Ketamine is a powerful anaesthetic that has several medical applications for human use, as well as veterinary purposes as it is a horse tranquiliser. Other names include K, Special K, Vitamin K. A “club drug” when used for recreational purposes it can generate hallucinations and an out of body experience. 

Ketamine addiction leads to a number of dangerous side effects and treatment is recommended only under careful medical supervision in a qualified addiction treatment centre such as Castle Health. 

What is ketamine?

Ketamine is a medication that has several medical uses, primarily as an anaesthetic. It can be used to sedate children in case of minor interventions and it can also be used as a secondary choice of anaesthetic for surgery. However, its use in hospitals is rare and this anaesthetic is more common for veterinary purposes. 

The drug was discovered in 1962 and it was first used in humans two years later, with the United States approving its use in 1970. The drug began to be used recreationally in the 1970s in America and it remained popular as  a party or club drug among younger individuals. Ketamine is legally sold  in a number of countries around the world, however, it remains a controlled substance. 

The drug class is an NMDA receptor antagonist, but it is also included under dissociative hallucinogens under analgesics and antidepressants. Ketamine may come in the form of a white powder, in  pills or in liquid form. The drug distorts visual and sound perceptions and, in addition to its sedating properties, it produces an out of body experience, with the user feeling detached from reality. Higher doses can even lead to an effect similar to a near-death experience. 

This drug can also be used as a date rape drug because of its odourless and colourless properties that make it undetectable in drinks. 

Signs of Ketamine Abuse

Its hallucinogenic properties make Ketamine an unpredictable drug. Psychological dependence is often associated with this drug and, in time, the user will develop a tolerance, meaning that they will need higher and higher levels of the drug to achieve the same desired effect. 

Because it is anaesthetic, the effects an individual will feel that has administered the drug can include reduced physical sensations (including reacting to painful stimuli) or even temporary paralysis. The user may be awake, but they will have trouble moving or talking.   

Some of the physical signs that indicate ketamine abuse include slurred speech, poor coordination, skin redness or rapid eye movements. The psychological signs include irritability, difficulty concentrating, fatigue and lack of motivation, as well as depression. 

As common in many addictions, an individual who develops ketamine use disorder will also have cravings for the drug, will be preoccupied with obtaining it and will spend a considerable amount of time recovering from its psychical and psychological side effects. The chronic user may revert to various methods for procuring ketamine, including convincing his or her friends to obtain the drug or steal to have the money to buy the drug.

Health Risks of Ketamine Abuse

Ketamine poses many health risks and negatively affects various body organs. The following health risks may occur in recreational ketamine users: 

  • Urinary tract and kidney problems: urinary tract symptoms in recreational users such as incontinence, painful bleeding in urine and others. (The bladder may be seriously affected within several months of regular use, due to the passing of chemicals through the kidneys and the urinary tract.)
  • Cardiovascular issues: high or low blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm.
  • Gastrointestinal problems: nausea, vomiting, increased salivation, loss of appetite.
  • Respiratory symptoms: airway obstruction, breathing cessation, reduced effort to breathe.
  • Ocular effects: double vision, involuntary eye movements, high intraocular pressure.
  • Neurological problems: ketamine may cause permanent brain damage.
  • Others: rash, reddened skin, tonic-clonic movements (increased skeletal muscle tone).

Because this anaesthetic has pain-numbing properties, individuals can put themselves in life-threatening situations who are under the influence as they can experience serious injuries but  fail to seek immediate medical attention because they feel no pain because of the drug. endangering themselves. 

Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms & Detox

Individuals who have used ketamine for recreational purposes for a long time will find quitting particularly difficult. Withdrawal symptoms can be classified as psychological and physical, with an emphasis on the first category, because of the drug’s powerful psychological influence. They can include emotional imbalance, anxiety, depression and paranoia. 

The physical withdrawal symptoms include impaired coordination and loss of motor skills, hearing problems, double vision, rapid breathing and increased heartbeat. 

Ketamine detox will usually be based on the complete cessation of the drug as opposed to a tapered-down approach. As a result, it is highly recommended to detox in a clinical setting and under specialised medical supervision, such as within our residential rehab programme at Castle Health. 

Rehab Treatment for Ketamine Addiction at Castle Health

Ketamine is a powerful sedative and hallucinogen and the withdrawal symptoms are unpredictable, especially the psychological ones. Even though withdrawal does not usually present life-threatening issues such as in the case of alcohol or benzo  addiction, it is highly recommended to seek rehab treatment for ketamine addiction at a specialised clinic. 

Castle Health provides individualised rehab treatment programmes and each recovery journey is unique.   The treatment plan will be developed after a comprehensive medical assessment by one of our Castle Health Specialists. An inpatient treatment programme is usually recommended for ketamine addiction, beginning with a  medical detox followed by inpatient individual and group therapy program with additional specialised and complementary therapies. 

After completing our long-term treatment programme, we offer ongoing support to all our patients through a  two-year continuing care plan that includes teletherapy and weekly group therapy sessions. 

Contact us if you or someone you know is in need of help for ketamine addiction. We are here to answer any questions about our treatment programme and the detox process.