciousness.
- Stomach pain.
- Urinary tract issues.
- Increased heart rate.
- High blood pressure.
Taking too much ketamine is particularly risky for people with existing cardiac conditions or hypertension, as ketamine increases cardiac output, causes tachycardia (racing heart rate), and raises the blood pressure.1
The initial psychoactive effects of ketamine typically last between 10 minutes to 4 hours, depending upon the route of administration.4
The ketamine comedown is the drug-induced equivalent of a hangover and begins as the high wears off. People coming down from ketamine may experience serious psychological symptoms, including:1
- Intense confusion or delirium.
Anecdotal reports of ketamine comedown describe ‘out of body’ experiences or feeling ‘near death’.1 People coming down from ketamine are also at risk for:5
Medical detox and treatment may be necessary to help safely come down from the drug, minimize severe psychotic symptoms, and manage the risks associated with increased aggression.5
Mixing Ketamine With Other Drugs
Ketamine can interact negatively with certain medications and foods, including:6
- Antibiotics like clarithromycin and rifampin.
- Heart medications like ticlopidine.
- Grapefruit juice, which can reduce the drug’s effectiveness.
When ketamine is used recreationally, it is primarily used in club or party settings.1,4 It may be combined with many other substances including cocaine and alcohol. There have also been reports of ketamine being sold as MDMA and being cut into heroin.4
Mixing ketamine with other drugs can put users at risk for additional medical and psychiatric complications:1,5
- Opioids, including heroin and prescription opioids, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and morphine, pose a risk for respiratory depression and death.
- Cocaine use can increase the chances of experiencing heart attack, stroke, and other heart-related complications. Because ketamine already increases the risk of cardiac events, taking it with stimulants can be particularly risky.
- Depressants like alcohol, barbiturates, and benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium, can cause intoxication that may lead to death, particularly if multiple depressants are mixed together.
Other Ketamine Health Effects
Ketamine is a powerful drug that can result in long-term health effects among chronic users. Long-term risks of using ketamine can include psychological problems such as:1,4
- Severe anxiety.
- Panic attacks.
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Difficulty sustaining attention.
- Memory impairments.
- Significant personality changes.
Ketamine use can also cause sleep disturbances like insomnia, nightmares, and night terrors.1,4 Some chronic ketamine users develop ‘K-cramps,’ which are severe abdominal pains believed to be caused by swallowing drips of the drug when snorted.
Ketamine use over an extended period of time can result in severe urinary tract, bladder, and kidney issues. Ketamine-induced ulcerative cystitis involves frequent and urgent need to urinate, painful urination, and bloody urine. Stopping use and maintaining abstinence from ketamine may provide some relief from these symptoms.
Long-term ketamine use may also increase the risk for developing:1,3,4
- Bladder cancer.
- Hydronephrosis (renal distension) secondary to urinary obstruction.
- Destruction of kidney cells.
- Renal failure.
Seeking treatment for ketamine addiction may help alleviate or reverse some of these issues and prevent further problems from developing.
If you or someone you love is struggling with the devastating effects of addiction and are unsure of where to turn, call us now at . Desert Hope, American Addiction Centers’ drug treatment center in Las Vegas, NV, is ready to help you get the treatment you need today.
Compassionate admissions navigators are available 24/7 to answer your questions about the rehab admissions process, ways to pay for rehab, and using insurance coverage for rehab. You can also quickly and easily .