Ketamine addiction

Ketamine (often nicknamed ‘special k’) is a dissociative drug, first synthesised in the 1960s as an anaesthetic. While ketamine can be highly beneficial in hospitals for patients experiencing severe pain, it has also found its way into the black market, now used recreationally for its hallucinogenic effects.

Ketamine has a highly addictive potential, which can lead individuals to become dependent on the drug for its mood-altering properties. Those who struggle to quit the drug often turn to ketamine detox alongside a ketamine rehab programme for support, engaging with numerous workshops and therapies to help them break free from ketamine dependency once and for all. This page will take a closer look at ketamine, how it came into existence and what the next steps are if you or a loved one is suffering from ketamine addiction.

Why is ketamine addictive?

It seems that ketamine abuse is becoming more common, with findings revealing that, compared with a decade ago, more and more people are abusing the substance. However, while many individuals might consider that using ketamine is harmless, it has both habit-forming and addictive qualities that can lead to dangerous consequences if not appropriately managed.

Ketamine is a particularly interesting drug, as it can be utilised for a variety of purposes. By targeting multiple processes in the brain, ketamine manipulates the neurotransmitter glutamate, essential to keeping our brains functioning as they should.

At higher doses, ketamine blocks glutamate, slowing down communications in the brain, one of the reasons it works so effectively as a sedative. In lower doses, however, glutamate production seems to become enhanced, inducing hallucinogenic side effects, such as altered vision and sound, which can leave users experiencing a variety of emotions – with some individuals even noting that they felt close to death after having taken the substance. Once a high enough dosage of ketamine has been consumed, users fall into a ‘K-hole’, leaving them both disassociated and unable to control their bodily functions.

Why do people take ketamine?

Ketamine’s popularity comes with its ability to put users into a trance-like state, changing the way their environment looks and altering their mood. While hallucinogenic drugs like LSD can induce highs that last for several hours, a ketamine high is relatively short, with its effects only persisting for around thirty minutes to an hour. While it might at first seem that ketamine is a safer alternative to other substances, those who frequently abuse the drug can begin to develop a tolerance, needing more of it to achieve that same initial feeling.

Some individuals also use ketamine to self-medicate, finding that this detachment from reality provides an escape from psychological symptoms that are having a negative impact on their daily lives. However, the relief that comes from this substance is very short-lived, which can often propel users to take more ketamine in shorter intervals.

Be aware of the risks.

Until fairly recently, ketamine was classified as a Class C drug, with many professionals unaware of its dangers. In 2014, however, the Misuse of Drugs Act reclassified ketamine, moving it from Class C to a Class B, hoping to send a message that the drug was harmful and not to underestimate its dangers. From all of us at UKAT, we would ask you to remain mindful of the dangers of ketamine use.

Am I addicted to ketamine?

While you might not think that your drug use is a cause for concern, there is no ‘correct’ dosage for ketamine and any recreational use of the substance should be a cause for concern. This is because ketamine is illegal and has the potential to be highly dangerous if not administered by a medical professional. For this reason, it is important to carefully monitor your ketamine use to determine whether your habit has escalated to a full-blown addiction. If any of the statements below apply to you, it might be time to start rethinking your ketamine use.

  • I have severe cravings for ketamine, becoming less interested in pursuits that don’t involve the drug.
  • I am quite drowsy and find myself zoning out, even without having used ketamine.
  • I am disoriented and have a hard time concentrating.
  • I feel low and depressed.
  • I have already tried to stop taking ketamine but have been unable to.
  • I need larger quantities of ketamine to maintain an effective high.

Signs and symptoms of ketamine addiction

If you are still unsure whether you are addicted to ketamine, look out for some of these physical symptoms:

  • Poor coordination
  • Insomnia
  • Very irritable
  • ‘Spacing out’ often, as if in a trance
  • Swift movement of the eyes
  • Slurring their words

It is also common that you will experience symptoms as a result of ketamine addiction, some of which include:

  • Intense cravings
  • Hallucinations
  • Bladder pains
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Paralysis
  • Increased heart rate
  • Memory loss

Is it dangerous to use ketamine?

Using ketamine can be highly unsafe, and it is important that you make yourself aware of some of the risks that come with continued use.

The short-term effects induced by ketamine vary from person to person. While one individual might take the substance and feel relaxed, another may find their motor functions severely impacted, leaving them rigid and unable to move. For this reason, we would like to remind you that, when taking ketamine in an unfamiliar setting, there is a chance that you could lose all control of your bodily functions, making it highly dangerous for use in environments such as nightclubs and parties.

Ketamine addiction in the long-term

In the long term, continued ketamine use can alter numerous functions in the brain, including memory, cognition, and reaction time. In fact, some users experience ongoing behavioural abnormalities as a result of their addiction, with others losing contact with reality even when they are not using the drug, which can lead to psychosis-like symptoms emerging.

Chronic ketamine abuse has the potential to introduce toxicity to the gastrointestinal and urinary tract. This can result in severe pain and discomfort, and it has been recorded that some patients as young as twenty have needed their bladders removed, all as a result of their ketamine consumption.

Overcoming ketamine addiction

Whether you have been abusing ketamine for a short time or are battling a long-withstanding addiction, it is never too late to seek help for your dependence. It can be overwhelming to choose to make such a significant life change, but this could make all the difference in seeing the other side of your addiction and regaining control over your life.

Across all eight of our UKAT facilities, we provide rehabilitation programmes specifically tailored to your needs. So don’t let your ketamine addiction consume another moment of your life. Get in touch as soon as possible, and one of our advisors will discuss which programme is best for you.

Call us now for help

Frequently asked questions

Who is most likely to abuse ketamine?
Ketamine is known as a ‘party drug’, with findings showing that young people are particularly susceptible to ketamine abuse. In fact, people aged sixteen to twenty-four are almost four times more likely to use ketamine than adults.
Can ketamine addiction be cured?
Addiction is a highly treatable illness that often requires ongoing support and guidance to overcome. As many ketamine users are psychologically dependent on the drug, treatment can be highly beneficial in understanding the reasons why the addiction took hold, as well as forming healthier coping strategies to prevent clients from turning to ketamine in times of pain or distress.
Is ketamine a horse tranquiliser?
Much like other medications, like antihistamines, ketamine is a substance that can be used safely on both humans and animals.