Ketamine is licensed for use as a tranquilliser in veterinary medicines and as an anaesthetic in humans. In addition, ketamine is a “club drug,” a hallucinogen, and a dissociative drug that creates a feeling of disconnection from surroundings and a change in sensation from sights and sounds. The drug has most in common with PCP.
One of the first uses for Ketamine outside hospital settings was on the battlefields of Vietnam. Soldiers were given relatively low dosages of the drug to help deal with pain sustained from battlefield injuries.
Ketamine can be effective in the treatment of pain in medical settings when used as a treatment by trained medical professionals. However, when used as a substance for its pleasurable effects, it has the potential for addiction. In large doses, it can be dissociative, causing an “out of body experience”, as well as being hallucinogenic. Although it may relax some people, others may be unable to move or speak.
Over the past 7 years, there has been a 72 per cent rise in people starting treatment for ketamine addiction – from 426 between 2014 and 2015 to 1,551 between 2021 and 2022.
In its manufactured form, ketamine is a liquid form that makes it easier to inject in medical treatment, whether human or animal. However, when manufactured illegally to be sold on the streets, it typically comes in a powder form. When people use ketamine, it is usually added to cigarettes or joints, snorted as a powder, or consumed in a drink.
Ketamine doesn’t have an odour and cannot be detected through taste. This makes it easier to spike someone’s drink when they are not looking. Because of this, it has been implicated as a “date rape” drug.
In low doses, users report a feeling similar to being drunk. Higher doses cause a dissociative or hallucinogenic effect.
Experiences with ketamine can vary, but some users have reported experiencing terrifying sensations of complete sensory detachment from their bodies, much like how many near-death experiences are described. This type of experience can also be likened to a “bad trip” on LSD and is often referred to as the “k-hole” on the streets.
As well as the psychological symptoms described above and the changes in behaviour from drug addiction, there are many physical side effects associated with addiction. These often require immediate emergency medical care and include:
Ketamine has a short half-life – the time taken for the drug’s concentration in the blood to reduce by half – of around 2.5-4 hours, which means that it takes about 13 to 17 hours for the drug to leave the body. Although ketamine does not stay in the blood for more than 24 hours, some users need up to a few days to get clean. In addition, other factors can affect the duration and elimination of the drug.
The START time below is when you will usually begin to feel the effects of ketamine from when you first take it. The DURATION is roughly the length of time you will experience the effects, after which the effects will start to wind off, and you might start to feel the immediate calm-down/comedown-down effects.
Ketamine can be detected from different types of tests taken from the body, with the maximum time for detection depending on the type of test.
Like other substances, ketamine addiction is still possible if you use the drug for long enough. This is shown by the figures for rising numbers of people entering addiction treatment services. Although it is not chemically addictive like other drugs like opiates and nicoteine it is psycologically addictive which takes a program of physical and mental treatment to recover from.
Withdrawal from ketamine can be experienced within a few hours of last use, with most symptoms fading after 2 weeks. Symptoms can be distressing and can cause considerable discomfort. These include:
Although it is difficult to overcome ketamine addiction, many successful treatment programmes can lead to recovery. Professional detox and rehabilitation treatment programs can help the user through the withdrawal and detoxification phases and provide helpful insights and tools to help the user manage cravings and control impulses.
Inpatient treatment programs monitor the often dangerous ketamine detox process, and in addition, they help treat the long-term psychological issues from chronic use. If these issues are not addressed, the user often relapses back to ketamine use — the more well-rounded the treatment program, the better chances the user has for sustained sobriety. This means input from a range of addiction health professionals.
Ketamine addiction has a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods. Therefore, it is crucial to address the psychological issues that were the cause of abuse. Full recovery is possible, and ketamine addiction is best overcome in an inpatient treatment facility.
Residential rehabs often have more diverse services available, enabling the counselors to tailor the specific ketamine user program. Many factors determine the treatment for ketamine abuse: the person’s age, gender, the scope of drug abuse, underlying mental health disorders, co-occurring drug use, and length of time involved in drug use.
Specific models of psychological counseling are particularly useful in treating ketamine addiction. The most promising have been:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) addresses thinking patterns that affect behaviours.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) introduces mindful awareness and stress management.
Inpatient treatment for drug addiction is a process that starts with detoxing the body from the drug and monitoring withdrawal symptoms. The balance of the program guides the user toward behaviour choices that lead to a sustained recovery, motivates the user to desire a clean and sober life, and, ultimately, breaks the dependence on the drug.
If you feel you or someone you love has a ketamine addiction, give us a call today in complete confidence for free help and advice on helping addiction sufferers into treatment.