Ketamine Abuse

Ketamine Abuse

What do vitamin K, Special K, and Kit Kats have in common? They’re all street nicknames for a drug called Ketamine.

Ketamine, a potent dissociative anesthetic, has gained notoriety as a drug of abuse, especially among partygoers and clubbers. Despite its legitimate use in both human and veterinary medicine, the substance's euphoric and hallucinogenic effects have made it an attractive choice for recreational use. This article aims to explore the signs of ketamine abuse, its physical and psychological impacts, and various treatment options available for those grappling with this dangerous addiction.

What is Ketamine?

Originally developed as a short-acting anesthetic for humans, ketamine is primarily used in veterinary medicine when applied licitly. However, it is frequently diverted and misused as a dissociative and hallucinogenic drug. Ketamine comes in several forms, including white powder, clear liquid, and pills. It is typically snorted, smoked, injected, or mixed in drinks when abused.

Ketamine's effects include feelings of disconnection from self, distortions of sound and sight, decreased pain sensations, and hallucinations.


The Rise of Ketamine as a Club Drug

Ketamine, being a dissociative anesthetic drug, is often categorized as a “club drug” due to its popularity among adolescents and young adults in the club scene. The effects of ketamine are generally short-lived, lasting only about 30-60 minutes, which is significantly shorter than the “trips” produced by other club drugs like PCP and LSD. Depending on how it’s taken, ketamine generally takes effect rapidly as well.

The experiences of ketamine intoxication are generally divided into the following categories:

  • K-land: Refers to colorful hallucinations and a dream-like state of mellow and relaxed sedation
  • K-hole: Occurs when higher doses are taken and causes an out-of-body experience that is often likened to “near-death.”
  • Baby food: Signified by inertia, inability to move, and a blissful feeling
  • God: A spiritual experience in which individuals claim to have “met their maker.”

Physical Signs and Symptoms of Ketamine Abuse

The majority of ketamine’s effects are mainly psychological until one reaches a dose large enough for overdose. However, certain physical signs could indicate someone is abusing ketamine. These include:

  • Impaired motor function
  • Tachycardia or a dramatic increase in heart rate
  • Loss of coordination
  • Inability to control eye movements
  • Rigid muscles
  • Increased pressure in the eyes and brain

The Psychological Impact of Ketamine Abuse

Beyond the physical signs, there are many psychological signs of ketamine abuse. Low recreational doses produce intense dissociation, euphoria, and hallucinations lasting about one hour. The person may report feeling like they are floating, feeling stimulated, seeing auras, or seeing or hearing things that are not there. Higher doses may produce effects such as flashbacks, amnesia, drowsiness, trouble thinking clearly, disorientation, delirium, derealization, or losing touch with reality.

The Dangers of Ketamine Abuse

The misuse of ketamine can lead to serious health complications. Regular use of ketamine may have lasting effects, with flashbacks, or the re-experiencing of ketamine’s effects, reported weeks or even months after using ketamine. These flashbacks can come on suddenly and without warning.

Ketamine can also cause anxiety, delirium, chest pain, increased blood pressure, rapid heart rate, imperviousness to pain, involuntary eye movements, slurred speech, immobility, increased salivation and need to urinate, amnesia, and decreased coordination.

Long-term abuse of ketamine can lead to stomach pain, bladder ulcers and pain, kidney problems, loss of consciousness, or even death. The Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) reports that in 2011, over 1,500 people required emergency medical treatment for a negative reaction to the abuse of ketamine.

The Risks of Ketamine Overdose

Ketamine overdose is a serious risk associated with abuse of the substance. Overdose symptoms include muscle twitching, dizziness, slurred speech, nausea, vomiting, respiratory depression (slowed or shallow breathing), and seizures. High doses of ketamine can trigger overdose symptoms, and if someone near you appears to be overdosing on any drug, including ketamine, they need emergency medical attention, so call 911 immediately.

Recognizing Ketamine Addiction

Recognizing addiction is the first step towards getting help. Individuals who abuse ketamine regularly will likely seem easily distracted, have difficulties concentrating and staying on task, and have difficulties remembering things. They may spend most of their time thinking about ketamine, how and where to get it, and then using and recovering from the use of the drug.

Ketamine Withdrawal and Treatment

Ketamine withdrawal can be difficult, causing tremors, agitation, sweating, chills, nausea, muscle pain, and significant emotional distress; therefore, medical supervision is advised for withdrawal.

Treatment for addiction involving ketamine is tailored to the specific circumstances of the individual client. A detailed mental health and medical evaluation, as well as a drug screening, are often performed prior to admission into a treatment program. The information gathered allows treatment professionals to design a customized treatment plan that will be most beneficial to the client.

Seeking Help for Ketamine Abuse

If you or a loved one is struggling with ketamine abuse, it's crucial to seek help immediately. Professional addiction treatment can provide the necessary support and resources to overcome this dangerous addiction. Safe medical detox and therapy can help change behaviors around the use of the drug, reducing the risk of relapse and promoting long-term recovery.

Remember, overcoming addiction is not a journey you have to embark on alone. There are numerous resources and treatment options available to help you or your loved one overcome ketamine abuse and reclaim a healthy life.


Ketamine abuse is a serious issue that requires immediate attention and professional help. It's crucial to recognize the signs and symptoms of abuse early on and seek treatment promptly. With the right support and resources, recovery is possible, and a healthy, drug-free life can be achieved.


Addiction Center - Ketamine Abuse

Desert Hope - What are the Signs of Abuse for Ketamine?

Addiction Center - Ketamine Symptoms and Warning Signs

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