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 the 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 is addictive and users will develop tolerance and need ever-increasing amounts to achieve a high.
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
- Liver damage
- Abdominal pain
- Visual and cognitive impairment.
- Kidney damage
- Severe bladder damage
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.
Personal and Behavioural Symptoms of Ketamine Addiction:
- You find that you are taking ketamine regularly and can’t do certain things without it
- Most days are spend using ketamine or recovering from the side effects of it
- You spend an excessive amount of time thinking about ketamine and planning how you will get it
- You feel anxious at the thought of quitting ketamine or being in certain situations without it and you go to great lengths to obtain it
- Taking ketamine has become more important than friendships or activities that you use to enjoy and you are worried that drug use has taken over your life
- Close friends, family, colleagues have noticed changes in your appearance hygiene and self-care
- You become secretive, defensive and dishonest about the amount of ketamine you use
- You keep taking ketamine, even after negative experiences as a result of drug abuse
- You experiment by mixing ketamine with other addictive drugs or alcohol to get more of a high
- You become more isolated from loved ones and begin to socialise only with people who have a lifestyle of taking ketamine and other drugs
- You haven’t been eating properly and are losing or gaining a noticeable amount of weight
- Your behaviour has changed as a result of your ketamine use and you are losing your friendships
- You are not facing up to your daily responsibilities, instead you are neglecting things that were once important to you e.g. paying bills, getting to work on time, spending time with your children
- You are trying to fund your addiction by stealing money or selling valuables
- You are regularly late for work due to hangovers from ketamine and a drug-taking lifestyle – your work performance falls, you make mistakes at work due to your drug misuse, colleagues and superiors begin to make comments
- You are getting into trouble with drug dealers over payment, dealers are offering you stronger drugs
- You are getting into trouble with the law
- You wake in the morning and don’t know what happened the night before or you don’t know where you are or who you are with due to your ketamine abuse
- You have a variety of paraphernalia related to taking ketamine and drugs e.g. needles, syringes, pipes
- You are engaging in reckless behaviours when under the influence of ketamine, you are taking risks that you would not normally do without drugs
- You may have contemplated suicide as a result of your ketamine misuse.
At Castle Craig, we help people with ketamine addiction get on the road to recovery with the aim of quitting drugs for good and enjoying a drug-free and fulfilling life. Your treatment begins with a series of thorough assessments by our multidisciplinary team of Consultant Psychiatrists, doctors, nurses and therapists. The results of the assessments helps to shape your personalised ketamine addiction treatment plan and drug detox.
After a period of detox, the length of which depends on the severity of your ketamine addiction and other drug addiction, you will be free of any drugs and alcohol. This prepares you to fully engage with the therapy programme.
During ketamine withdrawal, heavy users will experience psychological symptoms such as strong cravings for ketamine and other drugs. You may experience some mild physical symptoms such as faster heart rate and slowed down reaction times.
Throughout the detox period, you are monitored by our team of doctors and nurses. We are unique from other rehabs because we have a doctor onsite 24/7 incase any emergencies arise. You may be given medication to reduce the withdrawal symptoms depending on your physical and psychological condition and other drugs you are detoxing from.
Ketamine bladder (or ket-bladder) is a huge health hazard for anyone taking ketamine. Read here about what ketamine does to the bladder. The best thing you can do to stop ketamine bladder is to stop taking ketamine. If you are struggling to quit ketamine then you might be addicted and need a specialist assessment and diagnosis, followed by rehab.
Being at a residential rehab clinic has many advantages in ketamine detox. You are not around the influences of friends who take ketamine and drugs and the ketamine addiction triggers from your home environment. This makes it easier for you to stay away from ketamine and drugs and focus on your therapy.
Residential Rehab for Addiction
Our residential rehab programme helps patients to achieve long-lasting sobriety from ketamine and other drugs. Our intensive programme uses specialised addictive therapies including:
- Individual therapy
- Group therapy
- Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Trauma therapy
- Family therapy
- Grief therapy.
Our rehab programme lasts from 5 weeks and includes psychiatric assessments, detoxification, medical care and our evidence-based therapy programme. Therapy and rehab treatment is tailored to meet your individual needs according to your history of ketamine use and co-occurring mental health disorders.
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 you and include:
- Equine therapy
- Drumming therapy
- Mindfulness meditation
- Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
- Creative writing
- Fitness and gym
Rehab length of stay
Evidence shows that the longer you stay in residential rehab, receiving intensive therapy, the greater the chances of successful recovery. This is why our drug rehab programme begins at five weeks length. This gives you the chance for in-depth assessments, detoxification, and a full therapy programme. Should we diagnose you with dual-diagnosis i.e. an accompanying mental health disorder, or more than one addiction, we recommend your stay is longer so you can fully recover and avoid relapse.
Call us now for help from ketamine addiction
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Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked | October 14, 2021