Ketamine Addiction: Signs, Symptoms, And Treatment Options

Ketamine is a commonly used anesthetic in veterinary practices throughout the country. A rise in both use and abuse has been seen among persons that frequent the bar and nightclub scene. Users of Ketamine often mistakenly believe that there is no risk for addiction associated with usage of the drug. The unfortunate truth is that Ketamine addiction is a dangerous reality.

History Of Ketamine Use In America

Ketamine was developed by Parke Davis in 1962 was originally intended to be a better alternative to PCP as an anesthetic. PCP was determined to be a dangerous drug but researchers soon learned that Ketamine was just as, or maybe even more dangerous. The federal government approved Ketamine use in humans in 1970 and the drug would become popular for treating battlefield wounds in combat zones.

Recreational use of the drug was the first scene on the country’s west coast and would spread throughout the nation in the late 1970’s on into the 1980’s. Ketamine usage became linked with the dance cultures of the mid 80’s and its use is still associated with the club scene to this day.

What Does It Mean To Be Addicted To Ketamine

Ketamine addiction happens when users of the drug develop a physical or psychological tolerance resulting from continued use. This tolerance can often lead to a dependence on the drug, resulting in even greater usage.

Addiction to this drug is characterized by the user’s thoughts and actions becoming dominated by Ketamine seeking activities. Ketamine addicts will continue to seek the drug despite obvious evidence that the drug has begun to have serious and negative consequences to the life of the user.

Symptoms Of Ketamine Addiction

There are a variety of signs that a Ketamine user may be developing a dangerous dependence, or even worse, a life-altering addiction to the drug:

  • Constantly Increasing Dosage– Ketamine works on the brain by increasing the production of the neurotransmitters glutamate and serotonin. Repeated usage of Ketamine over works areas of the brain associated with the production of these neurotransmitters. As time passes, more and more Ketamine will be needed to gain the same ‘high’ from the drug. The person’s tolerance for the drug continues to rise as dosage increases.
  • Occurrence Of Physical Withdrawal– Continued elevations of neurotransmitters can have a great impact on the chemical balance in the brain. When this balance is disrupted the body can begin to struggle with maintaining normal processes. This struggle can at times manifest itself in the form of physical withdrawal symptoms for persons with a dependence on Ketamine. These symptoms will increase in both frequency and intensity as the use of the drug continues.
  • Increased Pain Resistance– The intended usage of Ketamine is as an anesthetic. Areas of the brain that affect the interpretation of pain sensation are particularly affected by prolonged Ketamine usage. Often those in need of treatment for dependence or addiction to Ketamine will have an unusually high tolerance for pain caused by the abuse of the drug.
  • Psychological Symptoms– Symptoms of psychological distress can occur as a result of the neurotransmitter altering effects of long-term Ketamine abuse. Glutamine is an important part of regulating electrical activities in the brain. Serotonin is an important part of regulating cognitive function. Overstimulation of these chemicals in the brain can cause distortions in sensory perception. This can result in serious psychological effects including panic attacks, speech impairment, mood swings, and hallucinations.
  • Changes In Behavior– Ketamine abuse over time greatly alters the ability of the brain to function. Impairments in brain chemistry will chain the brain’s work processes and often manifest themselves in behavioral abnormalities. Ketamine abusers can be prone to violent outbursts, tensions, and anxieties, and can sometimes become depresses. It is not uncommon also to at times see regular users of Ketamine in mild, moderate, or even severe states of confusion.
  • Decreases In Functional Ability– What may be the saddest effect of Ketamine abuse to watch is the decreased functional capacity experienced by addicts of Ketamine. The flood of neurotransmitters to the brain that results from the continuous abuse of Ketamine can cause a deterioration in the structure of the brain, alter neural pathways, and disrupt the function of the central nervous system.

Treatment For Ketamine Addicts

Ketamine addiction should be strongly addressed as soon as the disease is discovered. Ketamine is a powerful drug that has an intended use as a clinical strength anesthetic for animals so any use of this drug for recreational purposes brings with it a certain set of dangers for the user. Persons finding that they are becoming dependent or addicted to Ketamine should discontinue use of the drug and seek the help of a qualified professional. This treatment can take place in both inpatients as well as outpatient environments.

Initial treatment for possible addiction to Ketamine will center around neutralizing any withdrawal symptoms the user may be experiencing. Once withdrawal is no longer a major issue for the Ketamine addict, the next phase of treatment can then be initialized. Addicts should then begin intensive counseling and therapy to identify the root causes of addictive behaviors. Once these root causes are identified the addict can then work with counselors to devise strategies that will allow the addict to more productively deal with addiction triggers and minimize chances of relapse.

It will also be important for recovering Ketamine addicts to utilize support groups and maybe continuing outpatient counseling services for preventative maintenance against relapse to addiction.

Final Thoughts

Ketamine is a powerful anesthetic that is often abused as a recreational drug. Prolonged use of Ketamine puts the user at risk of developing a serious and dangerous addiction to the drug. Addicts addicted to Ketamine experience dangerous changes in brain chemistry that can cause real damage to the addicted individual.

Individuals addicted to Ketamine should seek help immediately. It is important for Ketamine addicts to not try to fight their illness alone. The process of recovering from Ketamine addiction is a complex one and the aid of a qualified addiction expert will be needed.


Further Reading:

Ketamine Effects
What is Ketamine
Ketamine Side Effects