Ketamine is a medical anesthetic that provides some hallucinogenic effects. It is most often administered as a part of medical anaesthesia for medical or dental surgery and in general pediatric sedation.
As a Schedule III controlled substance, ketamine has a high potential for abuse. People that abuse ketamine report euphoria and pleasant, dissociative hallucinations.
Ketamine became a popular club drug because it gives a short psychedelic experience — between a half-hour and an hour — unlike PCP or LSD, which last much longer.
However, when taken to excess, people can experience a “K-hole,” which gives the feeling of a near-death, inescapable trip of terrifying auditory and visual hallucinations.
Known as “Special K” or “ket,” ketamine is a fine white powder that has been converted from a liquid.
When abused through methods like plugging, the effects of ketamine can be felt intensely due to the drug’s increased bioavailability when taken in the rectum.
People that abuse ketamine by methods like snorting (intranasal insufflation) or plugging (rectal administration) increase their potential for strong negative reactions.
Side Effects Of Plugging Ketamine
Ketamine is most effective through intramuscular intravenous injection since its effectiveness is not lessened by first-pass metabolism as it is with oral administration.
Methods like plugging ketamine solutions, and snorting or smoking powdered ketamine, are common administration routes for recreational ketamine use.
Ketamine does have some therapeutic use in low doses as an antidepressant. However, when people self-medicate with ketamine or adjust dosing to get high, ketamine can result in unpredictable side effects that have an impact both physically and psychologically.
Common, expected effects from ketamine use include immobility, amnesia, and numbness.
Unpleasant side effects of plugging ketamine can include:
- elevated blood pressure
- decreased heart rate
- irregular heartbeat
- double vision
- impaired motor function
- slowed or stopped breathing
Adverse Physical Effects Of Plugging Drugs
Plugging drugs like ketamine often involves diluting liquid or powdered ketamine and inserting the liquid into the rectum with a needleless syringe, like an oral medicine dispenser.
However, this rectal drug delivery method can be risky without taking proper precautions like using lubrication and using sterile applicators.
Ketamine, like other drugs that are abused by plugging, enters the bloodstream very rapidly through delicate tissues inside the rectum.
This method of administration leads to a more efficient drug intake without the negative effects that come with injecting or snorting drugs. Still, plugging drugs is not a safe drug intake method.
Constant rectal drug abuse may cause uncomfortable symptoms like infections or an increased risk of sexually transmitted infections due to cuts and damaged rectal tissues.
Plugging is especially dangerous for people with pre-existing conditions like low blood platelets, persistent diarrhea, impaired circulatory blood flow, and anorectal diseases.
Long-Term Effects Of Ketamine Abuse
Extended periods of ketamine abuse can cause severe, irreversible physical and emotional impairments.
Ketamine impacts the heart, kidneys, and brain most notably, leading to side effects like:
- rapid heart rate
- respiratory distress
- frequent urination
- trouble urinating
- bladder ulcers causing cloudy or bloody urine
- persistent amnesia
- ketamine cravings
- increased risk of sexual assault and abuse when unconscious
Risks Of Ketamine Overdose
While there have been reported overdose deaths from ketamine use, they rarely occur with the use of only ketamine.
Overdose deaths typically occur when ketamine is used with central nervous system depressants or other hallucinogenic or stimulant drugs.
Ketamine is commonly used with drugs like marijuana or alongside other club drugs like MDMA, LSD, or PCP.
People that experiment with ketamine may also experiment with its use with opioids like fentanyl or hydrocodone, which can contribute to severe respiratory depression and death.
Some overdose effects beyond the “k-hole” of terrifying hallucinations can include stroke, seizures, and brain damage.
Symptoms Of Ketamine Withdrawal
When a person stops using ketamine after prolonged intake in low doses or long-term binges. It is difficult to taper off the drug due to its psychoactive pharmacology, so a supervised “cold-turkey” detox can be helpful.
Some symptoms that may accompany ketamine withdrawals can include:
- severe cravings
- loss of appetite
- anxiety and depression
- rapid or irregular heartbeat
When ketamine has previously been used to treat depression, suddenly stopping the drug can perpetuate worsened depression symptoms and lead to suicidal thoughts.
Both inpatient and outpatient treatment for ketamine addiction can include behavioral therapies that help people recognize environmental and social triggers that worsen their substance use.
These therapies give people with substance use disorders the tools to manage underlying issues and move forward with better coping mechanisms to manage stress and drug cravings.
Ketamine Abuse Treatment Options
If you or a loved one uses club drugs like ketamine, then the potential for further abuse and addiction cannot be ignored. Treatment for sustained and occasional ketamine abuse can help you get on a better path forward.
Call our treatment specialists to learn more about the range of inpatient and outpatient programs for your unique situation.
Whether you need to medically manage ketamine withdrawals or need a safe environment to detox from extended mixed drug use, we can help.
A life free of addiction and drug use will only make you healthier. Get in touch today to get started.
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- Medscape — Ketamine
- National Institutes of Health — Drug Information Portal: Ketamine
- U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency — Get Smart About Drugs: Ketamine