Ketamine Addiction

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Part of the Complete Guide to Understanding Addiction


Discovered in 1962 by merging ketone and amine [1], Ketamine 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 pushed 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, and Ketamine addiction became official. 

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, explained further in the sections below.

Understanding Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine can be hidden under masked properties. Knowing what Ketamine looks, smells, and tastes like is vital.

What Does Ketamine Look Like?

Many often wonder: what does ketamine look like? In its manufactured state, Ketamine comes in an injectable liquid form with no specific color or odor to help distinguish it from anything else. However, when used illicitly, it is evaporated to form white or brown-colored crystals that are later crushed into a fine powder. It has also been seen pressed into tablets. This is the least common of all three versions.  

What Does Ketamine Smell Like?

Regardless of what form it is in, Ketamine has no odor, at least not one that stands out in any particular way.

What Does Ketamine Taste Like?

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, it essentially causes the nose to 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 is meant 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 - meaning it can help to increase the production of Glutamate, which helps the brain to make new neuron connections. However at high doses, the drug actually stops Glutamate production altogether.

Particularly in high doses, scientists have found Ketamine to have rather interesting effects on the brain. In a recent University of Cambridge study [2], high doses of Ketamine were administered to 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 Ketamine abuse can lead to serious physical health 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 Abused?

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

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

This last method of drinking 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. 

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How Addictive is Ketamine?

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 in order 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 an addictive drug that is nearly impossible to get clean from on your own. It changes the chemicals in your brain, in a way that makes it very, very difficult. You find yourself continuously craving that high, no matter what.

Signs of Ketamine Addiction

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

Here are some signs that show 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 larger 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 stay 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 user experiencing a complete loss of mobility. This is especially dangerous because then they aren’t able to 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 as well. This is extremely important to note because often, 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

When detoxing from Ketamine, the user is likely to experience Ketamine withdrawal symptoms because the drug alters the opioid receptors in the brain. Intense psychological symptoms are likely to be experienced as well, including extreme depression. This is why it is important to be under professional care and supervision during the withdrawal and detox phase. Having no medical management during Ketamine detox puts the person at a greater risk for suicide. 

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Detox Symptoms

Here are some common symptoms people experience during drug detox treatment:

  • 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 under constant professional and medical care. Ketamine makes a lot of significant 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.

Recovery from Ketamine Addiction

If you are suffering from Ketamine addiction or addicted to any other substance, Avenues Recovery, pioneers in addiction rehabilitation, are here to support you fully in your journey to recovery. Contact us today for support and professional guidance to discuss treatment options. You deserve an addiction-free life and a better future ahead!




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