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How Addictive is Ketamine?

Ketamine, a dissociative anaesthetic, is commonly used in hospitals for surgical procedures and pain relief. However, it has also become a popular recreational drug due to its hallucinogenic effects.

While it is not as widely discussed as other drugs, ketamine addiction is a serious issue that can have lasting effects on a person’s mental and physical health.

In this blog, we will explore the addictive nature of ketamine and its impact on those who use it. We will also discuss the withdrawal process, detoxification, and treatment options available for individuals struggling with ketamine addiction.


Why Is Ketamine Addictive?

Ketamine is a dissociative anaesthetic drug that alters a user’s perception of reality and produces feelings of detachment from one’s surroundings.

These effects are caused by ketamine’s ability to interact with the brain’s glutamate system, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for regulating communication between neurons.

When ketamine is introduced into the system, it binds to the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, which plays a crucial role in the brain’s ability to process sensory input and memory formation. By blocking this receptor, ketamine disrupts normal communication between neurons, leading to its characteristic dissociative effects.

However, ketamine’s ability to disrupt glutamate transmission also makes it highly addictive. Chronic use of ketamine can cause changes in the brain’s reward system, a network of structures that regulate feelings of pleasure and motivation.

Specifically, ketamine use leads to the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward and pleasure. Over time, the brain adapts to this increase in dopamine by reducing its production, leading to a state of tolerance, where higher doses of the drug are required to produce the same effects.

The altered state of consciousness produced by ketamine can be psychologically addictive, as users may find the dissociative effects to be a means of escape from reality or a way to cope with underlying mental health issues. This can lead to a cycle of repeated use and eventually, dependence.

Overall, the combination of ketamine’s ability to alter brain chemistry and its potential for psychological dependence makes it a highly addictive drug. As such, it is important for individuals who are struggling with ketamine abuse to seek professional help to overcome their addiction.


Ketamine Withdrawal and Detox

Ketamine withdrawal and detox can be challenging for individuals who are addicted to the drug. Withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe and can occur within hours to days after the last dose. These symptoms can include anxiety, depression, cravings, agitation, insomnia, and sweating.

Ketamine detox usually involves gradually reducing the dose of the drug over a period of time, allowing the body to adjust to the lower levels of the drug. This approach can help minimise the severity of withdrawal symptoms and reduce the risk of relapse.
In some cases, a medically supervised detox may be necessary to manage severe withdrawal symptoms.

This may involve the use of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) such as benzodiazepines, which can help ease anxiety and agitation, or clonidine, which can help reduce the intensity of withdrawal symptoms.

It is important to note that ketamine detox and withdrawal should always be done under the supervision of a medical professional.

Abruptly stopping the use of ketamine can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. A healthcare provider can help individuals develop a personalised detox and withdrawal plan based on their individual needs and circumstances.


Risks Associated with Ketamine Abuse

Ketamine abuse can lead to a variety of risks and negative health effects. Some of the immediate risks associated with ketamine use include impaired motor function, difficulty speaking, confusion, and impaired vision.

These effects can increase the risk of accidents and injuries, particularly when the drug is used in dangerous or risky situations.

Long-term ketamine abuse can cause damage to the urinary and gastrointestinal systems, including the bladder and kidneys.

The chronic use of ketamine has been linked to the development of a condition known as ketamine-induced cystitis, which can cause inflammation, pain, and bleeding in the bladder. Additionally, long-term ketamine abuse has been linked to cognitive impairment and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.

Furthermore, mixing ketamine with other drugs or alcohol can significantly increase the risks of harm, including the risk of overdose.

Ketamine is a depressant, meaning that it slows down the central nervous system. When combined with other depressants like alcohol or benzodiazepines, the risks of respiratory depression, coma, and death increase significantly.

It is important to note that the risks associated with ketamine abuse can vary based on factors such as the frequency and amount of use, as well as individual factors like age, overall health, and genetics. However, it is clear that the abuse of ketamine can have serious negative consequences for both physical and mental health.


Seeking Professional Help for Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine addiction is a serious issue that requires professional help for recovery. Seeking professional help for ketamine addiction can provide numerous benefits if you are displaying signs of ketamine addiction.

Professional addiction treatment programs can help individuals overcome addiction by providing them with the tools and resources they need to achieve long-term recovery.

In a professional treatment program, individuals can receive personalised treatment plans that cater to their unique needs and circumstances.

This includes medical detoxification, individual and group therapy, support groups, and aftercare planning. Medical detox is an important first step in the recovery process for ketamine addiction, as it helps individuals safely and comfortably manage withdrawal symptoms.

Individual and group therapy can help individuals address the underlying psychological issues that contribute to addiction and develop coping strategies to maintain sobriety.

Support groups provide individuals with a community of like-minded people who are also working towards recovery, which can help them feel less alone and more motivated to continue their recovery journey.

Aftercare planning is also an essential aspect of professional addiction treatment, as it helps individuals transition from a structured treatment environment to their everyday lives while providing them with continued support and resources.

Overall, seeking professional help for ketamine addiction can be a life-changing decision for individuals struggling with this addiction. It can help them overcome addiction, improve their mental and physical health, and achieve a better quality of life.

Contact us to begin your ketamine rehab journey, or to undergo a ketamine detox. You are not alone – we are here to support you.

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas is UK's go-to man on addiction-related matters for the national press, TV and Radio. He has consulted for many private addiction rehab centres throughout the years and set up one of the largest addiction advisory services in the UK.