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How to Get Help for Ketamine Addiction

Table of Contents

About Ketamine

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic–a chemical cousin of PCP. Its popular use as a recreational drug can further increase the risk of addiction and hasten the emergence of long-term psychological effects, including:

  • Memory impairment.
  • Personality changes.
  • Slowed reactions.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Sleep disturbances.
  • Symptoms of psychosis.

Those who are addicted to ketamine or similar drugs – such as PCP – should seek help to lower the risks of experiencing serious side effects as a consequence of their addiction. In addition to the effects listed above, medical complications of ketamine abuse have also been reported. They include epigastric/upper stomach pain, liver dysfunction, gallbladder problems, kidney failure, cystitis, and other urinary tract problems1. Also, because anesthesia is common with ketamine, vomiting and subsequent choking are possible. Brain damage from ketamine use was also detected during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on 21 test subjects in a 2013 study.

Is Ketamine Addictive?

Ketamine’s capacity to elicit euphoria, dissociation from pain, and detachment from one’s environment is a primary motivator for its abuse and subsequent addictive potential.2

Ketamine was originally developed as a safer alternative to PCP to induce anesthesia prior to surgery. It continues to be used as an anesthetic–most notably in surgical procedures for animals. Like many other psychoactive drugs with potential medical applications, addiction can still develop when ketamine is taken in excess or over a long period of time.

The administration route of any drug can accelerate the addiction process; ketamine is no exception. The green crystals are usually snorted but can also be smoked, quickly delivering a powerful effect.3 The euphoria, and the indifference to pain and environment are intensely pleasurable effects–stimulating the addict to repeat and increase the ketamine use.

Three Stages of Addiction

Addiction to ketamine follows a trajectory not unlike other drugs of addiction. There are thought to be 3 stages of the addiction cycle:3

  1. Binge/Intoxication Stage – This is the period of experiencing rewarding effects of ketamine, but you may also begin to want it more than other things which used to give you happiness.
  2. Withdrawal/Negative Affect Stage – This is the stage of negative reinforcement, where you need the ketamine simply to avoid unpleasant effects associated with absence of the drug or withdrawal.
  3. Preoccupation/Anticipation Stage This is the stage of cravings, when your brain’s ‘brake systems’ don’t work anymore, and trying to avoid the drug becomes an increasing struggle in the presence of continued stress from drug cues or triggers, such as people, places, and things.

What Are the Signs of Ketamine Addiction?

The major sign of ketamine addiction is that you keep taking the drug regardless of its negative consequences and cannot stop even when you want to.

Signs of ketamine addiction don’t simply involve the addicted individual. Other signs of ketamine addiction are visible in family and work obligations as well. Addiction to ketamine has the potential to cause a great deal of pain, anguish, sadness, loss, and alienation.

Am I Addicted to Ketamine?

The following questions will help you determine whether you have a problem:

  • Do you ever get angry or feel guilty when confronted by your drug use?
  • Do you try to stop using ketamine, or cut down your use of it without success despite numerous efforts to do so?
  • Do you need more and more ketamine to achieve the desired effect?
  • Do you find that the activities you used to love, like athletics or spending time with friends and family, have been replaced by your ketamine use?
  • Have you had or sustained any injuries because you felt indifferent to pain while on ketamine?
  • Have you stolen ketamine or procured it through other illegal means?
  • Do you find that you live in a world of invincibility while on ketamine, oblivious to the real world in which you have to live and survive (delusions)?

Help is available for ketamine addiction, and professionals in addiction treatment centers are no strangers to treating the effects of ketamine. You should be able to easily find a treatment center that will help you overcome your addiction to ketamine.

Ketamine Addiction Treatment

Ketamine addiction doesn’t have to be a lifelong burden, and anyone who abuses ketamine can seek help. Ketamine addiction treatment helps you get back on track, reversing a lot of the negative brain effects associated with craving the drug. Successful treatment often includes family therapy–helping heal relationships impaired or broken by your ketamine addiction.

The first treatment consideration for you may revolve around the questions of residential treatment or outpatient treatment. Which one is right for you depends on your treatment needs. Here are a few considerations:

  • If you have medical complications arising from ketamine use, requiring clinical supervision or laboratory services, you should consider inpatient/residential treatment.
  • Inpatient treatment has been found to benefit those who have co-occurring personality disorders or psychiatric disorders more than outpatient treatment.4
  • If you are experiencing problems at home, with your employment, or legal problems, inpatient treatment may be a better option.4
  • If you lack transportation, are homeless, or live a long distance from a treatment center, residential treatment is better than outpatient treatment.4 Having a place to stay, where you feel safe, with access to social services after treatment, gives you a good start to a life of happiness and recovery.

If you have a strong support system at home and minimal medical needs, outpatient treatment may work for you. This is an especially desirable option for those who are unable to continue working or live away from home for an extended period of time. Often, outpatient treatment is used in combination with residential treatment as continuing care once the initial period of rehab ends.

What Happens During and After Treatment?

Addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition, like other chronic illnesses such as diabetes or asthma. Similar to other medical conditions, it is treatable and manageable. If there is a relapse back to ketamine use, this does not mean that treatment is a failure but rather that you may need more intensive treatment, a change in medication, or changes in your personal and social life.

Treatment addresses your deepest needs, tapping into your strengths and enhancing your motivation. It enables you to become aware of factors that led to drug dependence and dealing with the problems that kept you there. Interventions may include medication for depression or other mood disorders resulting from, or exacerbated by, ketamine addiction.

Group therapy, individual therapycognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement therapy (MET), along with 12-Step meetings (e.g. Narcotics Anonymous), help you develop skills to avoid relapse, increase your self-efficacy (“I can do this”), and draw from the strength of others in recovery. Based on research findings, CBT and MET are among the most effective treatments for addiction.5

Since recovery is a lifelong process, aftercare is an important tool that allows you to build on successes made in treatment. Specific types of aftercare programs will vary for each individual but can range from regularly scheduled addiction counseling sessions to ongoing 12-Step meeting participation.

Call Our Hotline Today

If you’re suffering from ketamine addiction, you need to seek help, and our helpline is available 24/7 at . Treatment support specialists can help find you the right place to go for assistance.

You can begin a new life today.

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Jennifer Fifield is a Senior Web Content Editor at American Addiction Centers and an addiction content expert for drugabuse.com and recovery.org. She holds a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism and a master’s degree in Health Promotion Management. Jennifer has served as a content editor on numerous articles, web pages, and blog posts within the medical, dental, and vision industry. She has 15+ years of experience in higher education including writing/editing, administrative, and teaching positions within the health/wellness, accreditation, and health communications areas.
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