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Ketamine Withdrawal: Signs, Symptoms and Support

Stop Using Ketamine

When you stop taking ketamine, the impact on your physical wellbeing and state of mind can be unpleasant, but with the right support, you can emerge free from addiction, happier and healthier.

You may have wanted to come off ketamine for a while but feel scared at the challenges you face. Here, we will discuss how to manage and reduce symptoms, and how best to cope with any long-term side effects.

 Yes, I want to get clean: call 01721 722 763.

Ketamine Detox in a Nutshell

  • Ketamine, also known as Ket or Special K, is a drug that is popular with clubbers as it gives you a high that can make you feel happy and chilled and enhance your night out.
  • When you stop taking ketamine, these highs are replaced with lows, which mainly affect you psychologically. 
  • The severity of your withdrawal symptoms depends on whether you’ve snorted, injected, swallowed or ‘bombed’ (swallowing it in cigarette paper), how long you’ve been using it, how frequently and whether you’ve taken ketamine with other drugs.   
  • Coming off ketamine alone, without help and support can be dangerous. It is safer to do this under medical supervision.

How Can You Expect to Feel When You Come Off Ketamine?

If you stop taking ketamine, you will experience withdrawal symptoms that can be severe, and these mainly affect your state of mind. 

It is not unusual for people coming off ketamine to feel depressed to the point of suicide, and so angry that they may pose a threat to others. This is why it is important you have a support group around you, preferably those with medical experience in treating people with ketamine addiction. With this in place, your withdrawal will be safer, more controlled and have a higher chance of success.

Physical Symptoms

When you stop taking ketamine, you can expect to experience some or all of the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweating and shaking
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hearing loss/ Double vision
  • Inability to sleep/ Lack of co-ordination
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat

Psychological Symptoms

  • Depression
  • Anger 
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Confusion and inability to think clearly
  • Loss of memory
  • Hallucinations 
  • Psychotic episodes
  • Out-of-body experiences 
  • Intense cravings for more ketamine

Any and all of the above are completely normal as your brain and body respond to the drug leaving.

Get in touch today

To find out how we can help you, please telephone Castle Craig on our 24-Hour Helpline: 01721 728118 or click here to arrange a free addiction assessment or here for more information.

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Opioids, sometimes called narcotics, are a type of drug that include strong prescription pain relievers.

How Long Will Symptoms of Ketamine Withdrawal Last?

The length of time depends on how much ketamine you use and how frequently. Heavier users will experience more severe periods of depression and greater cravings than lighter users. 

Symptoms can last around three days but can carry on for much longer and you must expect them to last at least two weeks. One of the most common symptoms – depression – can last for a month. Due to these timescales, it is better that you don’t go through this alone. 

One to three days: After around 24 hours you will experience intense symptoms including hallucinations, delusions, anger and depression. You will crave ketamine to put an end to these feelings. 

Four to 14 days: It is not unusual for symptoms to last for up to two weeks, although physical effects will probably fade.

15 days onwards: While many symptoms will subside, some psychological side-effects, such as depression, may continue for longer. It’s important that you get ongoing help for these.

Where is the Best Place to Detox from Ketamine?

The severity of your withdrawal symptoms and the length of time they continue means that it is very difficult to stop taking ketamine alone and without support. When 30 users attempted to stop taking ketamine, 28 failed simply due to the intensity of the cravings, let alone any of the withdrawal symptoms. 

It is always best to detox from ketamine in a medically supervised environment. 

Detoxing from Ketamine at Home

Although it is not impossible to come off ketamine at home, the symptoms of withdrawal are so severe that you may feel unstable, suffer from hallucinations and feel very low and angry. This could make you a danger to yourself, and those around you. 

You might feel that you need your home comforts and loved ones around you when you detox. If so, you should let them know that your behaviour may be unpredictable for at least two weeks should they be worried about your safety and their own. 

Detoxing from Ketamine Under Medical Supervision

The safest way to detox from ketamine is under medical supervision as experts are on hand to deal with the symptoms of withdrawal. 

Not only can they manage the psychological aspects, and stop you from acting on your depression or hallucinations, and harming yourself or others, but they can monitor the physical impacts on your body. This includes any difficulty you may have breathing or any changes to your heart rate, which could potentially be dangerous.

Medicines You Can Help You come Off Ketamine 

While it is better to come off ketamine ‘cold turkey’, some medicines are available to help wean you off the drug safely. These will be suggested to you if considered appropriate.

How to Get Help for Ketamine Addiction

Acknowledging that you have an addiction to ketamine is the first step to your recovery. It is not easy to stop taking ketamine, which is why it is best to reach out for help. Talk to your GP who will be able to signpost you to local organisations and drug treatment services.

While detox removes the ketamine from your body and deals with your physical addiction, ongoing recovery treats the root cause of your addiction. Why did you start taking ketamine in the first place and what made you become addicted? Understanding and dealing with the reasons behind this, such as mental health issues or a relationship breakdown, can prevent you from relapsing.

You may have been taking ketamine alongside alcohol, or another addictive drug. This is called dual diagnosis. In order to treat your addiction as a whole, both of these dependencies need to be dealt with. 

Using Support Groups for Ketamine Addiction

Peer support groups, in which you mix with ordinary people who have or have had an addiction to ketamine, are important as you can take honestly and openly with people who ‘get it’ and understand exactly what you are going through. 

Being part of these groups has also been shown to reduce the risk of relapse as you can support each other during difficult times. 

It can be useful to join these groups while undergoing detox or even before you start, so your peers motivate you to keep going.

Counselling and Therapy for Ketamine Addiction

Talking to a person trained in ketamine addiction (or even, in some cases, an ex-ketamine user who has trained as a counsellor) can help you cope not only with the difficult withdrawal symptoms but also understand what made you take ketamine in the first place. 

A counsellor can unpick the reasons behind this and provide strategies to help you cope with these, which can prevent you from relapsing.

There are many different types of therapy that can help you with your ketamine addiction. 

Again, it can be useful to start counselling during your detox period or even before you start.

Outpatient Rehabilitation for Ketamine Addiction

Many people with a ketamine addiction have work or family responsibilities and can only seek treatment on a flexible basis that works with their schedule. As an outpatient, you attend rehab at regular intervals and can also keep in touch with experts through phone and email. 

As ketamine is a particularly difficult drug to kick, and the chance of relapsing is high, this is only recommended for those who are determined to kick the habit and have strong willpower.

Inpatient Rehabilitation for Ketamine Addiction

The safest way to kick ketamine for good is by moving into a rehab facility and staying until you are free from addiction. Not only is your environment safe, comfortable and private – very similar to a hotel – but we can monitor your psychological and physical health and ensure you stay safe as you detox from ketamine. 

Just as ketamine addiction doesn’t affect everyone the same way, not everyone responds to the same treatment. As an inpatient, you will receive help tailormade for your needs and delivered by trained specialists in ketamine addiction. 

You will also mix with other people who are coming off kicking ketamine, which makes you realise you are not alone, and you can support each other as you tackle your addiction at the same time. 

Castle Craig provides treatment for substance abuse including heroin addiction. Our programme consists of a medically supervised detox followed by evidence-based therapies designed to address the underlying causes of addiction.

Because addiction recovery is a lifelong process, your relationship with Castle Craig doesn’t end when you complete residential treatment. Before you leave, you’ll receive a customised, two-year continuing care plan so you can successfully continue into a meaningful and inspired life in sobriety.

Frequently Asked Questions About Detoxing from Ketamine 

Will coming off ketamine kill me?

Continuing to keep taking ketamine is more likely to kill you. With the right support, you can stop taking ketamine safely.

I’ve tried to stop taking ketamine before and it didn’t work. Why will it work this time?

Ketamine addiction is difficult to kick but you can do it with the right treatment and support.

Will the effects of my ketamine addiction last forever?

Addiction can cause long-lasting side effects so it is important you receive ongoing care to deal with these.

I’m worried I’ll start taking ketamine again. How do I cope with triggers?

A medically supervised treatment programme will give you the strategies to recognise and cope with triggers.

Will everyone know I’m coming off ketamine?

Not if you don’t want them to. Many people kick their addiction without anyone knowing.

What is the point of kicking ketamine if I’m still addicted to alcohol?

It would be one less problem to worry about. The right treatment programme will deal with all your addictions and the reasons you became addicted in the first place.

How can I help someone who is addicted to ketamine?

Talk to them but don’t get angry. Explain that help is out there and offer to support them in finding it.

References

  1. Chen L, Chen C-K, Chen C-H et al, (2020), Association of Craving and Depressive Symptoms in Ketamine-Dependent Patients Undergoing Withdrawal Treatment, The American Journal of Addictions: 29(1): 43-50
  2. Lin P-C, Lane H-S, Lin, C-H, (2016), Spontaneous Remission of Ketamine Withdrawal-Related Depression, Clinical Neuropharmacology: 39(1): 51-52
  3. Morgan, C J A, Curran, H V, (2011), Ketamine Use: A Review, Addiction: 107(1): 1-236
  4. Volkow, N D, Li, T-K, (2004), Drug Addiction: the Neurobiology of Behaviour Gone Awry, Nature Reviews Neuroscience: 5: 963-970
  5. Boisvert, R A, Martin L M, Grosek, M et al, (2008), Effectiveness of a Peer-Support Community in Addiction Recovery: Participation as Intervention, Occupational Therapy International: 15(4): 205-220
  6. Miller, W R, (2002), Why Do People Change Addictive Behaviour? The 1996 H. David Archibald Lecture, Addiction: 93(2):163-172