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Ketamine Abuse Signs, Symptoms, Side Effects, and Addiction Treatment


What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine (often called “K,” “Special K,” or “Vitamin K”) is a potent dissociative anesthetic, meaning it provides feelings of detachment from one’s body. Commonly used in veterinary medicine, this drug has become common on the party scene among those seeking the detached high it provides.

Ketamine comes in several forms:

  • White powder.
  • Liquid.
  • Pills.

Ketamine’s dissociative effects are so powerful that it is commonly referred to as a “date rape drug.” When ingested, ketamine can cause users to hallucinate (experience visual and auditory disturbances). Because it’s an anesthetic, it can reduce physical sensations and induce temporary paralysis, so the user is awake but unable to move his or her limbs or even talk.

Similar to LSD, ketamine’s effects are varied and very unpredictable. It can induce euphoria, but in some cases, the hallucinations it causes can become extremely frightening. Mixing the drug with other depressants like alcohol and heroin intensifies the dangers of respiratory depression, which can be deadly.

Additionally, when the user is temporarily paralyzed by the drug, they won’t be able to clear their airway, which can lead them to choke and potentially die from aspiration.

Ketamine Abuse Signs and Symptoms

Ketamine is a very short-acting drug. One of the key symptoms people find is that it blocks pain, so if someone doesn’t react to painful stimuli in an expected way, they may be under the influence.

Furthermore, it tends to slow people down and make their movements rather exaggerated due to a loss of motor coordination. Consequently, they tend to look as though they’re walking in slow motion. The person might also slur their speech and appear confused.

The symptoms of ketamine abuse are quite similar to the symptoms of alcohol abuse and may include:

  • Disorientation.
  • Feelings of detachment/dissociation.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Slowed or difficult breathing.
  • Mood changes.
  • Depression.
  • Impaired ability to think or learn.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Memory impairment.

Side Effects of Ketamine Abuse

Ketamine is a rather unpleasant drug in the long term. It tends to cause a wide variety of effects relating to almost every area of the body. In the stomach, it often causes severe abdominal pain. It’s very easy to accidentally hurt yourself while on ketamine because it’s an anesthetic. Pain tells us when we’re injured or doing something that is likely to lead to injury. It also forces us to stop and focus on the injury, preventing further damage. Someone on ketamine can incur a serious injury and continue on as if nothing happened, exacerbating the problem.

Ketamine also causes long-term damage to the bladder and urinary tract that can result in a condition known as ketamine bladder syndrome. This triggers decreased control of the bladder with incontinence. Ketamine bladder syndrome may also cause blood in the urine and ulcers in the bladder.

Since the drug is usually found as a powder, it is often sniffed, but most of these powders are mixed with other drugs. It may be mixed with something relatively harmless like talcum powder or sugar, or it could be combined with something more dangerous like acetaminophen or drain cleaner.

Dosing can be challenging to gauge, and a person could be using the wrong drug altogether, leading to a dangerous overdose.

Ketamine Statistics

Ketamine was originally developed as an alternative to PCP, but it had more powerful side effects, so its use was relegated to animal medicine.

  • According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, ketamine had been used by 1.5% of 12th graders in 2014. This compares to 3.3% who abused OxyContin and 4.8% who abused Vicodin.
  • In 2013, 41,000 people between the ages of 12 and 17 reported using ketamine at some point in their lives, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
  • SAMHSA also reported that almost 540,000 people between the ages of 18 and 25 reported ketamine use at some point.

Ketamine Abuse Treatment

Types of Ketamine Rehab Programs

If you’re addicted to ketamine, you can get help at a ketamine rehab center. There, you can receive treatment for ketamine addiction in a safe environment that’s far from temptation.

There are two major types of facility you can attend:

Inpatient rehabs are centers where you live at the clinic for a set period of time—typically between 30 days and 90 days.

Outpatient treatment programs allow you to go home each day after treatment, although they do expose you to the temptations and triggers of your everyday environment.

Whether residential or outpatient addiction treatment is right for you, therapy will be part of the treatment. Cognitive behavioral therapy is particularly useful, as it helps you to see the reasons behind your ketamine use and discover ways to prevent it from reoccurring. You might also undergo a number of other therapies, including family therapy and motivational interviewing. All of these therapies seek to help you realize the underlying reasons for your drug-taking behavior.

After you’ve finished with the therapeutic program and your treatment team deems you’re ready, you leave the facility. Once you exit the rehab center, outpatient treatment and peer supports become more valuable and should be utilized.

Find Ketamine Addiction Treatment Programs

Professional addiction treatment can start anyone battling a problem with ketamine on the path to a healthier and happier life. Rehab programs are located throughout the U.S., and a variety of treatment types is available. You can use SAMHSA’s Find Treatment tool to search for facilities. Many state government websites will also provide local drug and alcohol resources to those in need. To find your state government’s website, do a web search for your state name and ‘.gov.’

To learn more about rehab programs and treatment options, please call American Addiction Centers’ (AAC’s) free helpline at . You can also contact free drug abuse hotline numbers.

Ketamine Addiction Treatment Levels of Care

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