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Ketamine Abuse and Polydrug Addiction

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Treatment for Three Decades and Counting

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Ketamine is a general, dissociative anesthetic and Schedule III controlled substance. RxList notes that around 12 percent of patients who have been medically prescribed ketamine have suffered emergency reactions. The potential for this among abusers is likely even higher, because the substance is not being administered in a controlled setting or in regulated doses deemed to be safe. Commonly prescribed under the brand name Ketalar, the drug came to be used to sedate patients prior to medical and dental operations and to relieve pain afterward in 1970.


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Known as Special K, Jet and Kit Kat on the street, ketamine is available in both pale a yellow powdered form and a liquid form, making snorting, oral ingestion, injection and smoking it all fairly easy. The powder is actually derived from the liquid, not the other way around. The liquid can be dried, and the resin that remains is actually the potent powder form of the drug. Smokers will generally roll the powder up with tobacco or marijuana. Fans of ketamine often couple the drug with LSD or Ecstasy in effort to double the psychedelic-like effect that the tranquilizer provides on its own.

The drug is common among younger populations; around 2.3 million Americans aged 12 and older admitted to lifetime ketamine use, per a 2006 survey — 203,000 of whom used the drug within the prior year. Ketamine is most commonly abused among club-goers, but it isn’t exclusive.

Individuals abusing any drug are more likely to have an underlying mental illness than those who don’t do drugs. In fact, Helpguide states that at least one serious mental health disorder is present in 53 percent of drug abusers. Ketamine trials are underway to determine if there is a legitimate place for the pharmaceutical drug in the treatment of depressive disorders like bipolar depression. Regardless, unregulated doses can impose serious health consequences, even in patients with a disorder that the drug could potentially treat.

Signs and Effects

Similar to PCP or nitrous oxide, the drug carries pretty mild effects, and while many claim they aren’t that great, the drug still has a following of addicts. The effects of using ketamine last for an hour at most, but start within minutes of ingestion. The Foundation for a Drug-Free World notes the following side effects of use:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Euphoria
  • Relaxed state
  • Advanced heart rate
  • Memory troubles
  • Numbness
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Depressed mood
  • Hallucinations
  • Respiratory problems that could be fatal

Long-term users will generally begin to crave the substance, which creates further dependency on it. High doses of ketamine can cause the user to have a dissociative experience — often referred to as the “K-hole” — in which they feel like they’re detached from their body. This occurs in the absence of drugs that are regularly administered in conjunction with ketamine to patients in medical settings to prevent hallucinations. In addition, the drug can practically paralyze the body in this state, which has led to the use of it as a date rape drug. It should be noted, however, that some abusers use ketamine in seek of the K-hole experience, whereas others dread it and find it to be terrifying.

Ketamine can cause blurred vision and severely impairs most individuals to the point that they should not drive or operate machinery, per RxList. Doing such could contribute to the 10.3 million people over the age of 11 that admitted to past-year driving while under the influence of an illicit drug in 2012, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The biggest risk ketamine imposes is the risk of respiratory depression. Brown University notes the danger of high doses of ketamine mixed with depressants — such as alcohol — which can lead to life-threatening consequences, delirium and more.

Treatment for Ketamine Abuse

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Treatment for ketamine addiction includes everything from individual and group therapy to relapse prevention efforts, but it starts with detox. Withdrawal from ketamine can be trying and psychologically difficult. Some patients may receive medications for relief during this time, such as benzodiazepines and antidepressants. Treatment for polydrug abuse — the abuse of more than one drug at a time — can be complicated and should be given by experienced professionals.

If you’re having trouble nixing your ketamine habit and find yourself using more than you used to, spending a lot of time and money on it, neglecting other responsibilities because of it, and feeling unhappy when not using it, we can help. Our caring staff at Michael’s House is prepared to welcome you without judgment and see that your time spent here is fully geared toward rehabilitating your ketamine addiction and any underlying problems that may be contributing to it. Help and recovery is just a phone call away. Call now.