Ketamine Addiction: Signs and Treatment

Ketamine addiction treatment is an integral part of addressing the problem of dependency on the drug. The administration of Ketamine for medical purposes has been conducted successfully for many years, although it can be a highly addictive drug.

The approval for use as a medical product is agreed upon only when Ketamine is used as a general anesthetic in humans. However, many are unaware that it is also used as an animal tranquilizer and illegal street drug, known as Special K.

It is sometimes used to treat depression and pain. Still, the risk of dependency is high when not adequately managed and monitored. For the most part, it’s IV-administered in a clinic setting under the supervision of a physician, avoiding the chance of abuse.

Those who use Ketamine outside of this setting are at risk of becoming dependent and experiencing withdrawal symptoms, which can sometimes be severe.

Ketamine is a relatively obscure drug, with little awareness regarding its existence in the mainstream. However, many small circles and niches have used the drug for a long time and not always for treatment purposes. It also has its place in the rave and festival scene as a party drug, despite the disassociation it causes.

What mysterious drug is getting considerable attention in therapy, and what makes it so addictive? In this article, we’ll cover all of these elements and more.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine is a medication that has been used for decades as an anesthetic for humans and animals. It is also illegal in many countries when sold as a street drug, known as Special K. When appropriately used in a medical setting; Ketamine can be an effective treatment for pain and depression. However, the risk of ketamine addiction is high when the drug is not used as directed.

Those who use Ketamine outside of a medical setting risk becoming addicted to the drug and experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Ketamine addiction treatment is essential for those who want to quit using the drug and avoid these severe side effects.

Ketamine is considered a dissociative anesthetic, although it has hallucinogenic properties. The user often loses perception of sight and sound and feels disconnected from reality. Users refer to this as being in a “K-Hole.”

Usually, the drug is manufactured as a liquid in injection-ready glass jars. However, when abused, the most common administration is typically snorting after converting it into crystal or powder.

The liquid variant of the drug is poured out onto a hot plate and placed in the microwave to heat for a short period. After the heating, the result is a plate lined with a crystalline substance that is then scraped and turned into a powder. From this point, users can sniff it or inject it.

Recently, Ketamine use has shifted towards off-label use for depression and PTSD. This treatment has received mixed reviews from professionals and government officials, primarily because of the drug’s bad reputation in the party and raves scene.

Growing Off-label Use of Ketamine

In the last five years, Ketamine has received significant attention because of its use for treating PTSD, depression, and other severe mental disorders. Patients are treated with small doses of ketamine for about two hours at a time under the supervision of physicians who constantly monitor their condition and psychological state.

The drug interacts with receptors in the brain and also makes it effective in treating certain types of pain and muscle inflammation. The first form of ketamine was recently patented and marketed to the public for treating depression.

Brand-name Spravato is available as a nasal spray and is prescribed to treat forms of depression that aren’t responsive to any other type of therapy. In 2018, the drug started gaining popularity in substance abuse treatment. So far, doctors have experienced a decent amount of success in treating alcohol, cocaine, and opioid use disorders with Ketamine. However, more research is still required before any official medication is bottled and marketed for official use.

In 2021, psychologists began using the drug to treat other mental health challenges with promising results. Conditions the drug was tested on include:

  • Anhedonia
  • Severe Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Suicidal thoughts

How Does Ketamine Work?

Ketamine triggers multiple receptors and pathways in the brain. The glutamate pathway is thought to be significantly affected by ketamine use, binding to the NMDA receptor protein to stop glutamate from attaching to them. The mTOR and AMPA receptors in the brain are also thought to be affected, including receptors that fire when opioids are ingested.

However, the amount or level in which these receptors aren’t known with 100% clarity yet. There’s still a lot that doctors and scientists don’t know about ketamine. If you analyze what they do know with 100% certainty, Ketamine can be summed up in the following ways:

  • It promotes neural activity in the brain
  • This increase in neural activity helps the brain to function in a more natural way
  • This activity also causes neuroplasticity which helps the brain avoid negative patterns
  • This allows mental health patients to get out of negative, recurring thoughts
  • It’s also assumed that it helps physical patients get out of painful feedback loops (amputees patients with similar injuries)

 

The negative portion of all of this is the fact that ketamine has plenty of adverse effects with the potential for abuse.

What Are the Effects of Ketamine?

What Are the Effects of Ketamine

What are some of the effects of ketamine during short-term use? Some of the short-term effects of ketamine use include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Euphoria
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle twitching or spasms
  • Changes in perception of time and space
  • Disassociation from reality

 

The long-term effects of ketamine may be even more severe than the short-term impact. Some of the potential long-term effects of ketamine include:

  • Cognitive impairments
  • Memory problems
  • Depression Kidney damage or failure
  • Ulcers
  • Liver damage
  • Chronic pain

The Risks of Ketamine

Although Ketamine has shown to produce positive benefits for multiple conditions, there’s a reason that it hasn’t moved forward with full-scale commercial availability and why it’s still an illegal substance to possess without a prescription.

Ketamine is still an experimental drug for all intents and purposes, as scientists and doctors still haven’t pinpointed its exact routes of effectiveness and specific interactions with the brain. The reason is a lack of concrete human study and clinical research, primarily because of the hallucinogenic properties that can lead to mental effects and possible physical side effects.

Besides PCP, which is rarely found on the black market these days, ketamine is widely considered the only psychedelic with the potential for addiction. Although the withdrawal from Ketamine isn’t as intense as opioids, it still poses a risk.

It’s not widely considered to cause physical withdrawal, but the mental effects can be intense. Many clients who enter rehab for ketamine addiction suffer from amnesia or other cognitive issues.

Even though technically there is no physical withdrawal, the mental effects can still wreak havoc on certain physical elements like balance and depth perception. It’s still recommended that anyone detoxing from ketamine enter a medical-assisted facility for detoxification.

Can You Overdose from Special K?

A common argument among researchers and users alike is whether an overdose from ketamine is possible. While it’s scarce, you can indeed overdose on Special K.  This risk is heightened considerably when the drug is injected.

Although most people who inject ketamine do so in a muscular administration and not intravenous, this still enhances the drug’s route into the bloodstream. The risk for toxicity increases substantially, with a small number of deaths attributed to ketamine toxicity between 1993 and now in the United Kingdom.

Ketamine overdoses typically happen during one of two situations. The user either takes a dose considerably more significant than what’s considered a therapeutic dose, or a long-term abuser consumes too much during a short period.

Overdose from Special K

Regardless of how it happens, the symptoms of ketamine overdose are usually similar each time. Signs to look for include:

  • Coma
  • Convulsions
  • Respiratory depression
  • Seizures
  • Death

 

Initially, the most noticeable symptom is increased heart rate and blood pressure and possibly loss of motor skills. If you notice someone is highly intoxicated on Ketamine, you mustn’t leave them alone, as they could be very accident-prone and out of touch with reality.

Is Ketamine Addictive?

It’s a pretty common belief that Ketamine is an addictive substance. It’s not just illicit users that risk dealing with addiction. Individuals with prescriptions for injuries and even clients who get short-term injections of ketamine to deal with depression are also at high risk of developing a tolerance to the drug.

Ketamine is often prescribed for amputees who experience phantom pain due to losing a limb. After a time, the smaller doses of ketamine don’t work as well to keep the pain at bay. More significant amounts of the drug are needed, and eventually, the user develops a tolerance.

Shortly after developing a tolerance, a full-blown dependence kicks in, leaving any user officially addicted. Although ketamine addiction may not happen as fast as a painkiller or heroin, it’s not a drawn-out process.

It usually takes a month or two for someone to develop a full-blown addiction to ketamine. This is just another reminder that when anyone takes one medication to support the detox of another, the remedy substance must be used with supervision and with caution to avoid a replacement addiction situation.

The Signs of Ketamine Addiction

All drugs that cause addiction carry some sign or red flag. What are some of the symptoms of ketamine addiction to look out for?

If you notice any of the following, the person in question could be dealing with a ketamine habit:

  • Fear and paranoia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Auditory and visual hallucination
  • Feeling the ability to fly
  • Problems focusing or concentrating
  • Consuming ketamine to relieve stress and anxiety

 

Getting help when you notice them displaying any of the signs mentioned above is essential. It could be the difference between life and death.

At Pathfinder’s Recovery, we specialize in treating Ketamine abuse disorder and other significant substance abuse challenges. If you have any questions regarding addiction signs, dangers, or recovery, contact a member of our knowledgeable team today.