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Is Ketamine Addictive?

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Across the world, there is a belief among some ketamine users that ketamine is not addictive and that it can be used without risk of dependence. However, this view is unfortunately dangerous and untrue.

Ketamine abuse can cause addiction, and the side effects of ketamine can be very unpleasant in the long term. But what is ketamine, why is it used, and what treatments are available? Find out in this blog.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a Schedule III controlled substance primarily used for anesthetic purposes and medical procedures among humans and animals. It was first manufactured in 1962 and used on dogs and horses. However, it was employed extensively as a general anesthesia during the Vietnam War.

Since the 1990s, ketamine has widely been used as a recreational drug. It was initially found in party settings – many people who abuse ketamine begin taking it in this way.

Whether utilized in medical settings or recreationally, people who use ketamine experience dissociative anesthesia, a trance-like state that provides pain relief, sedation, and amnesia. Sadly, due to ketamine’s ability to render users unable to move, it has been employed as a date rape drug.

When people use ketamine, they often do so to experience the effects of the drug, which include:

  • Euphoria
  • Sedation
  • Hallucinations
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced depression
  • Pain relief
  • Out of body experiences
  • Extreme dissociation

Ketamine Abuse

While people tend to start taking ketamine for recreational purposes, using ketamine regularly can cause users to develop an addiction. If they suddenly stop consuming the drug, they often experience withdrawal symptoms. Although ketamine is rarely associated with physical dependence, it does result in psychological dependence.

As a result, side effects of ketamine abuse include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Decreased mental functioning
  • Forgetfulness
  • Psychosis

Over time, ketamine abuse can cause irreversible damage to the bladder and cause bladder shrinkage. There is also evidence that ketamine abuse can cause damage to other organs. Unfortunately, bladder problems that arise due to ketamine abuse can be so severe that the bladder must be removed. However, this is far more likely when high doses are taken for long periods.

In addition to the above, when ketamine is injected, it can cause infections and damaged veins.

Ketamine Addiction

As with other drugs, ketamine use is often initially infrequent. However, over time, it may be used every day. As ketamine addiction progresses, tolerance creeps up, and the amount the user needs to take to feel high increases.

Users of ketamine have been known to take multiple grams of ketamine in a single day, with increasingly severe side effects felt.

Ketamine Withdrawal

Ketamine withdrawal, while not life-threatening or physical, can be just as unpleasant as withdrawal from other drugs.

Usually, ketamine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Cravings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Dysphoria
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Low appetite
  • Chills
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

These symptoms start within 24 hours of the last dose of ketamine and continue for around one week. The severity of ketamine withdrawal symptoms depend on a person’s:

  • age.
  • health.
  • metabolism.
  • history of ketamine use.

Withdrawal symptoms are also dependent on the dosage taken.

In the acute stage of withdrawal, cravings are intense, and relapse happens often. For this reason, those who use ketamine and develop an addiction require professional support.

Ketamine Addiction Treatment

The most effective treatment for ketamine addiction happens in treatment centers. While there are other treatment options where elements of ketamine addiction can be addressed, treatment centers can be thought of like a one-stop shop for addressing all aspects of ketamine addiction.

Addiction treatment for ketamine looks much the same as treatment for other drugs. Treatment methods include:

  • Medication. Medication is administered to help ease ketamine withdrawal symptoms. If it becomes apparent that the person with the substance use disorder also has a co-occurring disorder, additional medication may be available.
  • Group sessions. One of the primary methods of facilitating recovery at treatment centers is group sessions. In group sessions, clients look at the problems they have been facing, factors contributing to their substance abuse, and how relapse can be prevented in the future. It can be tremendously helpful to examine these problems with other people going through the same process as many in recovery find they can take comfort from this and seek additional support.
  • Individual sessions. Another important element of rehab treatment is the use of one-to-one sessions. These sessions often involve cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). This helps clients to see that much of their drug abuse was caused by faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking. By correcting these thought processes, clients can see things more clearly, lessening their chance of relapse in the future.

Ketamine as an Antidepressant

Over the years, research has been carried out to determine whether ketamine can alleviate depression. Though results look promising for people who have treatment-resistant depression, ketamine is an addictive drug. As a result, it should not be used as a medication among those with a substance use disorder.

However, due to these findings, many people with depression and substance abuse problems believe that ketamine is suitable. Unfortunately, though, this is not true.

While people who have not previously had substance abuse problems might be able to use ketamine to treat depression without the risk of addiction, this is not a realistic option for people with an addiction.

Instead, many different treatments are available for depression, many of which can be found in rehab centers, like our own.

Support Groups for Ketamine Addiction

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) first began in Akron, Ohio, in 1935. It was developed by Bob Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith, two people who had previously been problem drinkers. Since then, AA has branched out in many different directions and now offers people recovering from a wide range of addictive substances and behaviors the ability to gain recovery.

While some groups, such as Cocaine Anonymous and Heroin Anonymous, cater to people recovering from substance use disorders from specific substances, there is no such group for former ketamine abusers.

This is not a problem, though, as Narcotics Anonymous welcomes all who previously had a substance abuse problem.

While Narcotics Anonymous is not an alternative to attending addiction treatment, it works as excellent aftercare for people who have previously attended a treatment center. Although attending a treatment center is not essential for admittance to Narcotics Anonymous, and all people are welcome, it can be helpful to go to treatment beforehand.


Ketamine is an addictive and dangerous drug that can cause serious harm to people who take it habitually. Withdrawal can be excruciating and often requires the user to stay in a treatment center for chronic ketamine abuse.

Ketamine treatment also involves learning why a person began using ketamine in the first place and how to prevent relapse in the weeks, months, and years that follow treatment.

If you have a problem with ketamine or know someone who does, you do not have to go through the withdrawal process yourself. At Tulip Hill, we have years of experience treating ketamine addictions, and our team can guide you or a loved one to recovery.

To find out more about our ketamine treatment, give us a call on +1 877-845-8192 and find out how we can help you with your problem today.

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