Ketamine was initially used during the Vietnam War as an anesthetic, and today, it is still used for similar reasons. It is increasingly used as a means of pain relief, and can be useful for patients following surgery or to treat burns.

Ketamine has become an alternative choice for opioids like morphine which is vital based on the current state of affairs with the opioid crisis. Another reason it is prescribed is to treat symptoms of depression, and those with severe depression or suicidal thoughts with treatment-resistant depression have reported positive results from ketamine therapy.

Ketamine has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating depression, but there is extensive research taking place to better understand its effects on the brain and how it could treat depression. Some initial studies have shown promising results with ketamine reducing the symptoms of severe depression in as a little as a few hours.

It has been one of the most revolutionary breakthroughs in medical science in years. Ketamine has a bad reputation as a street drug that is abused, and one might wonder how a drug that is abused can hold so much promise for help. The answer, naturally, is in your brain. If ketamine does give someone a chance at gaining back their independence, it may be widely used.

There is a theory that ketamine triggers the regrowth of specific brain connections that play a significant factor in mood. Ketamine has even been described as acting like a “flash mob” on the brain because it takes over a specific chemical receptor.

Unfortunately, as an unintended consequence, it can lead to memory loss. Despite the revolutionary advances in modern medicine, ketamine will only be administered in a supervised setting because of its potency and potential disassociating side effects. Ketamine is only being used in a hospital and medical setting, but that does not mean in the future it will not be considered for other therapeutic use.

Though the drug offers therapeutic value, there is a risk of abuse and addiction, and in high doses, they can experience euphoria or out of body experiences. Ketamine is known as a disassociative psychedelic drug on the street and is sought out on the street for this purpose.

Changes in perception can take place, troubled thinking, nausea, and changes in eyesight. It is often used in conjunction with other drugs like MDMA to prevent hallucinations because of how vivid they can be.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a disassociative anesthetic (blocks sensory perception) that has been available by prescription in the United States since the 1970s for human and veterinary uses. The drug has many nicknames such as kitty, ket, special k, kit kat, or meow meow. Ketamine and disassociative drugs, in general, can lead to distortion of colors, sounds, self, and the environment one inhabit. It typically comes in a clear liquid or off-white powder form for intravenous injection. Depending on how the drug was prepared, it can also be snorted.

Side Effects of Ketamine Use

Ketamine is a potent drug that can cause many undesirable side effects on those who abuse it. It’s easy to get ketamine abuse wrong because of the potency, and it’s more powerful than methamphetamine or cocaine weight for weight. It is easy to overdose on the drug accidentally. It is commonly snorted, but it can be smoked, injected, or smoked.

Short-Term Effects

Ketamine produces an instant high that lasts for about an hour. It begins in as little as two to five minutes after it has been ingested. The first wave will have the user feeling relaxed, and it has often been described as a full-body high. Some have described it as floating or being out of their bodies. Many will experience hallucinations that can last longer than its sedative effects. 

Higher doses can produce more intense effects and those who have used it report being wholly detached from their body. The effects are similar to what is described by people who have had a near-death experience. The name that users call it is a “K-Hole.”

There are side effects that can be intense, and these can include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Drowsiness
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Long-Term Effects

Ketamine on a tray next to a plastic straw

The substance can create adverse long-term effects that can cause long-term issues including addiction. Ketamine is a quick-acting drug which can make some users binge and get very high in the process. Those who abuse the drug over a long period expose their bodies to more harmful effects.

Physiologically, the drug damages the digestive and urinary tracts and puts a strain on the liver and kidney to the point the organs can be destroyed. There have been cases where portions of the urinary tract have been surgically removed. Those who consume the drug daily can also have memory problems where the person can’t even remember the layout of their home.

Signs of Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine has the potential to lead to tolerance and eventually addiction. Once an addiction has been developed and an individual is using the drug frequently, it can become easy to spot since the effects are so intense. Signs of a ketamine addiction can include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Redness of the skin
  • Insomnia
  • Bladder pain
  • Frequently disoriented or distracted
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of coordination
  • Reduced ability to feel physical pain
  • Inability to concentrate

Any addiction is characterized by cravings, general preoccupation with the drug, and neglecting friends, family, school, or work to obtain and take the substance. Addicted individuals will attempt to quit after they realize their consequences, but they may not be able to do so on their own.

Ketamine Treatment Options

Addiction to ketamine has the potential to be a significant problem. Not only does it have the ability to alter day to day functions, but it can lead to long-term health problems particularly in the urinary tract. If someone has been using the drug regularly, they will need to start treatment in medical detoxification. Detox will be closely monitored by addiction specialists to ensure everything goes according to plan, and withdrawal symptoms may be treated with medication to alleviate the discomfort that may be associated. Ketamine withdrawal symptoms can last four to six days and can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Nightmares
  • Chills
  • Tremors
  • Sweating
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat

The biggest risk when it comes to detoxing from ketamine is depression that can lead to suicidal tendencies. This can be heightened in individuals who struggle with depression. 

Ongoing care is recommended for those who use the drug in excess. Due to the strength, a residential treatment that lasts several weeks will be urged. It will allow the client to avoid temptations while learning the skills they need to cope with addiction in a safe environment. The most beneficial portion of treatment will be Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It will be difficult to give up the feeling of ketamine, and the client may wonder if they can ever feel happy again. Fortunately, the outlook is positive and overcoming ketamine addiction is possible with the right treatment. Are you dealing with a ketamine addiction? It’s time to get help.

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