Ketamine abuse can produce serious physical and psychological effects. Some of the side effects of ketamine abuse that may require emergency care include the following.
- Breathing and swallowing difficulties
- Irregular heart rate
- Blurred vision
- Bloody or cloudy urine
- Unusual weakness or tiredness
- Bluish or pale lips
- Chest discomfort or pain
- Fast or slow heartbeat
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.
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. Following are some of the common withdrawal symptoms of ketamine abuse.
- Drug cravings
- Memory loss
- Aches and pains
Ketamine abuse: Short-term and long-term effects
The effects of ketamine typically begin within minutes and may last for an hour or longer. Short-term effects of ketamine abuse include users experiencing dream-like states, loss of memory (amnesia) and sedation. For this reason, ketamine is sometimes used as a date rape drug.
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. Following are some of the short-term effects of ketamine abuse.
- Coordination problems
- Rigid muscles
- Difficulty moving
- Sensory distortions
- Separation from reality
- Altered sight, sound, shapes or time
- Increased heart rate
- 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. When combined with drugs such as MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), cocaine, amphetamine and methamphetamine, ketamine abuse may also result in Hypertension (high blood pressure) and pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs).
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). Following are some of the other long-term consequences of recreational ketamine abuse.
- Motor difficulties
- Cognitive impairments
- Sleeping problems such as insomnia
- Learning and memory problems
- Kidney and stomach problems
- High blood pressure
- Fatal breathing problems
- Tolerance and physical dependence
- Psychological dependence
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. Repeated ketamine abuse can also lead to lower urinary tract symptoms, ulcers, and other bladder problems. In some cases, abusing ketamine may also lead to bladder removal.