An Overview of Ketamine

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that doctors use to block pain. In addition to preventing pain, ketamine has hallucinogenic effects that may make users feel detached from reality. This combination of physical and emotional side effects is beneficial in certain medical settings.

Because they are quick-acting and short-lived, ketamine injections are used as sedatives for minor surgeries. More recently, a nasal spray version of ketamine was approved for treatment-resistant depression.

The spray is only available by prescription from a certified doctor’s office or clinic. Whether for physical pain or emotional distress, there are approved medical uses for this dissociative anesthetic. And approved medical use can minimize its risks.

But there is a darker side to ketamine, too. Special K, the street name for illicit powdered or liquid ketamine, has been used to get high and even to facilitate sexual assaults.

What is Ketamine Addiction

The pain-relieving and hallucinogenic effects of ketamine last, on average, between 30 and 60 minutes. During that time, users may feel calm, relaxed, and relieved, to the point of bordering on unconsciousness.

Ketamine addiction occurs when a user repeatedly takes the medication illegally to get high, especially in high doses. Because the effects of ketamine are primarily mental, chemical changes in the brain can make it nearly impossible to overcome this addiction without help.

Ketamine addiction can leave you feeling detached in your everyday life, whether from your work, loved ones, hobbies, or just about everything. Ketamine addiction also impairs memory and speech, as well as other cognitive impairments.

Ketamine has long been labeled a club drug, as it has become popular among teens and young adults in various settings, including raves and dance clubs.

Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine Addictive Potential

Ketamine is a highly addictive drug with limited approved medical uses. Its effects kick in within a few minutes of ingesting the drug but fade within the hour. On average, they gradually decrease within the first 20 minutes following injection or oral ingestion.

These rapid changes may lead users to take more frequent or higher doses than they should to prolong its effects. This can be dangerous for several reasons. But primarily because ketamine abuse may lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.

What Drug Class is Ketamine In?

As a result of the risk level for dependence, the Drug Enforcement Agency or DEA considers ketamine a Schedule III drug. Drugs in this category have a higher abuse potential than schedule four drugs but a lower abuse potential than schedule one and two drugs.

To demonstrate the scale, ketamine lands between the drug classes that contain fentanyl and Xanax, from more to less abuse potential. Fentanyl, along with Vicodin, cocaine, meth, oxycodone, and Adderall, among others, is a schedule II drug.

Schedule II drugs have a high abuse potential which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence. On the other side of the scale after ketamine and other schedule III drugs, schedule IV (four) drugs have a lower potential for abuse and addiction.

As we mentioned before, this drug class includes one of the most common prescription medications available today: Xanax. It also includes Valium, Ativan, Ambien, and Tramadol.

Signs of Dependence on Ketamine

One of the first signs of dependence on ketamine is the presence of withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop taking it. Some of the most common ketamine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Strong drug cravings.
  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Fatigue and restlessness.
  • Rapid or otherwise irregular heartbeats.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Sweating and chills.
  • Tremors.
  • Nightmares.

While ketamine withdrawals are typically not severe enough to be life-threatening, as they may be with other drugs, cold turkey quitting at home can be difficult and unpleasant. This may lead to a life-long cycle of abuse.

Additionally, there are many behavioral and emotional signs of ketamine dependence. These include things like withdrawing from friends and family, lying or becoming defensive about your drug use, or neglecting responsibilities to spend more time misusing ketamine.

Ketamine Abuse and Amnesia

Another concern regarding untreated ketamine abuse is that it causes memory impairments, making it harder to remember how much of the drug you have taken. These memory impairments can increase the risk of overdose, as well as mental health impairments.

These mental health impairments may be short-lasting or long-term. The best way to avoid battling potentially long-term physical and mental health impairments due to drug use is to get help as soon as you recognize that you need it.

For those with moderate to severe addictions, a history of relapse, overwhelming triggers and temptations in their current environment, or a lack of social support at home, this will likely mean starting with an inpatient rehab program.

Ketamine Addiction

Inpatient Treatment for Ketamine Dependence

Ketamine can have unpredictable effects that make it difficult to determine how much is too much. But we are here to clarify and assure you that any illicit ketamine use is too much. Even in small amounts, overdoses and other health impairments are possible.

As we mentioned earlier, inpatient programs are best for individuals who need the highest level of care. Starting with a personalized detox, which may be medically assisted to ease your withdrawal symptoms, inpatient programs offer 24-hour access to care, support, and guidance.

But what do you do when you need part-time support rather than full-time care? Or if you have family and work obligations that make a full-time stay too hard to arrange? We want to ensure that everyone who needs recovery care has access to it.

That is why we offer several different programs and customize each one to suit your unique needs before you start.

Other Forms of Support for Ketamine Addiction

If inpatient care is not appropriate for you, we also offer partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programs. Partial hospitalization programs feature high-level, part-time guidance for those in recovery who also have co-existing mental health conditions.

They require a time commitment of roughly 20 hours each week in one of our luxury facilities. The rest of your time is spent learning how to maintain your sobriety at home while also attending to work, family, and social obligations as usual.

Participants in intensive outpatient programs spend roughly nine to nineteen hours with us each week. During this time, you may attend individual, group, or family counseling sessions, support groups, and other proven care methods.

Establishing a Lasting Recovery from Ketamine

Establishing a lasting recovery from ketamine starts with choosing the right program. But you do not have to face this task alone. Each of our customized care plans starts with an evaluation, which allows us to guide you toward the program that will best suit your needs.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions at Pathfinders Recovery Center. We will meet you where you are in your recovery journey and help you get where you need to be.

Finding Affordable, Patient-Focused Care at a Pathfinders Recovery Center

The professionals across our Pathfinders Recovery Centers have decades of experience treating addiction and helping clients transition back into society. We have helped countless individuals and families regain control and build back better.

Call our 24-hour confidential line today at 866-275-0079 for more information. An addiction counselor is on call to help.


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  • (877) 224-0761
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