What Is Ketamine? Addiction Symptoms & Treatment

Ketamine is a medication used for humans and animals. It may be used to sedate people in intensive care or as an anesthesia for people undergoing surgery. It has the ability to produce a trance-like state that includes pain relief and memory loss, making it ideal for situations where extreme pain could be involved.

This page will cover whether ketamine is addictive, symptoms of ketamine use, and how to get help for ketamine addiction.

Is Ketamine Addictive?

Ketamine is a dissociative drug with addiction potential. The DEA classifies ketamine as a Schedule III drug which means it has a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. As with other drugs, whether or not a person will develop an addiction depends on multiple factors, which include both environmental and biological.

Like many club drugs, ketamine is believed to not be addictive, but for some people, the euphoria associated with it can lead to cravings and compulsive use associated with addiction.

Ketamine has been found to result in physiological tolerance, which means a person needs to keep increasing the amount of ketamine they use to experience the same effect. Additionally, people who use ketamine regularly have the potential to experience cravings and other withdrawal symptoms when ketamine use stops.

Signs of Ketamine Addiction

Some signs of ketamine addiction may include:

  • Using the drug in larger doses or for a longer period of time than intended.
  • Experiencing an inability to control or quit use.
  • Spending an inordinate amount of time getting ketamine, using it, and recovering from its effects.
  • Experiencing interpersonal, physical, or psychological consequences related to use.
  • Failing to fulfill home, school, or work obligations due to ketamine use.
  • Using ketamine in dangerous situations, such as while driving.

Symptoms of Ketamine Use

Ketamine intoxication can produce symptoms such as:

  • Sedation.
  • Immobility.
  • Amnesia.
  • Impaired attention and memory.
  • Hallucinations and delirium.
  • Experiencing a K-hole, or terrifying near-death feeling, similar to a bad LSD trip.
  • Feeling of disconnection from one’s body or reality.
  • Changes in perceptions of color or sound.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Problems breathing.

How Does Ketamine Make You Feel?

Ketamine is different than other anesthetics in that it produces a dissociative state that includes depersonalization and derealization – feelings of detachment from one’s body and the surrounding environment.

At very high doses, users can enter what’s commonly referred to as a “K-hole.” This creates an extreme dissociative state of severe sedation to the point that individuals often feel that they cannot move, and experience auditory and visual hallucinations. Typically, the desired effects of ketamine include distorted perceptions of sound and sight and dream-like states.

Due to these unusual effects, it’s not difficult to identify when someone is high on ketamine as long as you’re familiar with the signs. It can be helpful to know the signs of ketamine intoxication even for those who don’t plan on using or being around people who use it due to the fact that it’s a common choice as a “date rape drug” – a drug used to sedate people against their will in order to sexually assault them. Ketamine’s effects have an extremely rapid onset. You may feel completely aware of what is happening but unable to move.

If someone is exhibiting signs of a ketamine high without having knowingly taken the drug, call 911 immediately and stay by the person’s side until medical attention arrives.

Side Effects of Using Ketamine

There are many potential side effects of ketamine misuse, and not everyone reacts in the same way. Ketamine side effects can include:

  • High blood pressure.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Impaired motor function.
  • Numbness.
  • Convulsions.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Dizziness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Memory loss.
  • Depression.

Using large doses of ketamine or combining ketamine with other depressants, such as alcohol, can result in ketamine overdose or toxicity. It’s important to be aware of the overdose signs, which include:

  • Severe respiratory depression.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Profound confusion.
  • Intense anxiety and paranoia.
  • Chest pain.
  • Muscle spasms.
  • Unresponsiveness.
  • Hallucinations and delirium.
  • Loss of consciousness.
  • Seizures.

Ketamine can also cause a serious allergic reaction in some individuals. This can cause an itchy rash, hives, and/or swelling around the face, throat, and tongue. Swelling in this area can quickly become a medical emergency as it can obstruct the airway.

Frequently Asked Questions About Ketamine

What is ketamine?

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic, which also has some hallucinogenic properties. Effects of the drug are reportedly similar to effects of Phencyclidine (PCP) or Dextromethorphan (DXM). Hallucinations are distortions of sight and sound and other senses, along with a sensation of detachment from oneself or surroundings.

Ketamine appears as either a white powder or a clear liquid. It has become popular as a “club drug,” at raves or dances, often in combination with MDMA or ecstasy. Due to its potential for misuse and its legitimate medical uses, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists ketamine as a Schedule III substance.

How addictive is ketamine?

While ketamine is not typically considered to be as addictive as other drugs of misuse, such as opioids, stimulants, or alcohol, chronic users can still develop a problematic pattern of compulsive ketamine misuse that can be difficult to quit.

Research indicates that ketamine users can develop tolerance, which means they need higher amounts to get high, which can increase the risk of overdose and other negative consequences. Long-term ketamine users may develop dependence, particularly if they use ketamine in binging patterns, which may result in the emergence of withdrawal symptoms.

Although tolerance and dependence don’t necessarily indicate the presence of a drug addiction, they are often two major signs that someone struggles with addiction.

People who have a history of substance misuse, or a higher risk of developing an addiction due to genetics or their environment, are more at risk of becoming addicted to ketamine than those without those risk factors.

Can you overdose on ketamine?

It is possible to overdose on ketamine. Since the drug is a sedative, the two main symptoms of overdose are an inability to wake up and depressed or stopped breathing. It is very important to call 911 to get emergency medical assistance if you suspect that you or someone you know has overdosed on ketamine.

Are there risks of long-term ketamine use?

Ketamine is a potent sedative and hallucinogen, so long-term misuse of this substance can cause serious physical and mental health effects, such as:

  • Ketamine addiction.
  • Memory problems.
  • Worsening depression.
  • Digestive issues.
  • Ulcers or pain in the bladder.
  • Kidney problems.
  • Contracting infectious diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis, from shared needles.

The drug has also been used as a date rape drug, so a person who accidentally ingests ketamine is at a higher risk of contracting STDs.

Does ketamine cause withdrawal symptoms?

There are no specific withdrawal syndrome associated with ketamine, although people who struggle with chronic misuse of this drug report cravings when they stop using. There have been case reports in which people describe experiencing the following ketamine withdrawal symptoms:

  • Chills.
  • Signs of autonomic arousal, like rapid heart rate, anxiety, and increased respiratory rate.
  • Restlessness.
  • Tearing of eyes.
  • Nightmares.

As with LSD, a person who ingests ketamine may also experience flashbacks to hallucinations or delusions that occurred during the high.

If you or someone you love is struggling with ketamine addiction, help is available. Sunrise House Treatment Center—an alcohol and drug rehab in Lafayette, NJ—offers evidence-based addiction treatment customized to your individual needs.

Admissions navigators are available 24/7 to answer any questions you may have and provide information about rehab admissions, rehab payment options, and whether insurance covers rehab. Call to speak to someone now, or .

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