Ketamine Addiction, its Effects and Treatment

What is Ketamine?

KetamineKetamine was made in the 1960’s to be a rapid acting anesthetic but it took a decade for it to be finally approved for human use in the 1970’s. Sold under the brand name, Ketalar, It quickly became the anesthetic of choice on the battlefield precisely for its fast action but it is more commonly used for animals. This is a testament to its potency and like many powerful drugs like this, it wasn’t long before it started being abused and became illegally available on the streets.

It had become a “club drug” known for its dissociative properties as it is a hallucinogen. By the 1980’s, the abuse of ketamine had become a serious widespread problem and its illegal manufacture and distribution continues to this day.

Ketamine is known on the streets as Special K, Vitamin K, jet, Kit-Kat, Cat valium or just simply “K”. It usually comes in any of three forms: pills, powder or liquid.

Effects of Ketamine Abuse

The effects of ketamine abuse include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Blurred visions
  • Sedation
  • Paralysis
  • Arrhythmia
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Impaired motor functions
  • Reality distortion
  • Memory loss
  • Poor reflexes

Ketamine, when used recreationally, can induce some pleasant feelings such as euphoria, a profound sense of relaxation and sometimes an out of body experience where the user feels blissfully untethered from reality. This has made the drug a popular “club drug” and is also what is known as a “date-rape” drug. This state of being usually lasts about an hour or more depending on the dosage. The negative side effects far outweigh the positive ones, especially after continuous use. Ketamine can cause any or all of the following temporary conditions:

  • Hallucinations
    Blurry vision
    Sedation
    Paralysis
    Arrhythmia
    Insomnia

  • Mood swings or depression
    Impaired motor functions
    Distortions of reality
    Memory loss
    Nausea
    Poor reflexes

When taken in heavy doses, it can become deadly especially when used with other depressants, like marijuana or alcohol. More serious effects of Ketamine are:

  • Respiratory failure when the user is unable to clear his/her airways and may result in aspiration.

    Long-term continuous use of the drug can lead to irreparable brain or organ damage.

  • Ketamine Bladder Syndrome which is the long term damage to the bladder and urinary tract from Ketamine use.

    Severe trauma as the drug makes the user numb to pain, he/she is likely to get injured without even knowing it.

Ketamine Addiction

Brain DamageAbusers of Ketamine usually snort it in its powder form, ingest it as pills or inject the liquid form into their bloodstreams. Research shows that long-term users of Ketamine develop a resistance/tolerance to the drug very quickly meaning it will take more and more amounts of the drug to achieve the same effects and thus harming the body even more each time. It can get to a point that some of the effects of the drug will no longer be experienced by the user as a corresponding dependence/addiction to it is developed.

Although ketamine addiction is not as hard to break as some other substances like heroin, it is still a high potential risk. Attempts to quit using Ketamine may lead to physiological and psychological withdrawal symptoms.

Ketamine User Statistics

The abuse of Ketamine has been rampant for decades now and studies have been conducted over time to estimate the effects on the population and the demographic that are most targeted. Below are some of the findings from several of such research.

How many active ketamine users are there?

The number of active ketamine users in the U.S. is more than 200,000, according to the U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2013. An estimated 2.3 million people aged 12 or older had used ketamine before.

  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2013, more than forty thousand people between age 12 and 17 said they have used Ketamine before and the number becomes more than half a million people between the ages of 18 and 25.
  • According to the Department of Justice’s National Drug Intelligence Center, 74% of the ketamine emergency department visits in the United States in 2000 was made up of people aged 12 to 25.
  • The National Survey on Drug Use and Health in the United States in 2013, estimated 2.3 million people aged 12 or older had used ketamine before with the number of active users being over 200 thousand.
  • The University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future survey showed in 2006 that 3% of high school seniors had experimented with Ketamine at least once that year.

Ketamine Addiction Treatment

Treatment of Ketamine addiction is a concerted effort between the patients, the patients’ loved ones and the healthcare professionals that typically manages the patient’s gradual withdrawal from the drug. Typically, the first thing to consider is whether to opt for outpatient or inpatient treatment. There are a few questions that should be asked in order to make the right choice and some of them are:

  • Does the patient have specific complications resulting from the Ketamine addiction that requires the access to specialized hospital equipment or facilities?
  • Does the patient suffer from co-occurring personality, psychiatric or psychological disorders that will require constant supervision by a trained healthcare professional?
  • Does the patient have some personal problems with other people that may make outpatient treatment complicated and difficult?
  • Does the patient have a conducive environment to stay where there will be no likelihood of temptation by other Ketamine addicts?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, then it is most preferable for the patient to consider the inpatient or residential treatment option. The advantages of inpatient treatment are numerous and include:

  • Access to specialist personnel and equipment which will assist in making the detoxification process and painless and comfortable as possible
  • Round the clock care and supervision by qualified people
  • A conducive, supportive and non-judgmental environment where the patient can let go of anxiety and other psychological inhibitions
  • Interaction with other addicts which is of great therapeutic value
  • The implementation of various forms of therapy including group therapy, individual therapy, cognitive behavior therapy etc which are tailored to suit your specific needs and accelerate the recovery process
  • This form of treatment has the highest success rate

Why should ketamine addicts have inpatient treatment?

Advantages of inpatient treatment for ketamine addicts include:

  • Safe, painless, and comfortable detox process
  • Round the clock monitoring by specialists and professionals
  • Anxiety-free environment
  • Support from other recovering addicts
  • Customized and effective therapies
  • Inpatient therapy has the highest success rate

Ketamine addiction treatment continues even after the end of rehab because it is imperative not to fall into the same habits that lead down the road to the addiction. If you have a loved one who is addicted to Ketamine, the good news is that help is not far away and hope is not lost.