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Dangers and Side Effects of Ketamine Abuse

Ketamine is a dissociative drug that works as an anesthetic medication; it has medical use in surgery for humans and animals. It is a Schedule III drug, meaning it is FDA approved for certain medicinal uses and is safe when its dosage is controlled. However, it also has the potential for abuse and addiction.

Although not yet FDA approved, Ketamine is also being researched and used as a recovery drug for treatment-resistant depression. Ketamine (more specifically an isomer of ketamine called esketamine) affects the synapses in the brain, promoting new synaptic growth, which is often damaged in those with depression.

Though it does have medical uses, ketamine is also frequently used recreationally, giving a user the experience of a dream-like, floaty state. It can lead to out-of-body experiences. Ketamine is often taken in party settings and is known as a club drug. Unfortunately, there are many dangers of ketamine abuse and a number of side effects that can occur both during a ketamine trip as well as afterward in the form of long-term effects. Ketamine abuse can be very dangerous and lead to significant health consequences.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic medication that provides pain relief during surgery, but it also has hallucinogenic effects when taken in high doses. The use of ketamine is also sometimes implemented as an off label treatment for depression and chronic and acute pain,

Ketamine is short-acting, meaning that its effects do not last long. This makes it attractive for use as a party drug as the effects wear off a lot faster than other drugs such as LSD. Ketamine can cause distortions in perceptions of sound and light and leave a user feeling detached, dream-like, and dissociated from the body.

Ketamine comes in the form of a grainy light brown or white powder, a clear liquid without an odor, or occasionally as a tablet. Ketamine that is abused for recreational use has many street names including:

  • K
  • Special K
  • Ket
  • Cat Valium
  • Kit-Kat
  • Super Acid

Ketamine Side Effects

Taking ketamine recreationally holds a number of risks and side effects, that can range from mild to severe. There are various adverse mental and physical effects that accompany ketamine abuse.

Mental Side Effects

Ketamine is a dissociative drug and can leave a user feeling out-of-body, dream-like, and hallucinating. In higher doses ketamine can be very dangerous as you can go into a ‘k-hole‘ in which you can feel as if you are having a near-death experience, are detached from reality, are unable to move or speak properly, and experience intense hallucinations. This can be a very frightening experience, and some people report ongoing psychosis or flashbacks afterward.

Ketamine abuse can also lead to confusion, feelings of disorientation, anxiety, and irritability. Ketamine use can also affect your short-term memory and long-term memory, leading to forgetfulness and amnesia.

Chronic ketamine use can make existing mental health problems worse, weaken concentration span, and lead to major depression.

Physical Side Effects

Chronic ketamine abuse can damage the bladder (ulcerative cystitis) and cause irreversible damage. Mixing ketamine with alcohol leads to an increased risk of this damage. The urinary tract can also be harmed by ketamine abuse, which can lead to incontinence.

Combining alcohol with ketamine is very dangerous because some of their shared effects become synergized, leading to potentially fatal effects. Some effects include an increased chance of coma, memory loss, slowed breathing, and death.

Mixing ketamine with multiple drugs, especially CNS (central nervous system) depressants is particularly dangerous. Abuse of ketamine with drugs such as opioids or benzodiazepines dangerously slows the central nervous system, putting someone at risk of slowed breathing, memory issues, weakened heart function, coma, and even death. Mixing ketamine with other drugs is unpredictable and can have fatal consequences.

Taking ketamine can also lead to high blood pressure and increased heart rate. Ketamine use can be fatal. This is especially true if it is used in conjunction with other substances.

Due to ketamine having numbing effects, it is possible to hurt yourself or be hurt by others without realizing it whilst on the drug. Ketamine is sometimes used as a date rape drug because of the amnesia that results from its use, meaning that spiked victims often don’t remember their assault.

Injecting ketamine recreationally can spread infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C, which result from sharing needles.

Some other physical effects of ketamine use include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slowed breathing
  • Lowered heart rate or irregular heartbeat, or increased heart rate (at lower doses)
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Double vision
  • Drowsiness and sedation
  • Trouble talking
  • Lightheadedness
  • Decreased coordination
  • Seizures
  • Chest pain
  • Shaking
  • Abdominal pain
  • Liver damage

How is Ketamine Abused?

There are different methods of abusing ketamine. These include:

  • Oral ingestion
  • Smoking ketamine
  • Snorting ketamine
  • Injecting ketamine

Dangers of Smoking Ketamine Powder

Some people smoke ketamine by combining it with marijuana or tobacco in cigarettes. This can damage the respiratory system. Smoking ketamine with other drugs should be avoided as the effects can be enhanced. Smoking ketamine means that it takes effect in the body quicker, which presents a higher risk of creating a dependence on the drug.

Dangers of Snorting Ketamine Powder

Many people take ketamine by snorting it as a white powder. Snorting ketamine results in a more potent ‘rush’, and the drug acts more quickly when snorted than when ingested. Snorting presents a higher addiction risk and can damage the nasal passage.

Common Questions Related to Ketamine

How Quickly Does Ketamine Work?

Ketamine begins to take effect in 20-30 minutes on average and typically lasts between 30-60 minutes. This is one reason why the drug is so popular: other party drugs such as LSD last much longer, and take effect after a longer period of time.

Why is Ketamine Used Medically?

Lots of people know that ketamine is used medically as an anesthetic during surgery. However, many people are unaware of the recent research into the medical uses of ketamine. These exciting developments are not yet FDA-approved but are often used off-label as a treatment for chronic pain and treatment-resistant depression. Ketamine is sometimes sold as a nasal spray and, in medically controlled doses, can promote synaptic growth in those who struggle with depression, resulting in relief from symptoms.

Is Ketamine Addictive?

Abuse of ketamine over a long period of time can lead to psychological dependence. Chronic abuse should be treated as an addiction. Some warning signs that you or someone you know may be suffering from ketamine addiction include:

  • A lot of time spent thinking about and trying to get hold of ketamine
  • Relationship issues
  • Drug cravings
  • Desire to cut down but feeling unable
  • Neglecting responsibilities and obligations

Frequent users of ketamine may also suffer from ulcerative cystitis, kidney problems, psychosis, and schizophrenic-like behavior. Psychological withdrawal symptoms can occur when someone is addicted to ketamine and tries to quit. This could result in severe depression, which can pose a risk of suicidal intention.

Fortunately, there are addiction treatment options available that can help you to overcome drug abuse. Treatment facilities can help you detox from ketamine and manage withdrawal symptoms safely, as well as provide therapy and counseling to get to the root cause of your drug abuse.

Conclusion

When used professionally in a controlled medical setting, ketamine has the potential to offer multiple benefits: as pain relief, as an anesthetic during surgeries, and as an exciting new medication for treatment-resistant depression.

However, when abused recreationally in large doses Ketamine can be extremely dangerous. In some cases, it may even result in death. Ketamine abuse can present many physical side effects such as damage to the bladder and urinary tract and dangerously slowed breathing, but it also presents frightening mental health consequences such as depression, psychosis, and memory damage.

If you are worried about your own or someone else’s ketamine use, there is substance abuse treatment available. A life free from this drug is entirely possible and with the right medical support and advice, you can recover and begin to live in a healthy, sober state.

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