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While ketamine has some uses in medical treatment as an anesthetic and to treat depression, abusing ketamine can lead to problems with addiction and serious long-term consequences.
What Is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic and hallucinogenic drug found in liquid or powder forms. There are some FDA-approved medical uses for ketamine. However, illicit ketamine use has become an issue over the years, and American treatment centers have been seeing an increased number of people needing treatment for ketamine addiction.
The number of people who abuse ketamine is fewer than many other drugs, with under 1% of the teen and young adult population reported using ketamine recreationally. Fewer showing signs of addiction – however, use has been rising in recent years. American treatment centers have reported an increased number of ketamine patients. It is important to have accurate addiction treatment information available for people who feel they have become addicted to ketamine to promote harm reduction and recovery.
History Of Ketamine
Ketamine was originally developed and approved for use as general anesthesia in 1970. As its use in medical settings became more common, recreational use and addiction increased. By the 1980s, ketamine had become a popular club drug and a date rape drug, with nicknames like Special K and Cat Valium. This led to ketamine becoming a controlled substance by the FDA, which reduced its use in medical treatment in favor of other anesthetic medications. This also decreased the amount of street use of ketamine, with drugs like cocaine or molly rising in popularity and addiction rates. Recently, the medical community has begun to explore the use of ketamine as a treatment for depression. However, this is still a relatively uncommon practice.
Effects of Ketamine
In a recreational setting, the dissociative anesthetic properties cause psychotic symptoms of being disconnected from reality – this can range from feelings of utter bliss for some to severe anxiety for others. Ketamine can also have hallucinogenic effects, as it has some similar properties to phencyclidine (PCP), although far less potent. The euphoric feelings described are often where the potential for addiction lies when users look to self-medicate feelings of depression with ketamine without treating the root causes. This leads to a cycle of addiction where someone feels like they need ketamine to cope with social situations or daily life.
Ketamine’s effects depend on the user’s surroundings, unique physiology, and interactions with other drugs. In very high doses, users may report a total out-of-body experience or a k-hole, where they cannot interact with their surroundings at all.
Ketamine also frequently causes memory loss and difficulty moving, so it may be used as a date rape drug.
Users may have dilated pupils, sweating, and poor motor skills while under the influence.
In medical procedures, the effects of ketamine are sedation, temporary pain relief, and relief of depression. The risk of addiction is mitigated when ketamine is used under the supervision of a medical professional, as they will monitor the patient and work with them on the root causes of their symptoms. With a controlled dose and environment, the effects of extreme anxiety are unlikely to happen.
How Is Ketamine Used?
Ketamine can be found in powder form, where it may be snorted or put in a capsule and swallowed. It can also be found in a liquid form that may be injected or mixed into drinks, commonly used as a date rape drug.
Snorting and drinking ketamine are the most common ways people will consume the drug recreationally; injection is more often found in medical settings.
When Is Ketamine Used?
Ketamine is most common as a club drug. While it is significantly less popular than MDMA, cocaine, and alcohol, users report enjoying certain types of music more while using ketamine. It is a short-acting drug, with the effects of ketamine usually lasting about an hour per dose.
Someone suffering from addiction will need to use ketamine frequently to keep feeling the effects.
Ketamine is also known as a date rape drug due to its effects on memory impairment and disassociation from reality – this can leave an unknowing user confused and unable to react to their surroundings. This is heightened when the ketamine is mixed with alcohol or other drugs.
Signs Of Ketamine Abuse and Addiction
Chronic ketamine abuse can turn into a ketamine addiction over time. Often, when people begin to turn to substance abuse to relieve stress, this can be an indicator of addictive behavior or addiction and a sign that treatment may be necessary.
Other symptoms of addiction include:
- Neglecting other aspects of life
- Trouble concentrating
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Memory impairment
- Spending excessive amounts of money on ketamine
- Strong cravings and needing more to feel the effects
- Withdrawal symptoms when not using
- Urinary tract issues
- Depression and suicidal ideations
- Numbness and resistance to pain
Suppose you or a loved one shows these addiction symptoms and may abuse ketamine. In that case, it is important to know that addiction recovery information is available and that it is possible to receive treatment.
Ketamine With Other Drugs
In a recreational setting, mixing ketamine with other drugs is common. Ketamine abuse also is commonly seen alongside alcohol abuse when taken as a club drug. This can significantly increase the risks of a near-death experience or serious harm, with 89% of people needing medical treatment for a ketamine overdose also found to have other drugs in their bodies.
Dangers of Ketamine
Deaths from an overdose of ketamine are less common than some other substances because it renders high-dose users unconscious without slowing their heart rate or restricting breathing. This does not mean that ketamine use is safe and that addiction does not have serious consequences; however, it means that the larger dangers with ketamine use come from the symptoms of impairment in the frontal cortex – users may lose control of their body and experience memory impairment, which can lead to accidents and poor decision making.
Ketamine abusers also frequently mix the substance with other drugs, which significantly increases the risk to the individual. This is especially true when mixing ketamine with alcohol or other depressants, as this can lead to vomiting paired with the inability to move, which presents the danger of suffocation.
Long-Term Consequences of Ketamine Addiction
Symptoms of long-term ketamine abuse include both physical and emotional aspects. Chronic ketamine abuse can cause addiction, permanent damage to the urinary tract, bladder ulcers, kidney problems, and general stomach pain. Mentally, ketamine use can cause memory impairment, depression, and suicidal ideations. The length of these effects can vary. Users will experience withdrawal symptoms when coming down after using. However, the longer a person has been abusing ketamine or has been in addiction, the longer they may experience lasting symptoms. In long-term cases of addiction, these problems may persist for the rest of the user’s life – so it is important to get treatment as soon as possible.
There is also an increased risk of contracting infectious illnesses such as hepatitis or HIV through the methods used to consume ketamine. The impaired judgment that results from regular drug use poses risks of accidents and legal consequences that can impact a person’s life and family.
As someone in addiction is using ketamine regularly, they will build a tolerance and often need to increase the amount from their last dose to feel the same effects. This is a common issue with many types of drug abuse and can lead to financial problems and worsening physical symptoms.
Interpersonal Consequences of Ketamine Addiction
Like excessive substance abuse and addiction, ketamine addiction presents significant challenges to the user’s loved ones. Drug addiction does not only impact the user, and it pushes a person to distance themselves from social events that do not involve the use of ketamine, using all of their time and money to get the next dose. The more advanced that addiction gets, the addicts may begin to miss work or perform poorly and begin to steal to fund their addiction. This causes distrust and anger towards that person and legal consequences. The consequences of addiction often lead to additional feelings of depression, which fuel the addiction cycle and push the person to consume more ketamine.
Withdrawal symptoms of ketamine can include problems with memory, irritability, and lower general cognitive function, making it very difficult to communicate with a ketamine addict and pushing friends and family away.
In many cases, loved ones will push an addict to go to a treatment center and receive addiction treatment for their drug use, which may be met with anger and defensiveness. While a family may begin to feel hopeless, there are support groups that can provide comfort while pursuing addiction treatment options.
Medical Uses of Ketamine
In a controlled setting, ketamine can have medical uses. Its properties as a dissociative anesthetic make ketamine useful for pain relief and can be used in a low dose for burn treatments instead of opioids. Ketamine is sometimes used in a small dose to sedate children for shorter medical procedures since the effects are less long-term than other anesthesia.
Recently, ketamine treatment has been used for depression in severe cases that have been resistant to other medications. Patients will have ketamine administered at treatment centers. In the following days, symptoms of depression should lessen. The treatment usually requires several sessions – however, patients have reported significant improvements in their depression symptoms following this type of ketamine therapy.
Ketamine is also commonly used in veterinary clinics as a sedative for animals undergoing treatment and can be used for the euthanasia of horses.
Treatment For Ketamine Abuse and Addiction
It is possible to break free from a ketamine addiction and get back an enjoyable quality of life. Addiction treatment usually begins with the safe monitoring of withdrawal symptoms, as the ketamine abuser gets the drug out of their system. With ketamine, this process typically lasts a few days but can be up to a week.
Following that, cognitive-behavioral and family therapy forms may be used in the treatment process. Those who have struggled with addiction need to rebuild their lives. Frequently they have neglected their career and family relationships due to ketamine use, so a large part of the treatment process is repairing that damage so the person may return to a fulfilling life without ketamine. Addiction treatment can be challenging, but recovery is possible, and help is available in many American treatment centers.
General Addiction Information
Substance use disorder is a spectrum of behavior where someone cannot control their use of substances, with disregard for the consequences that can follow. As the behavior progresses, the person will decline into addiction until they can complete treatment for their substance abuse. Addiction and substance abuse are very complicated, and patients often need to tackle difficult root causes to get to the bottom of their addiction and break free of it. People who struggle with substance abuse disorder often find themselves in and out of treatment centers while battling addiction.
In American treatment centers, patients have treatment options depending on the severity of their addiction. Some may need to go through an in-patient program, while others succeed with an intensive outpatient program. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, know that help is available, and treatment is possible for addiction to ketamine or other substances. For more information about addiction treatment, please contact Addiction Interventions.
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