Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that produces sensory distortions and reduces a person’s perception of pain. As a derivative of phencyclidine (PCP) – a dissociative drug that produces hallucinations, delirium, confusion and other unpredictable effects – the two drugs produce similar effects. However, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists PCP as a Schedule II substance and ketamine as a schedule III substance.

Dissociative anesthetics such as ketamine are commonly used in hospitals and by veterinarians for their ability to reduce the sensation of pain. Ketamine comes in a pill, powder or liquid form that can be injected, snorted, swallowed or smoked by users.

Ketamine users may also feel as though they are detached from themselves and/or reality, become sedated and have a reduced ability to feel pain (analgesia). They may also experience hallucinations – such as seeing, feeling or hearing things that are not actually there – and other sensory distortions. These qualities also make dissociative anesthetic drugs popular drugs of abuse.

Short-term Effects

Short-term, ketamine users can experience dream-like states, loss of memory (amnesia) and sedation. For this reason, ketamine is sometimes used as a date rape drug, reported the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The effects of ketamine typically begin within minutes and may last for an hour or longer.

Ketamine can produce a range of short-term effects, which vary depending on the amount of ketamine that is taken. Higher doses of ketamine can produce more unpredictable effects. Some of the effects of ketamine use include:

  • Confusion
  • Coordination problems
  • Rigid muscles
  • Difficulty moving
  • Amnesia
  • Numbness
  • Sensory distortions
  • Separation from reality
  • Altered sight, sound, shapes or time
  • Increased heart rate
  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Chest pain
  • Respiratory depression

Ketamine stimulates the cardiovascular system, which can increase heart rate and blood pressure, and lead to tachycardia (rapid heart rate) in recreational users. Hypertension (high blood pressure) and pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs) can also result when ketamine is used with other drugs – in particular, when combined with drugs such as MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), cocaine, amphetamine and methamphetamine, reported the DEA.

Ketamine Abuse

Ketamine abuse can produce serious physical and psychological effects, according to a WebMD article, “What you need to know about ketamine’s effects,” reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, M.D. Some of the side effects of ketamine abuse that may require emergency care include:

  • Nervousness
  • Breathing and swallowing difficulties
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Bloody or cloudy urine
  • Delusions
  • Unusual weakness or tiredness
  • Bluish or pale lips
  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hives
  • Itching
  • Fast or slow heartbeat
  • Convulsions

In some cases, ketamine users can experience frightening symptoms of complete sensory detachment, called a “K-hole,” which causes users to feel separated from themselves and the world around them. Other side effects include increased anxiety, impaired motor function and rhabdomyolysis — the breakdown of muscle tissue. High doses in particular are associated with cardiovascular slowing, loss of consciousness and death.

High doses of ketamine can increase the risk of experiencing psychosis and hallucinations.  Large doses of ketamine taken over a long period of time also increase the risk of schizophrenia symptoms (such as paranoia and hallucinations), amnesia (loss of memory), poor coordination and impaired judgment.

Long-term Effects

Long-term effects of ketamine abuse include kidney and bladder problems (such as ulcers and bladder pain), stomach pain and psychological problems (including poor memory and depression). Other long-term consequences of recreational ketamine abuse include:

  • Motor difficulties
  • Cognitive impairments
  • Sleeping problems such as insomnia
  • Learning and memory problems
  • Depression
  • Kidney and stomach problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatal breathing problems
  • Tolerance and physical dependence
  • Psychological dependence
  • Paranoia
  • Psychosis
  • Ketamine can be toxic to the bladder. Eventually, people who abuse ketamine can develop ketamine cystitis, also known as ketamine bladder syndrome, which can lead to incontinence, ulcers in the bladder and difficulty holding urine in.

    Lower urinary tract symptoms, ulcers and other bladder problems can also result from repeated ketamine abuse. In some cases, abusing ketamine has led to bladder removal in some young people because of damage caused by ketamine.

    Ketamine Addiction

    Ketamine abuse can also lead to physical and psychological dependence, and users can experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drug. Ketamine addiction is associated with a strong desire and powerful cravings to use the drug. Some of the common withdrawal symptoms of ketamine include:

    • Chills
    • Drug cravings
    • Hallucinations
    • Memory loss
    • Disorientation
    • Aches and pains
    • Depression
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    Ketamine Treatment At Sovereign Health of Arizona

    Sovereign Health of Arizona offers holistic and individually tailored ketamine treatment programs for women to help them overcome their ketamine addiction. Women receive comprehensive medical and biopsychosocial assessments during the intake process at our ketamine treatment centers. The information obtained through detailed assessments assists our clinical team in designing an individualized ketamine treatment regimen to promote women’s ketamine addiction recovery.

    At Sovereign Health of Arizona, women with ketamine addiction receive individual, group and family sessions with evidence-based treatments such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and complementary treatments such as neurofeedback, art therapy and music therapy.

    Specialized dual diagnosis treatment is also offered to women who have a co-occurring mental health condition. For more information about ketamine treatment at Sovereign Health of Arizona, call Sovereign Health’s 24/7 helpline.

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