Can You Get Addicted to Ketamine?
Ketamine isn’t just a drug used to treat depression, chronic pain or as an anesthesia, ketamine is also a street drug of abuse. Often called “special k,” ketamine is used in large doses by some in the party scene. It’s important to remember, however, that recreationally, people take much larger doses of ketamine than are used in depression treatment (How Does Ketamine Work for Depression?). This means that recreational users are more likely to experience increasing tolerance to the drug’s effects, seek greater doses and become addicted.
Ketamine is the number one drug of abuse in Asia, particularly Hong Kong. Some of the ketamine found on the street is diverted from pharmaceutical supplies but there is also increasing evidence of ketamine production specifically for street use, particularly in India and China. Ketamine may also be found in ecstasy in Asia.
Ketamine is also a drug of abuse in the United States. The reason why people abuse ketamine is its desirable acute effects on the person. If a person takes a street dose of ketamine, he or she may experience:
- Reduced sensations in the body / a lack of pain
- A floating or detached feeling
- A feeling of being incapable of moving
- A change in how the person sees and hears things, possibly causing hallucinations
Some people find these effects desirable. However, ketamine can also cause:
- Panic attacks
- Impairment in short- and long-term memory impairment
- Attention problems
- Difficulty in cognition
- Impaired reaction time
Death from acute ketamine use is rare but does occur.
If a person continues to abuse ketamine, over time even worse effects can be felt. Someone who is addicted to ketamine or who consistently abuses ketamine may experience:
- Very serious bladder problems possibly leading to the bladder needing removal
- Serious damage to the urinary tract
- Liver dysfunction
- Impaired gallbladder activity
- Kidney failure
- Extreme pain, particularly during urination
You may not experience a physical addiction to ketamine but you can become addicted to ketamine psychologically. Being addicted to ketamine is no joke and anyone who abuses ketamine or who is addicted to ketamine needs to seek help immediately.
How to Get Off Ketamine
Getting off ketamine involves the same thing as getting off of other drugs: going through withdrawal. Withdrawal effects make it difficult for someone trying to get off ketamine to stay sober, but withdrawal effects can be managed.
If you’re trying to get off of ketamine, symptoms of withdrawal that you might experience include:
- Double vision
- Hearing loss
- Increased heart beat
- Rapid breathing
- Loss of motor skills
- Loss of coordination
These effects are not typically medically dangerous although if they get out of hand, medical intervention may be needed in the short-term. While these withdrawal effects may sound awful, it’s important to remember that these effects are short-lived and day-by-day, you will start to feel better.
Last Updated: 20 September 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD