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Ketamine Withdrawal: Understanding the Symptoms, Timeline, and Treatment Options

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Ketamine is a dissociative drug often misused for its hallucinogenic properties. It is popular in nightclubs and bars for its sedative effects, and can lead to ketamine addiction. It is usually mixed with other drugs including cocaine, MDMA, amphetamine, or methamphetamine. Once addicted, ketamine withdrawal can feel daunting.

Repeatedly using and taking ketamine leads the body to grow tolerant of the drug. In order to continue feeling the effects of ketamine and maintain the balance, the user will now need to take more and more of the substance. Once the body is dependent on ketamine, stopping the drug can cause uncomfortable ketamine withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal must be treated correctly to prevent relapse. Cycling through many phases of withdrawal and dependence without lasting recovery, can cause permanent damage to the brain and nervous system. Avenues Recovery provides a rundown below of what ketamine withdrawal involves and ways to manage it.

Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms

Once the body has become psychologically dependent on ketamine, a range of symptoms will ensue when experiencing addiction withdrawal. Ketamine withdrawal symptoms can be physical or psychological, and will vary in their intensity. They are often the opposite of the effects experienced while using the drug.

Ketamine can be mistaken as non-addictive because the withdrawal doesn’t affect the body physically as much as many other drugs. However, the psychological effects of ketamine can be as difficult to overcome as the physical. It is common for there to be co-addictions present which can complicate the withdrawal process as well. There is also a lot of uncertainty regarding ketamine withdrawal since the symptoms and effects depend on many factors. Some common ketamine withdrawal symptoms are explained below.

Physical Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms

Physical withdrawal symptoms are generally easier to identify. Below are some physical symptoms that one may experience when withdrawing from ketamine:

  • Confusion
  • Coordination loss
  • Delirium
  • Hallucinations
  • Inability to focus
  • Irregular heart rate or blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Speech impairments

Behavioral Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms

Behavioral symptoms can range in intensity but are nonetheless detrimental. Some behavioral withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Aggressive or violent tendencies
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenic-like behaviors
  • Suicidal ideations

Emotional Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms

In addition to the physical and behavioral symptoms that can occur as a result of withdrawal from ketamine, there can also be emotional withdrawal symptoms. Included are: 

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Paranoia [1]

How Long Does Ketamine Withdrawal Last For?

Ketamine withdrawal symptoms can last from 72 hours to several weeks. It generally takes between 2-4 days for ketamine to fully leave the body. Once it does, withdrawal symptoms will set in. After ketamine has left the body, the symptoms will worsen for a day or two. Physical symptoms are no longer expected after the first two days, but psychological cravings can be experienced for many months after quitting.

Ketamine Withdrawal Timeline

The ketamine withdrawal timeline provides a more in-depth explanation of what to expect when withdrawing from ketamine. Illustrated below is what generally happens over the span of a few months.

  • Days One to Three: Symptoms will begin approximately 24 hours after the last dose. This can include shakes, fatigue, insomnia, rage, depression, hallucinations, delusion, tremors, double vision, nausea, rapid breathing, and hearing loss.
  • Days Four to Fourteen: Ketamine withdrawal symptoms can persist for the next two weeks before tapering off.
  • Days Fifteen and Up:  Physical withdrawal symptoms should be stable but psychological symptoms of ketamine withdrawal can persist. Nerve cell damage may be present in the brain which causes permanent psychological issues.

Intensity Levels of Ketamine Withdrawal

The level of intensity will depend on how the ketamine withdrawal symptoms are managed, the extent of dependence originally, as well as individual factors. If the withdrawal is overseen by a professional and medically managed, there is less of a likelihood of the symptoms from ketamine withdrawal being so severe.

Minor Withdrawal: A person experiencing mild withdrawal symptoms will have sleep disturbances, rapid breathing, inability to focus, and minor anxiety. Minor withdrawal describes a person who is only symptomatic for two weeks.

Mid-Level Withdrawal: This will include symptoms of confusion, coordination loss, speech impairments and depression. People who do not have a history of prior drug abuse and are not chronic ketamine users, will generally experience this level of withdrawal.

Severe Withdrawal: Serious symptoms can occur if someone has been a chronic ketamine user. These include symptoms of paranoia, delirium, irregular heart rate or blood pressure, aggressive or violent tendencies, psychosis, schizophrenic-like behaviors, and suicidal ideations. These ketamine withdrawal symptoms require 24/7 oversight in an inpatient drug detox and rehab, and medication to manage.

Other Factors That Affect Withdrawal

The severity of ketamine withdrawal is also determined by several factors such as:

  • Age
  • Dosage
  • Frequency of Use
  • Weight
  • Liver Function
  • Prior Psychological Conditions

Specific groups of people can be more susceptible to experiencing difficult ketamine withdrawal symptoms. Users who suffered from depression prior seem to have serious complications with symptoms of ketamine withdrawal. Furthermore, research has found women to be at a higher risk for cognitive decline and urinary problems than men, caused by ketamine use.

Is Ketamine Withdrawal Fatal?

It is unlikely to suffer a fatal physical episode while detoxing from ketamine. However, there is a risk of suicide due to the severe depression that some users experience while detoxing. Another risk is that ketamine acts as a sedative, changing the heart rate. Therefore stopping ketamine intake can cause the heart rate to fluctuate, which can be highly dangerous.

Treatment for Ketamine Withdrawal

Although it is possible to detox from ketamine on your own, having outside support is majorly beneficial and can help to prevent future relapse. For ketamine, a “social” detox is possible. A “social” detox is built upon support and a safe environment without addiction triggers. Nevertheless, detoxing from ketamine by yourself can be risky even when there are no major physical side effects present. The psychological effects and cravings of ketamine withdrawal can be very challenging, causing a relapse if not properly treated. Withdrawal can also cause a person to lash out which can be dangerous if they are around others. 

The chances of remaining sober are greatly increased when undergoing professional treatment. The most common treatments for ketamine withdrawal are counseling for addiction recovery and support. Medical management can help as well. Medication is used in some cases to help with withdrawal symptoms, however there are no FDA-approved [2] medications specifically for ketamine withdrawal. 

Medical detox options include: 

Treatment Goals While in Addiction Recovery

When treating a patient undergoing withdrawal for ketamine, it is important to have the following two goals in mind:

  1. To treat the detox symptoms and ensure the user stays safe and healthy. This can include making sure the patient doesn’t dehydrate, or treating psychological symptoms with medication.
  2. To Help the patient fight addiction urges. Cravings typically peak about two to four days after use. Feeling supported while the patient works to resist cravings is important for their managing to maintain sobriety and prevent relapse.


Treatment for Ketamine Withdrawal and Addiction at Avenues Recovery

There are many resources available to help a user overcome their drug addiction or withdrawal symptoms, and change the course of their life. With the right treatment, a patient can be on the road to sobriety and fully regain their freedom! At Avenues Recovery, we offer a variety of treatment programs and resources to help you get back to your best self. If you are experiencing ketamine addiction or any other drug addiction, reach out to us today to start your new and better addiction-free life.

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