Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Ketamine Use

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Like many drugs, using ketamine can lead to various physical, mental, and emotional consequences. Avenues Recovery discusses the short-term and long-term side effects ketamine can have on one’s life. The risks and dangers of ketamine use can be more threatening than you may originally have thought.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a pharmaceutical drug used for general pain relief and anesthesia before surgery, and sometimes used illegally for its hallucinogenic effects. It can be administered intravenously, intramuscularly, orally, or as a nasal spray. Caution must be exercised when using as it carries the risk of ketamine addiction and potential cognitive, urinary, and mood-related complications.

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What are the Long-Term Effects of Ketamine?

The long-term side effects of ketamine are expressed mentally, emotionally, and physically. Below are some negative effects of ketamine on one’s body and mind. 

Long-Term Ketamine Risks to the Mind

Cognitive Effects: Prolonged and heavy ketamine use may lead to cognitive impairments, including memory and attention problems. These effects often go away once ketamine use has stopped.

Psychological Dependence: Ketamine has the potential to cause psychological dependence, leading to cravings and a compulsion to use the drug. This can contribute to a cycle of addiction and may require professional intervention to overcome.

Emotional and Psychological Disturbances: Chronic ketamine use may lead to emotional and psychological disturbances, such as depression, anxiety, and hallucinations. These effects may persist even after use is discontinued.

Long-Term Dangers of Ketamine to the Body

Bladder and Urinary Tract Issues: Frequent and high-dose ketamine use has been associated with a condition called ketamine-induced cystitis [1]. Symptoms may include urinary urgency, frequency, pain, and blood in the urine. In severe cases, it can lead to bladder damage and the need for bladder removal.

Liver and Kidney Function: Ketamine is primarily metabolized in the liver and excreted through the kidneys. Prolonged and heavy use of ketamine can strain these organs, potentially leading to liver or kidney damage.

Respiratory Issues: Ketamine can cause respiratory depression, especially when combined with other substances like alcohol or opioids. Prolonged use may increase the risk of respiratory problems.

Cardiovascular Effects: Ketamine can temporarily raise blood pressure and heart rate. While these effects are generally short-lived, long-term use may increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.

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What Are The Short-Term Effects of Ketamine?

When people begin to use ketamine, they initially experience pleasurable effects. This explains why ketamine can be so addictive. Below are some of ketamine’s short-term effects. 

Analgesia: Ketamine is known for its potent pain-relieving properties and can induce numbness and reduced sensitivity to pain.

Dissociation: Ketamine can create a sense of detachment from one's body or surroundings, leading to feelings of dissociation. This effect can result in a distortion of perception, time, and space.

Euphoria: Ketamine can induce a sense of euphoria, relaxation, and a dream-like state. Some users may experience a pleasurable "out-of-body" experience.


Altered perception: Ketamine can distort sensory perception, leading to changes in vision, hearing, and touch. Users may experience hallucinations, blurred vision, and altered depth perception.

Cognitive and motor impairment: Ketamine can impair cognitive function, leading to difficulties with thinking, concentration, and memory. It can also cause motor impairment, affecting coordination and balance.

Nausea and vomiting: Some individuals may experience nausea and vomiting shortly after using ketamine.

Increased heart rate and blood pressure: Ketamine can elevate heart rate and blood pressure temporarily. This effect is more pronounced at higher doses.

Increased salivation and bronchial secretions: Ketamine can increase saliva production and cause excess mucus secretion, resulting in a runny nose or increased phlegm.

What Are Additional Ketamine Risks?

In addition to the short-term and long-term effects of ketamine use mentioned above, there are other potential repercussions of using ketamine. 

  • Heart and Blood Vessel Problems - Ketamine use can cause abnormal heart rhythms. It can also increase or decrease blood pressure.
  • Difficulty Breathing - Ketamine can cause breathing difficulties if someone takes too much or too quickly.
  • Unsettling reactions: After surgery, some people may feel restless or confused during the recovery period.
  • Increased intracranial pressure (pressure in the head) - people with pre-existing pressure in the head should be monitored closely, as ketamine can worsen this condition.
  • Damage to the liver - Ketamine use may harm the liver and affect its functioning.
  • Thinking deficits - Some studies suggest that ketamine use may cause thinking difficulties, particularly in children.
  • Dependence and addiction - Ketamine has the potential for psychological dependence and addiction, particularly when used in a recreational or non-medical context.
  • Mental health effects - Ketamine may exacerbate or trigger mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, and psychosis, particularly in individuals predisposed to these conditions.

What Are the Dangers of Ketamine Abuse?

Using ketamine can also make one more vulnerable to various situations. Being aware of the dangers of ketamine use can be helpful in preventing them from occurring. 

  • Ketamine withdrawal - When people develop a tolerance to ketamine, going off of it can lead to unpleasant behavioral, emotional, and physical ketamine withdrawal symptoms.
  • Easy to overdose - Due to ketamine’s potency, it is easy to overdose when using the drug.
  • Used for date rape - Ketamine is sometimes used as a date rape drug. Women should protect themselves by covering their alcoholic beverages with their hands when on a date or at a bar to stop anybody from adding drugs to their alcohol.
  • Dangerous hallucinations - Taking ketamine can cause dangerous hallucinations. If the user was in a negative state of mind before taking the drug, then the hallucinations can be quite unpleasant.
  • Drowsiness - Ketamine can cause drowsiness which can be a problem when at work or driving.
  • Nausea - Ketamine can cause nausea and the need to vomit. If a person vomits when lying on their back, it can cause them to aspirate, or choke on their own vomit. If you see anyone in this situation, roll them onto their side and call 911 immediately for assistance.


What are the Negative Effects of Ketamine When Used in Different Dosages?

High doses of ketamine can cause:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Muscle spasms or weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Balance problems
  • Vision problems
  • Slurred speech
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Scary hallucinogenic episodes


Low doses of ketamine can cause:

  • A sense of calm and relaxation
  • Relief from pain
  • Dizziness
  • Low mood or depression
  • A feeling of detachment from the body
  • Impaired reflexes and reaction time
  • Slurred speech
  • Hallucinations lasting for thirty to sixty minutes
  • Nystagmus (repetitive and uncontrolled eye movements)

What is the Extent of Ketamine Abuse in the U.S.?

Since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved ketamine as a nasal spray in 2019 to deal with treatment-resistant depression, there has been increased coverage of ketamine in the news. Some experts were concerned that additional media coverage would lead to an increase in ketamine use. While recreational use of ketamine increased slightly in recent years, it still is only used by 1% of the U.S. population [2].

Ketamine Addiction Treatment at Avenues Recovery

Overcoming ketamine addiction can be challenging, yet it is extremely rewarding. If you or a loved one is experiencing ketamine’s short-term effects or long-term effects, Avenues Recovery is here for you. We offer a variety of Outpatient and Residential Treatment Programs and resources to help, no matter where you’re up to. Reach out to us at Avenues Recovery today so we can guide you on your journey to sobriety, and to an addiction-free future ahead!




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