Ketamine Addiction – Symptoms, Side Effects, How to Get Treatment & Rehab
If you suffer from a Ketamine addiction and need to act now, call 0203 955 7700 to speak to one of our experts for immediate help or to find a rehab center.
Ketamine is a drug that has been on the recreational drug scene since the 1980s. It’s described scientifically as a “dissociative anaesthetic” which means that it can make the user feel as if they are having an out-of-body experience at the same time as feeling sedated. Thanks to the unusual qualities of the drug, people who use it often report a range of effects. Some abusers say that they have what feels like a near-death experience, coming close to the point where they can perceive their spirit leaving their bodies. Others report feeling euphoric and free from worry.
At high doses, people can slip into a profound unconscious state of where they experience vivid dreams and visions. Many people say that they feel blissful or happy, but others can find the experience of the drug terrifying and upsetting. How a user feels varies from person to person, based on personality type and a host of other factors.
Ketamine was initially intended to be a sedative drug for animals during surgeries and medical treatments. But the discovery that it could make humans feel metaphysically detached from their bodies made the drug an instant hit on the recreational drug scene. The drug induces what may feel like a spiritual experience, although this is the effect of the substance, rather than anything deeper or more meaningful. Trips on ketamine usually last about an hour and can induce feelings of profound relaxation. Sights and sounds becoming distorted at lower doses, leading people to feel as if they are leaving their troubles behind.
Because ketamine was originally intended for animals, it goes by some animal-related names, including Kit Kat, cat valium, special K and “Dorothy.” Ketamine is also used for children who cannot tolerate other kinds of anaesthetics, thanks to its “short-lived” duration in the body.
Is Ketamine Addictive?
Whether ketamine is addictive in the sense that cocaine is addictive is yet to be determined. However, initial investigations by organisations like NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) suggest that ketamine may have addictive properties, especially when consumed in high doses. NIDA says that people who take ketamine in high doses exhibit similar behaviours to some cocaine- and amphetamine-addicted individuals, suggesting that a dependency may develop after changes in brain chemistry.
How Addictive Is Ketamine?
How addictive is ketamine relative to other illicit drugs? That remains to be determined by medical science. However, people who are addicted to ketamine can have many symptoms that are similar to those experienced by other drug users. One of the most common signs of addiction is a change in behaviour.
People who abuse ketamine may suddenly start focusing all their energies on obtaining the drug (or money for the drug) regardless of negative consequences. They may also begin experiencing powerful cravings where all they can think about is their next hit of ketamine, especially if they take the substance in high doses regularly.
NIDA says that ketamine users may experience cravings similar to those of people on other drugs and that these cravings may be so intense that a person may have an uncontrollable desire for the drug. An individual may experience mood swings and engage in compulsive behaviour to fuel their addiction.
Why Is Ketamine Addictive?
Ketamine is addictive because of the impact that it has on the brain. Ketamine changes the chemistry of the brain, leading to an increase in tolerance and a desire for more of the drug to prevent the inevitable crash.
Many individuals experience an increase in their tolerance for the drug. Whereas just a single dose was enough in the past, more is needed to produce the desired effect in the present. Tolerance does not necessarily mean addiction, but it is a sign that the brain of the person concerned has adapted to higher concentrations of the drug and that a person needs more to create the same effect. A person who uses ketamine outside of infrequent social events may have a problem with addiction.
Ketamine Addictive Properties
The precise nature of ketamine’s addictive properties are not fully known to medical science. However, investigators and people in medical practice believe that it may produce similar changes in the brain to cocaine and amphetamines, thanks to its similar chemical structure. It is, therefore, possible for chronic users to become addicted to ketamine over the long-term, making it no less dangerous than “hard” drugs.
What Causes Ketamine Addiction?
Ketamine falls into the same category of drugs as codeine and anabolic steroids. It is a schedule III controlled substance in the US which means that it has the ability to cause physical and psychological dependence.
In the UK, ketamine was upgraded from a class C to a class B drug in 2014, following a spate of bladder removals of people who had taken high doses of the drug. People caught trafficking class B drugs face a maximum prison sentence of 14 years.
The primary cause of ketamine addiction is the effect that it has on brain chemistry. Like many other controlled substances, ketamine can change the chemical signals in a person’s brain in response to the “high” caused by the drug. The drug induces sensations of profound relaxation and bliss for a short period. During this time, the brain senses that it has enough of the happiness chemical messengers and begins to downregulate them to achieve what it thinks is a normal level in the brain. When the effect of the drug wears off, this downregulation of “feel good” chemicals leads a person to feel a host of negative emotions that are destructive to their happiness. People coming off ketamine feel a combination of anxiety, depression, agitation, aggression, paranoia, and schizophrenia-like symptoms.
And this is where the problems can often start. A ketamine abuser discovers that the only way to prevent these negative feelings from playing out is to use ketamine again. When they resume consumption of ketamine, it induces a state of profound bliss and relaxation, stopping the negative emotions in their tracks. This positive reinforcement is how ketamine addiction is believed to begin. Just as with other drugs, it is the avoidance of the withdrawal symptoms that provoke somebody to continue to use the drug, even outside of recreational settings.
Over time, ketamine addiction can intensify according to some sources. What starts as mild symptoms can develop into something more profound as the chemistry of the brain undergoes ever-more significant changes. Eventually, ketamine addiction may result in severe side effects (which we will discuss below), including some which could put a patient’s life at risk.
Signs Of Ketamine Addiction
There are several visible signs that you or somebody you know might be in the throes of ketamine addiction.
- Redness Of The Skin. If you suddenly notice redness of the skin, it could be a sign that a person is addicted to ketamine. Skin redness on the face and around the neck can occur in some cases of ketamine abuse, particularly when a person takes a high dose.
- Slurred Speech. Ketamine is a sedative. Because of this, it can interfere with a person’s ability to form coherent speech patterns. Slurred speech is a sign that a person isn’t well in general, but if they have no other health problems, it is a strong indication that a person may be consuming controlled substances.
- Depression. As discussed, ketamine produces a high which negatively affects the chemical composition of the brain. The brain begins to down regulate feel-good factors while exposed to ketamine, believing that it has enough. However, the drug induces changes in brain chemistry which may cause users to feel depression. Sudden onset of depression may, therefore, be an indication of ketamine use.
- Loss Of Coordination. Ketamine is a dissociative drug, meaning that it can result in hallucinations and a feeling of being detached from reality. This can also lead to a loss of coordination, as a person cannot accurately determine the position of their body or its relation to their environment.
- Irritable Behaviour. People can feel agitated while not experiencing the effects of ketamine, again because of changes to their brain chemistry. It is a common sign of ketamine abuse.
Side Effects Of Ketamine Addiction
Ketamine addiction symptoms can potentially be dangerous, with some doctors and professionals in the field describing undesirable effects of taking the drug.
Ketamine addiction symptoms include:
- Impaired motor function – which is dangerous when driving, cooking, or doing anything else that requires fine motor control
- Slurred speech
- Impaired judgment – which could lead a person to put themselves in dangerous situations that they would typically avoid
- Distorted perceptions of sight and sound – which again could lead to bad decision-making
- Slowed movement
- Respiratory distress – resulting from the effects of ketamine at a physiological level and on a person’s nervous system
- Psychotic episodes and hallucinations
- Nausea and vomiting
- Bladder damage – around a quarter of ketamine users report pain when going to the bathroom after a hit. Many also report that their urine contains blood. Sometimes users refer to bladder pain as “ket cramps.” Chemical byproducts of ketamine consumption cause damage to the lining of the bladder and the tubes leading to it which, in some cases, can necessitate surgery.
- Brain damage – long-term ketamine abuse can lead to permanent damage to the brain. Damage to the brain impairs a person’s ability to fight ketamine addiction by robbing them of the cognitive faculties that they need to understand that their life will be better without the drug. Ketamine addiction, therefore, should be dealt with as quickly as possible to ensure the best chance of success.
- Respiratory failure. There are some reports that ketamine usage may result in respiratory failure and death. Ketamine, therefore, is a dangerous substance that can result in death, even in otherwise healthy people.
Read more about Drug Withdrawal Symptoms
Am I Addicted To Ketamine?
How do you know if you are addicted to ketamine? The chances are that if you use ketamine during infrequent social occasions and do not think about the drug outside of those situations, then you aren’t addicted. However, if you find yourself thinking about the drug or taking it regularly, then you may have a drug addiction. If you need ketamine to feel “normal” or you find yourself taking it during working hours to get you through the day, then you may have a ketamine issue.
Whether you are addicted to the substance or not requires an individual evaluation, but if you experience any withdrawal symptoms when you are not using, then you may have a physical addiction. Do you experience depression or anxiety when you are not on the drug? Have you had a psychotic episode? Do you feel irritated or agitated during a “crash” after a high? Have you noticed any respiratory or physiological symptoms that seem to go away when you start using the drug again? If so, then you may have developed a physical addiction to ketamine and need the help of professionals to ensure that it does not continue to develop unchecked.
Recognising ketamine addiction can sometimes be a challenge. As a clubber or somebody who regularly goes on nights out, you might be used to ketamine as part of your social scene. While many people use ketamine recreationally, prolonged use may lead to psychological addiction, something which the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Clinical Disorders (a big book that describes all defined psychological disorders) clearly defines.
The main sign of ketamine abuse disorder, as the DSM calls it, is problems with relationships. If you or somebody you know is struggling to continue with their close relationships, then it could indicate an abusive relationship with a recreational drug, like ketamine.
If you or somebody you know is spending a lot of time, money and effort on trying to acquire the drug, then that could also be a sign that a person may be struggling with addiction. Getting ketamine on the illegal drug market can be expensive, dangerous and difficult, and it can be hard to know whether the product is pure.
People who are addicted to ketamine also struggle to exert control over their use of the drug. They might start with the desire to take a single dose, but find themselves powerless to prevent themselves from getting the second, third, or fourth hit. Lack of control could be an indication that you are unable to consciously override your brain’s physical and psychological desire for the drug – a hallmark of addiction.
Finally, people struggling with addiction to ketamine may begin to lose sight of their responsibilities and obligations to other people. Parents who abuse ketamine, for instance, may stop providing their children with the level of care that they need. Likewise, workers may fail to turn up to work on time or provide their colleagues with the level of service demanded by their role. It may be difficult for some employees to carry out their duties while experiencing the effects of a ketamine high or withdrawal.
(Read our post on Ketamine – The hidden dangers of the “party drug”)
How To Beat Ketamine Addiction?
If you believe that you may have a ketamine addiction, it can be easy to deny that you have a problem and get angry with other people when they suggest it. But if you have found yourself experiencing any of the adverse effects of the drug described above, then you may want to begin treatment. Likewise, if you believe that somebody you know has an addiction, then they may not be willing to talk about it. Your concerns may be met with anger and denial, and you may feel like you are getting nowhere.
The good news is that you or a person you know can beat ketamine addiction with the right help. A skilled interventionist is a person with specialised training who can speak frankly with a ketamine abuser about their relationship with the drug and work with them to change their perceptions of their current situation.
Interventions can be highly-charged situations. Families, friends, and professionals often have to work together to ensure that the addict can no longer continue with their addictive behaviours. A professional interventionist usually works for some time behind the scenes, doing research and collecting information on the person for whom others have a concern. The purpose of the information-gathering is to find out as much as possible about the abuser’s history and their relationship with the drug, when they started taking it, how much they take, and what circumstances could have led to their present situation. Getting all the necessary background context makes it easier to recommend treatment and undo some of the defences of the person who requires intervention.
After an intervention, the next stage is to get the ketamine user into rehab. Usually, a stay in a rehab clinic immediately follows an intervention. Rehab facilities provide a safe environment in which to beat ketamine addiction.
Ketamine Addiction Treatment
Coming off ketamine can be an unpleasant experience. People can experience hearing loss, double vision, loss of coordination, rapid breathing and a rapid heart rate. For these reasons, it is important for people undergoing ketamine addiction treatment to do so under medical supervision in a safe drug rehab centre.
Ketamine Addiction Treatment Methods
Medical professionals monitor the patient throughout the withdrawal process, ensuring that their biological parameters stay within acceptable ranges. The vast majority of people in rehab for ketamine addiction immediately go cold-turkey. There is usually no need to continue using the drug, or to use a “step-down” approach, reducing the dosage from one day to the next. Rehab clinics can supply non-addictive medicines to manage the withdrawal symptoms if they become too severe or overwhelming for the patient.
How To Overcome Ketamine Addiction
Aside from physical care, many rehab clinics offer a range of psychological therapies designed to deal with the root causes of a person’s addiction. Addiction is not just a chemical process, but also the result of certain life circumstances which can elevate the appeal of psychotropic substances. Ketamine addiction treatment involves counselling and other talk therapies designed to get to the bottom of why a person would want to use such substances and dealing with the underlying issues. Many rehab clinics use family therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, and peer-group therapy where patients can discuss their ketamine addiction with other abusers in a safe environment.
How Fight Ketamine Addiction
The best way to fight ketamine addiction is under the supervision of trained medical professionals who have dealt with many cases in the past. Not only can trained professionals help to alleviate the physical symptoms of withdrawal, but they can also provide psychological support that reduces the chances of relapse.
Many people find that they benefit from group support when fighting ketamine addiction. This is where people who have abused ketamine in the past meet to support each other and help reduce the chances that any one person in the group will relapse. The purpose of these groups is to increase accountability.
Ketamine rehab often involves becoming a resident in a rehab facility for the duration of the detox period (and sometimes longer). While in rehab, you’ll no longer have access to the drugs that are damaging your body and you’ll get around-the-clock support to ensure your health and safety. Ketamine rehab can be a challenging experience, but with the help of support staff, you’ll be on your way to a rapid recovery.
Ketamine Rehab Process
The ketamine rehab process is multifaceted. The first part of the process is the initial assessment. The initial evaluation is where medical practitioners find out as much as they can about the patient’s condition, their relationship with ketamine, and how long they have used the drug.
The next step is detoxification. In this context, detoxification is a medical term referring to the practice of ridding the body of foreign, chemical substances, such as ketamine and its metabolites. Research and experience suggest that ketamine detoxification takes between five and seven days. That is the length of time it takes for the body to process the ketamine in the system.
After the acute detoxification stage, which can last two to four days, comes the therapy and counselling part of rehab. The purpose of talk therapy is to prevent relapse once a patient returns home to their regular environment.
Read more about What Happens In Rehab
Ketamine Rehab Programs
Most rehab clinics offer ketamine patients aftercare planning and aftercare. Aftercare involves all of the strategies and care techniques that the rehab centre uses to ensure that a person has the tools they need to continue fighting their addiction once they return home.
Extended care may be necessary for some patients who have the longest histories of ketamine addiction. Treatment may last for more than two months in a rehab clinic, depending on the severity of the addiction.
Ketamine Rehab Cost
The cost of rehab can be high in some circumstances. Private rehab facilities typically charge around £1000 per week. But it’s worth remembering that the price is small compared to the benefits of living a life free from addiction to drugs. When you can live free, you can achieve your financial and personal goals.
Find A Ketamine Rehab Center
Finding a ketamine rehab center for either yourself or someone you love can be a challenge, but if you’ve decided to seek help then you need professionals with the right knowledge by your side.
Where To Get Help For Ketamine Addiction
Where do you get help for ketamine addiction? Help4Addiction is an addiction helpline that connects people who need help overcoming ketamine addiction with rehab centres throughout the UK. With our help, you can find a rehab clinic for yourself (or somebody you know) that suits their individual needs.
How To Get Help For Ketamine Addiction
Getting help for ketamine addiction has never been easier. You can speak to one of our professionals about the next steps in finding help for your addiction. If you think that you may have a ketamine addiction, then act now by calling one of our addiction experts on 0203 955 7700. Doing something right away will make the rehab process easier and more manageable. Ketamine is a dangerous drug and treatment could save your life. Remember, the cost of treatment is small compared to the opportunities that you may lose in the future. Ketamine rehab will help you avoid the behaviours that led to the addiction in the first place and provide you with a support group that you can call upon.