Ketamine Use: Effects, Addiction & Treatment
According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 17.8% of people aged 18 or older have used hallucinogens in their lifetime.1 Over 1.5% of people 18 or older have specifically used ketamine in their lifetime.1
Read on to learn more about ketamine misuse, adverse ketamine effects, and how to find ketamine addiction treatment.
What Is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that can make a person feel disconnected from their body and their surroundings.2 Dissociative drugs have hallucinogenic properties, and like hallucinogens, can alter a person’s perception of reality.2
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists ketamine as a Schedule III drug, meaning it has approved medical uses but also has a known potential for misuse and physiological dependence.3
Illicit ketamine is usually in liquid form or a white powder. The liquid may be injected or swallowed while the powder may be snorted or smoked in cigarettes along with tobacco or marijuana.2
Ketamine goes by a variety of street names, including:4
- Vitamin K.
- Super K.
- Special K.
- Super C.
Does Ketamine Have Medical Uses?
Yes, ketamine does have medical uses. Common commercial names and FDA-approved medical uses for ketamine include:2
- Ketalar: Used as a surgical anesthetic.
- Spravato (esketamine): Used under strict medical supervision for treatment-resistant depression.
- Ketaset: Used as a surgical anesthesia for animals by veterinarians.
Other than the above FDA-approved medical uses, ketamine may be misused for its dissociative and hallucinogenic effects.5
Effects of Ketamine Use
Several effects are associated with illicit ketamine use, including:
- Problems with attention, memory, and learning.2
- Hallucinations and feelings of being in a dreamlike or detached state.2,6
- Raised blood pressure.2
- Dangerously slowed breathing.2
When injected, ketamine use presents a risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases due to shared needle use.2
As with other illicit drugs, ketamine use may be combined with other substances, such as alcohol.4 Combining ketamine with alcohol can increase the risk of adverse effects.2
Additionally, illicit ketamine may be laced with fentanyl, which can increase a person’s risk of life-threatening slowed breathing or fatal overdose.5
Health Risks & Dangers of Chronic Ketamine Use
Chronic misuse of ketamine may increase the risk of long-term health issues, including:2
- Pain in the bladder.
- Kidney problems.
- Stomach pains.
- Poor memory.
- Hallucination persisting perception disorder (HPPD)—though this is rare, and more research is needed to understand its occurrence.5
Symptoms of Ketamine Overdose
Overdose can occur with ketamine use.4,6 Symptoms of ketamine overdose may include:4,6
- A change in heart rate and blood pressure.
- Respiratory depression (slowed or shallow breathing).
- Temporary cessation of breathing.
Is Ketamine Addictive?
Ketamine has reinforcing properties, which can contribute to problematic and potentially compulsive use. Ketamine addiction is the compulsive use of ketamine despite negative consequences, and it is clinically diagnosed as ketamine use disorder.7
To aid in the diagnosis of ketamine use disorder, medical professionals use a set of criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5).8
Criteria for ketamine use disorder include:8
- Ketamine is consumed in larger quantities or over a longer period than intended.
- A strong urge or desire to reduce or quit using ketamine exists or there have been unsuccessful attempts to reduce or quit using it.
- Significant time is dedicated to using ketamine or in activities related to ketamine use.
- There is a craving or intense desire to use ketamine.
- Continued ketamine use leads to failure in completing major responsibilities at home, work, or school.
- Ketamine use continues despite suffering frequent or repeated social problems.
- As a result of ketamine use, significant social, career, or leisure activities are reduced or stopped.
- Ketamine use happens in situations that are physically dangerous, such as operating a vehicle.
- Ketamine use continues despite knowing that it is causing or worsening physical or mental health.
- A higher quantity of ketamine is needed to achieve the desired effect, or the desired effect is significantly lessened when using the same amount of ketamine (tolerance).
Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms
While the DSM-5 does not acknowledge a ketamine withdrawal syndrome, physiological dependence has been reported with prolonged use of ketamine, resulting in withdrawal symptoms when discontinuing frequent use of large doses of the drug.6
Ketamine withdrawal symptoms reported include:6,9
- Changes in appetite.
Treatment for Ketamine Addiction at AdCare
If you or your loved one are looking for effective ketamine addiction treatment, AdCare Treatment Centers provide outpatient and inpatient drug rehab in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
AdCare offers several personalized treatment programs at multiple convenient locations throughout New England. Contact a caring admissions navigator today at to learn more about the rehab admissions process, what treatment options are available, and how to use health insurance for addiction treatment.
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