Often referred to as a “horse tranquiliser, “Ketamine was originally intended for use as a veterinary anaesthetic and is currently used in human and veterinary procedures. But due to its psychoactive and stimulant properties, Ketamine has become an increasingly popular street drug and is known as K, Ket, Special K, Vitamin K, Green K, Super C, and Kit Kat.

Ketamine can produce a range of effects depending on the dose.  As an anaesthetic, Ketamine has analgesic (pain-relieving), hypnotic (sleep producing) and amnesic (short term memory loss) effects.

How Ketamine Affects the Body

Ketamine is abused for its psychoactive effects. An immediate side-effect of Ketamine abuse is dissociation—a psychedelic, dreamlike sense of being detached from one’s body, sometimes accompanied by hallucinations and mild euphoria.

Some ketamine users report upsetting and frightening experiences similar to a “bad trip” that one might experience on LSD, known as a ‘K-hole’. When in this state, users will feel completely dissociated from their bodies. They may be incapacitated, unresponsive, uncoordinated, with erratic movements and nausea. Because of these effects, Ketamine has also been abused as a date rape drug.

At smaller doses, it can produce feelings of dissociation from one’s body. The user may enter a dreamlike state, and experience feelings of euphoria. At higher doses, the user may enter what is known as a ‘K-hole’. In this state, they will experience intense hallucinations which can be frightening. The user also experiences paralysis, and inability to feel pain or respond to external stimuli.

Physical Signs of Ketamine Abuse

Someone who is abusing Ketamine may show signs of unusual calmness and immobility, along with an inability to respond to stimuli. This is due to its anaesthetic properties. Breathing may be slowed, speech slurred, vision blurred and pupils dilated, with involuntary muscle movements. Ketamine’s hallucinogenic effects are typically short-lived (about an hour); however, cognitive effects, including confusion and memory loss, appear to last longer and may persist for 24 hours or more.

After the immediate effects of Ketamine have worn off, users might feel depressed, experience loss of memory, lack of cognition or understanding and be extremely anxious.

Long Term Risks of Ketamine Abuse

Ketamine users will develop tolerance and need ever-increasing amounts to achieve a high. Ketamine is addictive.

Long-term abuse of Ketamine may result in:

  • Severe mood disturbances such as depression
  • Impaired motor and psychological function
  • Confusion and difficulty thinking clearly and concentrating
  • Amnesia/impaired memory
  • Hallucinations, and delirium
  • Brain damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Severe bladder damage
  • Unconsciousness

Users may also experience flashbacks up to several weeks after using Ketamine.

If high doses are taken or if it is used with other substances such as benzodiazepines or opiates, it can result in death.

Ketamine Bladder Syndrome

Long-term Ketamine use can have serious health implications. The most widely reported health problem arising from Ketamine abuse is damage to the bladder and urinary tract. The prevalence of this problem has caused it to be named ‘Ketamine bladder syndrome’ or ‘K bladder’. Untreated ‘K bladder’ can lead to surgery or in extreme cases, require complete removal of the damaged bladder.

In addition to these issues, increasing evidence links ketamine use to liver damage and abdominal pain. Heavy Ketamine users will likely develop a tolerance to the drug, meaning that they have to take larger doses to get the same effects. This increases the likelihood that over time, they will suffer serious damage to their health.

Ketamine Detox

At Castle Craig, we help drug-addicted patients to achieve long-term sobriety. The patient’s treatment begins with a period of detox, during which they become clean of any drugs and alcohol. This prepares them to fully engage with the treatment programme.

During withdrawal from Ketamine abuse, heavy users will experience psychological symptoms such as strong cravings for the drug. They may experience some mild physical symptoms such as faster heart rate and loss of motor skills.

Throughout the detox period, the patient is monitored by our team of medical experts. They may be given medication to reduce the withdrawal symptoms depending on their physical and psychological condition.

The residential nature of our programme has several advantages when it comes to detox. The patient is removed from the influences of people or cues in their home environment. This makes it easier for them to resist any temptation and remain clean of drugs. While they are detoxing, they can begin the programme of therapy.

Residential Rehab for Ketamine Addiction

Our residential rehab programme helps patients to achieve long-lasting sobriety through an intensive programme of specialised addictive therapies including individual therapy, group therapy, CBT, and grief therapy. Treatment is tailored to each patient according to their history of drug use and current circumstances.

We take a holistic approach to care, as we consider spiritual well-being as important as psychological health. Our complementary therapies help to emotionally rebalance the patient and include:

Our programme of exercise and healthy meals improves the patient’s physical health and provides them with the energy they need to beat addiction.

When the patient has completed their treatment, we continue to support them in their recovery. We develop a two-year continuing care plan with the patient which guides their recovery process in their home environment. Patients are encouraged to engage with peer support groups upon re-entering their daily life, in order to consolidate their recovery.

Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 20, 2020