Ketamine Misuse: Effects, Risks & Addiction

According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 1.8% of adults aged 18 and older reported using ketamine in their lifetime.1 Experts are concerned this number is growing as there has been a 349% increase in ketamine seizures by drug enforcement from 2017 through 2022, with Florida reporting some of the highest number of ketamine confiscations.2

This article will explain what ketamine is, the adverse effects of ketamine misuse, and how to find treatment for ketamine addiction.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that can alter a person’s perception of reality and make them feel disconnected from their surroundings and their body.3 Although ketamine is classified as a dissociative drug, it shares similar symptomology with hallucinogens.3

Categorized as a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act, Ketamine is known to have the potential for misuse which may lead to physiological dependence.4

When used legally in a medical setting as anesthesia, ketamine is generally a liquid administered as an intravenous or intramuscular injection.5 A derivative of ketamine called esketamine is administered as a nasal spray.6 Esketamine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment-resistant depression under the brand name Spravato.3

When used illegally, ketamine comes in powder or liquid form. Powdered ketamine can be smoked in cigarettes containing marijuana or tobacco or cut into lines and snorted. Ketamine in liquid form may be added to drinks or is sometimes injected.7

Ketamine has several different street names, including:8

  • Special K.
  • Super K .
  • Vitamin K.
  • Kit Kat.
  • Cat tranquilizer.

What Is Ketamine Used For?

Ketamine is used as a general anesthetic.5,7 It may also be used under close medical supervision for the management of treatment-resistant depression.3,7

While ketamine has the above medical uses, it is also misused for its mind-altering effects.3 Often considered a “club drug,” ketamine may be used at dance clubs and raves.8

Because it is a clear liquid that can cause amnesia and does not have an odor or taste, ketamine is sometimes mixed into drinks to attempt sexual assault. The effects of hallucinations, impaired senses, and depersonalization may make victims more vulnerable to assault.9 This is why ketamine may be referred to as a “date rape drug.”7,9

Adverse Ketamine Effects

Ketamine misuse is associated with several adverse effects.7 Such ketamine effects may include:

  • Problems with learning, memory, and attention.7
  • Hallucinations or feeling in a dreamlike state.7
  • Memory loss.7
  • Slowed breathing.7
  • Increased blood pressure.7
  • Confusion, delirium, and symptoms of psychosis, which may include irrational behavior.5
  • Sedation and possible loss of consciousness.7

Ketamine is often misused with other substances. Using ketamine in combination with other drugs or alcohol can lead to unpredictable results and an increased risk of adverse effects.3

Ketamine may also be contaminated with the dangerous opioid fentanyl, increasing the risk of life-threatening respiratory depression or even fatal overdose.3

When injecting ketamine, there is a risk of contracting diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.7

Risks & Dangers of Chronic Ketamine Misuse

Chronic ketamine misuse is also associated with health risks, some that may present over time, including:

  • Bladder problems.7
  • Kidney problems.7
  • Abdominal pain.7
  • Depression.7
  • Impaired memory.7
  • Hallucination persisting perception disorder (HPPD), though this is rare.3

Ketamine Overdose Symptoms

Ketamine overdose symptoms may include:

  • Changes in blood pressure and heart rate.5
  • Slowed, shallow, or stopped breathing.5
  • Seizures.10

A ketamine overdose is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention, as it could lead to heart attack or coma.10 If you suspect someone is experiencing a ketamine overdose, call 911 immediately.

Is Ketamine Addictive?

Ketamine has the potential for physiological dependence, which may lead to addiction for some people.4,11 Ketamine addiction, clinically diagnosed as ketamine use disorder, is a chronic disorder of the brain that is defined as the continued compulsive use of ketamine despite adverse consequences.12

Medical professionals use a set of criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) to help them diagnose ketamine use disorder.13

Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms

Although there is no recognized ketamine withdrawal syndrome in the DSM-5, people who frequently misuse large doses of ketamine have reported the following withdrawal symptoms upon cessation of use:5,14

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Craving

Treatment for Ketamine Addiction in Florida

If you or a loved one are struggling with ketamine misuse, River Oaks Treatment Center—a drug rehab near Tampa, FL—is here to help. The facility offers several levels of addiction treatment and employs evidence-based therapies shown to be effective in treating addiction.

To learn more about ketamine addiction treatment or to start the admissions process, call today. Admissions navigators are available 24/7 to answer any questions you have. Find out about rehab payment options, such as how to use your health insurance coverage for rehab.

You can also instantly check your insurance coverage for rehab by completing the now. Please don’t wait to get the help you deserve.

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