Ketamine

What is ketamine? Ketamine, also known as “K,” “special K,” “kit kat,” and “vitamin K,” is a dissociative anesthetic drug used in veterinary and medical settings. The drug is effective in relieving pain and is often used during and after minor surgical procedures. Unfortunately, it is commonly abused for its sedative side effects, and has become increasingly popular among young adults in club and party settings. Continued misuse can lead to addiction and serious medical issues. Read below for information on the side effects, dangers, and addiction signs of ketamine.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic drug used primarily on animals. It was approved as an anesthetic for humans in the 1970s and is used during surgical and other medical procedures. Although the drug is known to be a safe and effective drug for anesthetic use, long-term use can have dangerous consequences. Due to its hallucinogenic and psychedelic effects, ketamine is commonly abused in dance clubs and raves by teens and young adults.

What Are Common Street Names For Ketamine?

Popular names include:

  • Cat Tranquilizer
  • Jet K
  • K
  • Kit Kat
  • Purple
  • Special K
  • Special La Coke
  • Super K
  • Vitamin K

What Does Ketamine Look Like?

Ketamine is manufactured as a clear liquid. When sold illegally, it can also be found as a white powder or in pill form. Ketamine has no taste or smell in all its forms.

How Is Ketamine Used?

Ketamine can be snorted, swallowed, or injected. Sometimes it is smoked with tobacco or marijuana. The drug produces a hallucinogenic high that can be felt in as little as one minute. Although the high effects usually do not last for more than an hour, an individual’s coordination and senses may continue to be impacted for many hours.

It is also common to find ketamine in combination with other drugs, such as MDMA, amphetamines, or cocaine.

What Are the Short-Term Effects of Ketamine?

Ketamine can produce powerful effects within minutes. Individuals looking for relaxation or pain relief may turn to this drug to sedate themselves. In addition, users may pursue escapism, as ketamine causes individuals to dissociate from their surroundings. Compared to LSD, these hallucinatory effects wear off after a shorter period of time, but individuals should still be wary of the health risks ketamine can pose. Some of the short-term side effects include:

  • Euphoria
  • Hallucinations
  • Visual and sensory distortions
  • Detached feeling from the body
  • Temporary unusual thoughts and beliefs
  • Diminished or delayed reflexes

Why Is Ketamine Harmful?

Ketamine causes undesirable short-term effects such as nausea, high blood pressure, and rapid heartbeat. Moreover, many users of the drug turn to more potent drugs like heroin. Ketamine makes users unresponsive to the world around them, impairing their ability to react quickly to dangerous situations. Because it causes temporary memory loss for those under its influence, the drug is particularly notorious for facilitating sexual assault.

In addition to the addictive properties of ketamine, prolonged use can also have dangerous health consequences. Individuals who misuse it may experience high blood pressure, kidney problems, bladder problems, difficulty breathing, memory loss, and even seizures.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of Ketamine Abuse?

Frequent ketamine misuse can lead to addiction and serious health problems. Because it is an anesthetic, some users of the drug may ignore or be oblivious to any injuries they sustain. Prolonged use may lead to:

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory loss
  • Kidney or bladder problems
  • Stomach pain
  • Urinary tract dysfunction
  • Sleep problems

What Are the Signs of Ketamine Addiction?

Continued ketamine abuse can lead to a physical and neurological dependence on the substance. Individuals who abuse ketamine often build up a tolerance to the drug and will progressively require larger doses to get high. Consequently, addiction impacts the mind and body in several ways, including:

Psychological Symptoms

  • Irritability
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Antsy behavior
  • Impaired judgement

Physical Signs

  • Slurred speech
  • Redness of the skin
  • Rapid eye movements
  • Impaired motor function

What Does a Ketamine Overdose Look Like?

An overdose occurs when an individual takes a toxic amount of ketamine, to the point where the body is not able to safely break down the toxins. Individuals who overdose may breathe at an alarmingly slow rate and lose consciousness. Because ketamine has a more immediate impact than other drugs, accidental overdoses are common. Signs of an overdose include:

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Impaired vision
  • Muscle twitching
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Dissociation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Hearing disturbances
  • Irregular heart rate and chest pain
  • Paralysis

How is Ketamine Addiction Treated?

Detox

Removing toxins from the body is a necessary first step in recovering from addiction. While medically-monitored detox is not necessary for ketamine addiction, individuals often experience intense cravings once they have stopped regular use. As a safety precaution, it is recommended that individuals go through the detoxification process under the supervision of a healthcare professional, who can help manage the discomfort often experienced during this period. Withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Shaking
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Double vision
  • Rapid breathing
  • Loss of coordination

Addiction Treatment

Like all hallucinogens, ketamine deeply impacts mental well-being. Because of this, addressing the psychological effects caused by addiction is particularly important. Individuals with a history of drug abuse should seek addiction counseling and psychiatric services through either inpatient (residential) or outpatient treatment. Clinical practices not only help individuals to uncover the root of their addiction, but also provide them with the knowledge to make smart and healthy choices in recovery. During this time, individuals are educated about addiction as a disease and how it has impacted their lives while they also gain invaluable relapse-prevention skills.

To complement the progress made during drug counseling, individuals should take part in holistic therapies. These wellness therapies provide individuals with the tools needed to maintain their sobriety after treatment is completed. For example, those who used ketamine to escape their surroundings may benefit from art therapy, which encourages the exploration of thoughts and emotions in a creative, visual way. Moreover, individuals who sought out of body experiences through substance abuse can find a higher purpose through spiritual enhancement. Finally, users who experienced stomach pains as a result of a dependency on the drug may find value in nutrition education, which teaches new, healthy eating habits that can repair bodily damage.

To learn about a range of other therapeutic activities that can help those afflicted by addiction, visit our Wellness page.

If you or a loved one is struggling with ketamine addiction, know that you are not alone. Our team of medical, clinical, and wellness experts are here to help you break free from addiction and achieve the happy, healthy life you deserve.