Ketamine Addiction

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Part of the Complete Guide to Understanding Addiction

What Is Ketamine?

Discovered in 1962 by merging ketone and amine, tKetamine was first tested on volunteer prisoners in 1964. After these trials, the patients were described as being “disconnected,” and Ketamine was classified as a dissociative anesthetic. Surgeons had long been looking for different ways to decrease the pain in patients during surgical recovery. Ketamine was a significant upgrade from the 1950s anesthetic of choice, PCP, but still presented its own set of challenges. 

Throughout the 70s, Ketamine was used as a field anesthetic for US Vietnam soldiers. By the end of the decade, abuse of the drug for its psychedelic effects, along with discoveries of drugs like Propofol, saw Ketamine push out of the medical field entirely. By 1978, the drug was classified as a Class III substance of the US Controlled Substances Act in 1999. 

That said, the law restrictions do not extend outwardly to the veterinary community, where Ketamine still proves to be a major asset. 

Today, Ketamine is known widely as a recreational drug of choice for many people for its fast-acting psychotropic effects, its short duration period, as well as the price. In reality, it is a dissociative anesthetic that produces an out-of-body experience and distorts one’s perception of sight and sound. There are adverse effects that seem to be present with this drug that make it especially risky, but we will talk about those more in the sections below. 

What does Ketamine look, smell, and taste like?

When it’s manufactured, Ketamine is an injectable liquid with no specific color or odor to help distinguish it from anything else. However, in illicit use, it is evaporated to form white or brown colored crystals that are later crushed into a fine powder. It’s also been seen pressed into tablets. This is the least common of all three options.  

Regardless of what form it is in, Ketamine doesn’t have an odor, at least not one that stands out in any particular way. The one thing that is relatively distinguishable about Ketamine is the taste. Many express that Ketamine has an extremely bitter or unpleasant taste. 

In fact, one of the street stereotypes of Ketamine is what people call “the drip.” This refers to when they snort the drug, and it essentially makes the nose start running. Because all of the sinuses are connected, that liquid drips down the back of the throat, and the person then tastes the drug. The taste alone is enough to make some people nauseous and even vomit. 

How does Ketamine work?

Scientists refer to Ketamine as a dirty drug. What they mean by this is that it targets multiple systems in the brain, dozens actually. So many that scientists still aren’t sure of the possible short-term and long-term effects of using or abusing this drug. 

The area of the brain that scientists have studied the most (where Ketamine is concerned) is the Glutamate System. Ketamine seems to be a Glutamate Modulator. This means it can help to increase the production of Glutamate, which helps the brain to make new neuron connections. That said, at high doses, the drug actually stops Glutamate production altogether. 

Particularly in high doses, scientists have found rather interesting effects on the brain. In a recent study, high doses of Ketamine were administered in sheep. The sheep fell asleep, but once they woke up, the scientists noticed very unusual brain activity. The sheeps’ brains started oscillating between high and low frequencies. 

The scientists go on to state that the timing of this oscillation would be equivalent to when people state they feel like they have detached from their body. As mentioned, there is a lot about how Ketamine affects the brain that scientists are still trying to figure out, but there’s no question that abusing the drug can lead to serious physical consequences. 

What Is Ketamine Called On the Streets?

Some of the common street names include: 

  • K
  • Ket
  • Special K
  • Super K
  • Vitamin K
  • Cat Valium
  • Super Acid
  • Kit Kat
  • Donkey Dust
  • Wonk
  • Special La Coke
  • Green K
  • Jet
  • Bump

Another street phrase commonly used in reference to doing a higher dose is “falling into a K-Hole.” When some experience a K-Hole, they describe it as a “near-death experience” or a “bad trip” similar to that of LSD. Others, however, report a state of “ultimate bliss.” 

How is Ketamine used and abused?

There are five ways to use Ketamine. These five methods include: 

  • Crushing it into a powder and snorting it
    • This is the most common way people use Ketamine recreationally.
    • Those that use Ketamine regularly may start using this method in an attempt to chase that original high. 
    • This is the least common way people use Ketamine. 
    • This is when people place the powder form of Ketamine in a thin layer of toilet paper or cigarette paper and swallow it. 
    • Some will place the powder form into a cup of water to drink. 

This last method can be extremely dangerous in party situations because once Ketamine is in a cup of water (or any drink), it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It is extremely important to always keep your cup in your hand and covered whenever possible. 

The high from Ketamine is short-lived, and one’s tolerance builds rapidly. Therefore, nearly every time a person uses the drug, they find they have to use more to achieve the same high. This is where the line of using vs. abusing gets drawn. 

Once someone has crossed the line and started abusing Ketamine, they have also become addicted to it. Ketamine is a drug that is nearly impossible to get clean from on your own. It changes the chemicals in your brain that make it nearly impossible. You find yourself craving that high, no matter what. 

Signs of Ketamine Addiction

When someone is addicted to Ketamine, they spend all of their days detached from everything. At this point, they become incapable of leading normal lives and being productive. Most users are cognitively impaired at this point as well. You will see their memory as well as their speech being affected. 

Here are some signs that someone might be addicted to Ketamine: 

  • they’ve built up a tolerance 
  • They’ve increased their usage
  • All they think about and work towards is their next hit
  • Most of their money is spent on the drug
  • They neglect their friends and family

What are the symptoms and physical consequences of Ketamine use?

Ketamine is a dissociative hallucinogenic tranquilizer. The highs or ‘trips’ usually last about an hour, but if you take a high dose and go into a K-Hole, the trip could be even longer. 

When most people take the drug, they feel things like:

  • Detached or dream-like
  • Relaxed and happy
  • Mellow
  • Loss of coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Stumbling (This is also known as “feeling wonky”)

There are some adverse effects that people experience as well. These effects usually accompany higher doses:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Respiratory issues
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Depression
  • Paranoia 
  • Cognitive difficulties 

These effects could potentially stick with the person in the long term. 

One of the scarier physical symptoms that one can experience is a dream-like state that makes it harder for the person to move their muscles. This, accompanied by amnesia also being a symptom, makes this drug extremely dangerous and has even been called a “date rape” drug because people have used it to commit sexual assaults. 

Abuse, Overdose, and Fatality risks of Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine is extremely unpredictable. For that reason, the risk of overdose is just as high for long-time users as it is for beginner users. Even after small doses, someone can overdose. This usually happens because the drug was mixed with other drugs or with alcohol. Most of the time, accidental overdoses occur because the person is trying to reach the K-Hole state. Remember, Ketamine is a tranquilizer, so this can lead to the person experience a complete loss of mobility. This is especially dangerous because then the person can’t ask for help. 

The most common cause of death from a Ketamine overdose is respiratory failure. 

A Ketamine overdose can lead to fatality. However, death from Ketamine alone doesn’t happen often. In most cases that result in a fatality, the person had other drugs or alcohol in their system. Still, this is extremely important to note because oftentimes, when people use Ketamine, that isn’t the only drug in their system. Adding in a mixture of other drugs and alcohol increases the chances of an overdose tenfold. 

Ketamine Addiction Detox and Treatment at Avenues Recovery Center

When detoxing from Ketamine, the user is likely to experience withdrawal symptoms because Ketamine alters the opioid receptors in the brain. In turn, the person is likely to experience intense psychological symptoms as well, including extreme depression. This is why it is important to be under professional care during the withdrawal and detox phase because if not, it puts the person at greater risk of suicide. 

Detox symptoms

Here are some common detox symptoms people experience:

  • Confusion 
  • Agitation
  • Rage
  • Psychosis 
  • Nausea 
  • Shakes
  • Insomnia 
  • Fatigue 
  • Hearing loss
  • Decreased respiratory function
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Cognitive impairment 

Under Avenues Recovery treatment programs, the user is in constant professional and medical care. Ketamine makes a lot of changes to the chemical make-up of a person. Getting clean from a drug like this is almost impossible to do alone. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. Treatment is the first step in the road to recovery. 

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Brooke Abner,

Motivational Coach