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The Dangers of Ketamine Abuse

dangers of ketamine abuse

Medical professionals typically use ketamine to treat acute or chronic pain, or as a surgical anesthetic. While it is often used in veterinary medicine, ketamine has proven useful as an anesthetic for children, since its anesthetic properties are not as strong or as long-lasting as similar drugs. However, in recent years, ketamine has been increasingly abused for its sleep-inducing, hallucinogenic, and dissociative effects. However, the drug can be highly dangerous when outside of a medical setting, leading to significant negative consequences.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is an injectable, short-acting dissociative anesthetic that offers some hallucinogenic effects. It distorts the user’s perceptions of sight and sound and makes the user feel disconnected and not in control. It also makes users feel detached from their pain and environment.

Ketamine is produced commercially in several countries, including the U.S., where it is monitored as a Class III scheduled drug. However, illicit ketamine is usually diverted or stolen from legitimate sources like veterinary clinics, or else smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico.

Ketamine comes in a clear liquid and a white or off-white powder. The powder, which sometimes comes in paper or aluminum foil folds, is snorted or smoked. Common street names for ketamine include Special K, Cat Valium, Kit Kat, and Super Acid.

Effects of Ketamine

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that works by blocking N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors in the brain. These receptors play an essential role in transmitting signals related to learning, memory, and emotions. By inhibiting NMDA receptors, ketamine induces a dissociative state, separating the mind from its sensory input and creating a sense of detachment from reality.

Psychological Dangers of Ketamine Abuse

Users may experience hallucinations, altered perceptions of time and space, and a feeling of detachment from their surroundings. While intriguing to some, these effects can have lasting and negative consequences when ketamine is used outside of a controlled medical setting. These consequences include: 

Delusions and Psychosis

Prolonged ketamine abuse can contribute to the development of psychotic symptoms and delusions. Users may lose touch with reality, experiencing intense, often scary hallucinations that can be challenging to distinguish from real events.

Depression and Anxiety

Ketamine’s impact on neurotransmitters, including glutamate and serotonin, can lead to mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Chronic use may exacerbate pre-existing mental health disorders or trigger the onset of new ones.

Cognitive Impairment

Ketamine’s interference with NMDA receptors can impair cognitive function affecting memory, attention, and problem-solving abilities. Prolonged ketamine use can lead to long-term cognitive deficits that persist even after use has stopped.

Physical Dangers of Ketamine Abuse

Within minutes of taking ketamine, the user may experience an increase in heart rate and blood pressure that then decreases gradually within 10 to 20 minutes. Ketamine can also make users unresponsive to stimuli, while at the same time experiencing involuntary rapid eye movement, dilated pupils, tear secretions and stiffening of the muscles.

Prolonged use of ketamine can have more lasting negative physical side effects, including

Bladder and Kidney Problems

Regular users of ketamine are at an increased risk of developing urinary tract issues, including cystitis and ulcerative bladder conditions. Chronic use of ketamine can lead to irreversible damage to the bladder and kidneys, causing pain and difficulty urinating, as well as kidney failure in severe cases.

Cardiovascular Complications

By elevating heart rate and blood pressure, ketamine can place a strain on the user’s cardiovascular system. Individuals with pre-existing heart conditions may be at a increased risk of adverse events, including heart attacks or strokes, when using ketamine.

Respiratory Distress

Abuse of ketamine can lead to respiratory depression, where breathing grows slow and shallow. In high doses, it may even result in lung failure, risking the life of the user.

Ketamine, the Date-Rape Drug

Along with GHB (gamma-hydroxybutyric acid) and rohypnol, ketamine has developed a reputation as a date-rape drug. The reasons for this are because ketamine makes the user feel detached from their pain and environment, inducing a state of sedation and amnesia. What’s more, you cannot smell or taste ketamine.

Is Ketamine Addictive?

As with most psychoactive drugs, addiction to ketamine is mainly psychological, as opposed to physical. Still, serious dependency can occur. That is when a substance abuse treatment program is appropriate.

Frequent users of ketamine may experience drug cravings and other withdrawal symptoms when not taking the drug. Also, tolerance to the drug builds quickly, which can cause recreational use to quickly become abuse and addiction.

Ketamine withdrawal symptoms are usually not physical, though it can be challenging just the same to stop cold turkey. Withdrawal symptoms can include:

  • Double vision
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of ability to hear
  • Rapid heartbeat and rapid breathing
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Depression
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Schizophrenia-like behaviors

Find Help for Ketamine Addiction Treatment at Northpoint Recovery Today 

For those ready to quit using ketamine, we recommend a medical program dedicated to treating ketamine abuse. If you have questions about ketamine or other addictive substances that you’d like answered, please get in touch with us today at 208.225.8667.