Ketamine hydrochloride referred to as ketamine, is a short-acting general anesthetic that is injected into patients to produce a loss of consciousness before and during surgery and other medical procedures. It was synthesized in the 1960s as a dissociative anesthetic agent.
The off-label Ketamine has been used for the treatment of chronic and acute pain, procedural sedation and alcohol withdrawal management. It comes in a nasal spray form called esketamine and has been recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of major depression.
While pharmaceutical ketamine is administered as an injectable solution, illicitly produced ketamine is often encountered as a powder or a liquid form. In recreational use, the powder is cut into lines and snorted or smoked-either alone or in combination with marijuana or tobacco. Liquid ketamine may be injected or mixed into drinks.
Ketamine is a dissociative drug that distorts perceptions of sight and sound, produces hallucinations, and provides the user with feelings of detachment from both the environment and self. Due to these effects, the recreational use of ketamine has gained popularity among teens and young adults as a “club drug” That is used at dance clubs and raves. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the liquid drug is usually injected or mixed in drinks, or it is heated and provided as a powder that can be snorted or smoked.
What are the Street Names for Ketamine?
In 1999, the U.S. placed ketamine on the list of controlled substances. People purchase it because it is used in powdered or liquid form and can be injected, consumed in drinks, snorted or added to joints or cigarettes. Ketamine purchased illegally is often cut with other drugs, including methamphetamine, amphetamine, Ecstasy (MDMA, and cocaine.
It is referred to by its street names:
- Special K
- Super C
- Cat Valium
- Super Acid
What are the Side Effects of Ketamine?
Short and long-term effects of ketamine include increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, numbness, depression, amnesia, hallucinations and potentially fatal respiratory problems. Ketamine users can also develop cravings for the drug and at high doses, users experience an effect referred to as “K-hole,” an “out of body” or “near-death” experience.
Depending on the specific route of ingestion, the effects of the drug may be felt within a couple of minutes. The user may have distortions in sight or sound, and feel disconnected from reality. Hallucinations are common under the influence of the drug and may last 30 minutes to 60 minutes.
Other effects include agitation, depression, trouble thinking clearly, amnesia, and loss of consciousness. Users may become unresponsive to outside stimuli and experience involuntary rapid eye movements, dilated pupils, salivation, tearing, and muscle stiffness.
What is Drug Addiction?
Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by a compulsive drive to seek and use that is difficult to control, despite the harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to continue to take drugs. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a “relapsing” disease – people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.
Even though it is common for a person to relapse, keep in mind this does not mean that treatment does not work. As with other chronic health conditions, treatment should be ongoing and should be adjusted based on how the patient responds. Treatment plans need to be reviewed often and modified to fit the patient’s changing needs.
Many people do not understand how or why a person becomes addicted to drugs. They think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to. But in reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to. But today researchers know more than ever about how drugs affect the brain and have found treatments that can help people recover from drug addiction and lead productive lives.
Points to remember:
- Drug addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences.
- Brain changes that occur over time with drug use challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. This is why drug addiction is also a relapsing disease.
- Relapse is the return to drug use after an attempt to stop. Relapse indicates the need for more or different treatment.
- Most drugs affect the brain’s reward circuit by flooding it with the chemical messenger dopamine. Surges of dopamine in the reward circuit cause the reinforcement of pleasurable but unhealthy activities, leading people to repeat the behavior again and again.
- Drug addiction is treatable and can be successfully managed.
How Does Ketamine Work?
Ketamine binds to and blocks the activation of a special brain protein known as the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor. Normally, the NMDA receptor interacts with and is activated by glutamate–an excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain that plays a role in learning and memory. Blocking glutamatergic activation of the NMDA receptor can affect attention, learning, and memory, and ketamine’s antagonizing effects on this receptor are thought to also play a role in its anesthetic and pain-relieving properties.
Using Ketamine with Alcohol
There is a real danger when mixing ketamine and alcohol. Because ketamine and alcohol affect different neurotransmitter systems in a way that ultimately results in increased inhibitory brain signaling, some physiological effects of combining ketamine and alcohol are synergized by the simultaneous use of both substances.
Using Ketamine with alcohol increases the risk of memory loss, slowed breathing, coma, and death. Users may be unaware of how much the substances are affecting them due to combined intoxication.
Signs of ketamine/alcohol overdose can include:
- Impaired motor function
- High blood pressure
- Respiratory problems
- Metal confusion
- Slowed heart rate
- Clammy skin
- Low body temperature
Signs of Addiction to Ketamine
Any kind of addiction is characterized by cravings, general preoccupation with the drug and neglecting family, friends, school and/or work in favor of obtaining and taking the drug.
The signs of addiction to ketamine can include the following:
- Frequent state of distraction and /or drowsiness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue or lack of motivation
- Reduced ability to feel physical pain
- Loss of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Redness of the Skin
- Bladder pain
Ketamine Withdrawal and Detox
Withdrawal from ketamine has few physical symptoms but the increased tolerance to the drug is common among frequent users. Repeated exposure to ketamine causes the body to stop responding to the drug as it once did, leading the individual to use larger and larger doses to achieve the desired effects. This can contribute to the cycle of ketamine abuse and addiction, prompting the individual to continually seek out the drug despite negative consequences. One’s tolerance can develop very quickly, particularly if the individual uses ketamine in a binge cycle, in which the drug is administered multiple times in a short period.
When an intoxicating substance is used regularly or heavily for an extended period of time, physical addiction becomes more and more likely. Physical addiction occurs when an individual’s body and brain chemistry begin to adjust to the constant presence of the substance.
The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs published a study finding that withdrawal from ketamine may be similar to withdrawal from other addictive drugs, such as cocaine, that produce very strong cravings and a high tolerance but do not generally lead to the physical symptoms often associated with withdrawal from other substances. Individuals who are addicted to ketamine will continue using the drug in response to the overpowering cravings they experience when trying to quit.
Symptoms of the psychological withdrawal syndrome associated with chronic ketamine abuse can sometimes be managed by slowly tapering the dose of ketamine over a span of days or weeks. By tapering ketamine use, rather than stopping all use abruptly the body can better adjust to the absence of the drug. This can lessen cravings and make the detox process easier.
Because ketamine withdrawal does not generally involve many physical symptoms as associated with other drug use, it is often possible to stop ketamine drug use altogether without tapering the dose. This may be recommended in cases in which chronic long-term use has led to damage to the urinary tract, and stopping all drug use is necessary in order to improve bladder function. Stopping ketamine use suddenly, particularly after long-term abuse, can cause intense cravings and discomfort.
Ketamine withdrawal symptoms typically last 4 – 6 days, starting around 24 – 72 hours after the last dose. Symptoms can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Anxiety and depression
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
The biggest risk when it comes to ketamine withdrawal is depression that can lead to suicidal urges. This is especially true for those who have attempted to use ketamine to treat underlying depression issues. Losing that escape into bliss as well as the reduced sensitivity of the receptors in the brain related to the body’s natural antidepressants can cause a sudden spiral into a deep depression and suicidal ideation.
Who Abuses Ketamine?
Ketamine arrived on the recreational drug scene in the early 1980s. It became a nightclub scene and was popular in certain dance cultures and it continued to grow and today it remains a party drug, often used by high school students and young adults in order to achieve a hallucinatory, dream-like state. Ketamine may also have a high potential for abuse among those who are attempting to self-medicate depression or suicidal ideation due to its ability to quickly alleviate these states.
Recovering from Ketamine Addiction
The prognosis for those attempting to get on the road to recovery from ketamine use is quite good; especially compared to other addictive substances. Because ketamine use is rather rare, it is easy to avoid temptation by simply avoiding the nightlife scene where it is commonly found. With treatment for depression and long-term commitment to support groups and a healthier lifestyle, anyone addicted to ketamine can lead a long, healthy life.
SpringBoard Recovery Offers Treatment for Ketamine Addiction
Springboard Recovery has been around since 2014 and our commitment to your recovery is the constant improvement process of adjusting care for the best outcomes. We frequently adapt our treatment to meet the unique needs of our clients who are currently in our care.
At Springboard Recovery, we understand that addiction is hard and that the struggle to want to change is harder. We are here to help you through all the challenges that you face and will continue to face and to bring you through successfully while working with trusted drug detox facilities in the areas that will help make your withdrawals safer and less uncomfortable.
During your rehab treatment, you will become involved in individual therapy and group therapy. Sober living services are also available. You will receive peer support as you go through your journey along with positive support from staff and other clients who are here on this journey with you. You will learn why you became an addict and what led you to this point that you knew you needed to seek help.
This will be a great time of learning that includes a process of positive changes along with building a network of supporters and having a team of professionals that are always ready to help, provide and support you as your needs change and you move from rehab back into your everyday life. Please contact us today and begin the life of sobriety that you deserve.