Ketamine Addiction: Signs, Effects, & Treatment Options

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D. on

Ketamine is a drug that is commonly used as a post-surgery analgesic. When misused, ketamine can be addictive and produce serious and life-threatening side effects.

Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine is a powerful dissociative anesthetic drug that produces effects such as memory loss and detachment from reality. People who abuse ketamine may develop an addiction to the drug.

Ketamine abuse is associated with a range of symptoms that will vary based on the frequency of use, method of abuse, amount of ketamine consumed, and more.

People with drug addictions involving ketamine can be treated using an array of evidence-based or holistic therapies.

The Difference Between Ketamine Infusions And Recreational Ketamine

Ketamine was first approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) decades ago for use in medical and surgical procedures.

One of the most effective ways to administer ketamine in a medical setting is through intravenous (IV) infusion. This method involves using a bag that drips IV liquid into the vein.

Ketamine infusions are highly controlled and are dosed to wear off after a short period of time.

People who use ketamine recreationally will typically take the drug orally in pill form, or snorted in its white powder form.

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How Ketamine Abuse Leads To Addiction

When someone takes ketamine, neurotransmitters in the brain called methyl-d aspirate (NMDA) receptors are blocked, resulting in effects such as sedation, anesthesia, and trance-like states.

Additionally, ketamine also increases the effects of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which will create a sense of mild euphoria.

This euphoric state is what prompts continued use and a mental reliance (addiction) on ketamine.

What Are The Signs Of A Ketamine Addiction?

Over time, ketamine abuse may lead to chemical changes in the brain that make it increasingly hard to stop using the drug.

Signs of ketamine addiction may include:

  • neglecting work or school responsibilities
  • building a higher tolerance to the drug
  • feeling obsessed with achieving the next hit

People addicted to ketamine typically become incapable of functioning normally in society.

Their speech, memory, and overall cognition will be heavily impaired, and they will appear to be in a detached haze throughout the day.

How Do People Misuse Ketamine?

In recent years, ketamine has become increasingly popular as a “club drug”, and is usually used at raves in powder or liquid form.

Currently, there are four common ways to abuse ketamine which include rectal administration (plugging), intravenous injection, smoking, and snorting.

Plugging Ketamine

Plugging ketamine is accomplished by inserting the drug into the anus using a syringe or other object.

Plugging ketamine can result in unpredictable side effects, as it may be harder to measure the dose taken.

Read more about plugging ketamine.

Injecting Ketamine

Injecting ketamine involves using a liquid form of ketamine and injecting the drug into a vein or muscle (intramuscular) using a syringe and needle.

This method of abuse is less common among people who use ketamine recreationally.

Snorting Ketamine

One of the most common ways to abuse ketamine is by snorting the powder intranasally (through the nose).

Snorting ketamine may result in severe adverse side effects due to the lack of proper dosing.

Smoking Ketamine

Ketamine can also be used by combining powdered ketamine with marijuana joints or tobacco cigarettes for smoking. This method of abuse may lead to damage to the respiratory system.

Side Effects Of Ketamine Use

Side effects of ketamine addiction may include psychological, behavioral, and physical symptoms.

Side effects of ketamine abuse include:

  • urinary tract infections
  • psychosis
  • flashbacks
  • drastic changes in heart rate
  • memory loss
  • out-of-body experiences
  • changes in cognitive function

The K-Hole Effect/Ketamine Comedown

Some people who take ketamine in high doses may experience a near-death experience called a “k-hole”.

A k-hole occurs when ketamine is taken in higher doses followed by intense feelings of dissociation and feeling disconnected from the body.

K-hole symptoms include:

  • terrifying auditory or visual hallucinations
  • inability to move or speak
  • feelings of powerlessness
  • confusion
  • floating sensations

Falling into a k-hole usually only lasts a short period of time, but some people continue to feel disconnected from the world afterward and may exhibit ongoing signs of psychosis.

What Happens When Ketamine Is Mixed With Other Drugs?

Ketamine is particularly dangerous when mixed with other substances such as alcohol, opioids, or tranquilizers, as it may lead to slowed breathing, decreased heart function, and coma.

Other substances ingested with ketamine include psychedelics such as PCP, LSD, and MDMA. This is particularly common at rave parties.

Some people mix cocaine and ketamine, often referred to as Calvin Klein or CK Blend. This is a widely used party drug and is often snorted to produce hallucinations and euphoria.

Mixing coke and ketamine can cause heart attack, palpitations, and sudden death.

Will Ketamine Addiction Lead To Tolerance?

If a person becomes psychologically addicted to ketamine, they may eventually develop a tolerance, particularly after prolonged misuse.

There are many factors that may contribute to ketamine tolerance including how much ketamine is used, frequency of use, and other drugs ingested.

Read more about the risks of ketamine tolerance.

Does Ketamine Cause Withdrawal?

Ketamine’s effects are powerful, and once a person has developed tolerance they will need to take more of the substance to feel the same euphoric effects.

While ceasing ketamine drug use will not cause physical withdrawal symptoms, people may experience intense cravings due to psychological dependence.

Ketamine withdrawal symptoms may include anxiety, paranoia, low appetite, depression, and hallucinations.

Can You Overdose On Ketamine?

Ketamine overdose may occur among people who abuse the drug. Risk factors for fatal overdose include low drug tolerance, low body weight, and taking ketamine with opiates or alcohol.

The symptoms of a ketamine overdose include seizures, vomiting, chest pain, low blood pressure, unresponsiveness, and difficulty breathing.

How Much Ketamine Does It Take To Fatally Overdose?

To fatally overdose on ketamine alone, it would take approximately 6 to 10 times the amount used to help assist during surgical procedures.

Most fatal overdoses on ketamine also involve other substances.

Learn more about a lethal dose of ketamine.

Treatment Programs For Ketamine Addiction

If you or a loved one are battling substance abuse, there are a range of treatment services that may help you reach long-term recovery.

Ketamine addiction treatment options may include:

  • outpatient treatment
  • support groups for young adults
  • inpatient rehab programs
  • medical detox
  • behavioral therapy
  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • dual diagnosis treatment for co-occurring mental health disorders
  • group therapy

An addiction center can treat substance use disorders as well as any mental health issues that are underlying drug abuse.

Ketamine FAQs

The useful information below may help answer your additional questions about ketamine addiction.

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic drug that is abused by some for its hallucinogenic properties.

The intensity of hallucinations experienced on ketamine will vary based on the amount taken, the health of the person using ketamine, and other variables.

There is a very low risk of developing dependence on ketamine from infusions. This is due to the highly regulated nature of monitored ketamine treatment.

Slowly infused doses of ketamine help people avoid the euphoric high that may result from recreational use of the drug.

Ketamine is a Schedule III controlled substance, which means it has some accepted medical uses for short-term sedation and anesthesia.

Recreational use of ketamine can eventually lead to psychological addiction.

Read more about why ketamine is a Schedule III controlled substance.

Ketamine has been used in clinical trials to help treat people with cocaine and alcohol addiction.

People who were prescribed ketamine alongside therapy had a lower chance of relapse than those who were only given therapy without ketamine treatment.

Additional research into how ketamine affects behavior and motivations is required before it can be used regularly for addiction treatment.

There are several names for ketamine when it’s sold on the street. It is commonly referred to as special K, ket, cat valium, kit kat, and vitamin K, among others.

Learn about the street names for Ketamine.

When sold illicitly, ketamine can be very expensive, costing an average of $25 for a single dose. Factors that affect the price of ketamine include where it’s sold, local laws, and purity levels.

Learn more about the street cost of Ketamine.

Find Substance Use Disorder Treatment Today

Call our helpline today for more information on ketamine drug abuse. Our team can assist you in your journey to sobriety.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D. on

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