September 5th, 2023
There are many strange misconceptions about drugs, none more so than ketamine being purely a tranquiliser for horses. While the drug is sometimes used for this purpose, ketamine has various medical uses for both humans and animals.
However, despite its original medical purpose, ketamine has become one of the most abused substances which comes with an all-too-common and hugely damaging side-effect – ketamine addiction. Developing a deeper understanding of ketamine addiction and its impact on your life is essential for breaking free from its grasp and seeking the necessary help.
What is ketamine?
Ketamine is a dissociative anaesthetic, which is a drug that causes you to feel somehow detached or disconnected from your body or physical environment. It was initially developed in the 1960s for veterinary and human medical purposes and is primarily used in the UK as an anaesthetic for animals and, to a lesser extent, humans.
However, ketamine is often taken recreationally as a party drug by users chasing its dissociative and hallucinogenic effects. Ketamine comes as a powder, tablet or liquid and is taken by recreational users either by snorting, injecting or swallowing. It works by blocking a neurotransmitter called glutamate, inducing feelings of detachment, hallucinations and a dream-like state.
Ketamine 101: Did you know…?
- In the UK, ketamine is classified as a Class B drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, making it illegal to possess, produce and supply.
- Ketamine can induce a phenomenon known as the “k-hole,” where users experience profound dissociation and feel disconnected from their bodies.
- Ketamine is also referred to as “Horse, “Ket”, “Special K” or “K” on the street.
- The use of ketamine among adults aged 16 to 24 year-olds increased from 1.7% to 3.2% between 2010 and 2020.
What is ketamine addiction?
Ketamine addiction is a physical and psychological dependence on the drug, where you feel compelled to take it even though it is causing you harm.
The risk of developing a ketamine addiction is increased by various underlying causes including:
- Genetics: A family history of addiction can predispose individuals to substance abuse, including ketamine addiction.
- Mental health disorders: People struggling with conditions such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may turn to ketamine for relief, increasing the risk of ketamine addiction.
- Environmental factors: Exposure to drug use within social circles or easy access to ketamine can contribute to addiction.
- Peer pressure: The desire to fit in or be accepted by others may lead individuals to experiment with ketamine, potentially resulting in ketamine addiction.
- Coping mechanisms: Those lacking healthy coping skills for dealing with stress or emotional pain may resort to ketamine use as a way to escape, increasing their risk of dependence.
- Early drug use: Initiating drug use at a young age can increase the likelihood of developing an addiction later in life.
How does ketamine addiction develop?
To understand the different routes to ketamine addiction and the effects it can have, consider the stories of Lucy, James and Sarah:
Lucy – ketamine addiction through recreational abuse
Lucy was first introduced to ketamine at a friend’s party during her first year at university. Initially, she was hesitant but found the drug’s dissociative effects enjoyable, providing a temporary escape from the pressures of her academic life. Over the next few months, Lucy began using ketamine more frequently but she started needing higher doses to achieve the same effects.
As her tolerance grew, Lucy found herself unable to function without ketamine and experienced withdrawal symptoms such as agitation and restlessness when she tried to stop using. Lucy’s addiction to ketamine eventually caused her academic performance to plummet, leading to her dropping out of university and losing her part-time job.
James – ketamine addiction through prescription ketamine use
James, a young professional in his late 20s, struggled with chronic depression for years. One day, he stumbled upon an online article discussing the potential antidepressant effects of ketamine. Desperate for relief, James decided to try ketamine and it seemed to help temporarily lift his mood. However, this relief was short-lived and he soon found himself using the drug more frequently and in higher doses.
James’ growing dependence on ketamine started affecting his work and relationships as he became more focused on obtaining and using the drug. Eventually, both his professional and personal life took a nosedive and his relationships with colleagues and his partner became increasingly strained.
Sarah – ketamine addiction through self-medication
Sarah was going through a difficult period in her life, juggling the demands of a high-pressure job and raising two teenagers. One evening, a friend introduced her to ketamine as a way to unwind and escape the stress for a while. Sarah found the experience strangely liberating and soon began using ketamine regularly, initially just on weekends.
As her tolerance for ketamine increased, however, Sarah found herself needing more and more of the drug to achieve the same effects. Her use escalated and she began experiencing withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and depression when she tried to quit.
As you can see, no matter which route is taken, ketamine addiction always develops through a route of use, tolerance, dependence and addiction.
Am I addicted to ketamine?
Recognising the signs of ketamine addiction early on can help prevent the most severe consequences and provide an opportunity to seek the necessary help. However, it’s not always easy to identify ketamine addiction as it can cause sufferers to be in denial.
Ask yourself the following questions to determine if you are experiencing ketamine addiction symptoms:
- Do I crave ketamine and think about it constantly?
- Have I developed a tolerance to ketamine and require higher doses to achieve the same effects?
- Do I continue using ketamine despite negative consequences in my personal, professional and social life?
- Have I tried to cut down or quit using ketamine unsuccessfully?
- Do I spend a significant amount of time obtaining, using and recovering from the effects of ketamine?
- Have I experienced withdrawal symptoms when I stop using ketamine?
- Has my ketamine use caused new health issues or exacerbated existing ones?
- Do I neglect responsibilities, hobbies and relationships in favour of using ketamine?
What are the health effects of ketamine addiction?
Ketamine addiction can have various health effects, including:
- Bladder problems, including inflammation, pain and in severe cases, the need for bladder removal
- Kidney damage
- Cognitive impairment, such as memory loss and difficulty concentrating
- Increased risk of accidents and injuries due to impaired coordination and perception
- Psychological issues, including anxiety, depression and paranoia
- Persistent flashbacks and hallucinations
Two other serious health effects of ketamine abuse are:
A “k-hole” refers to a state of profound dissociation and disconnection from reality experienced by some ketamine users. In this state, you may feel detached from your body and surroundings, often experiencing vivid hallucinations, distorted perceptions of time and space and a sense of merging with your environment. The K-hole experience can be intense and disorienting and may be sought after by some users for its intense, dream-like effects. However, it can also be potentially dangerous as some users may panic or engage in risky behaviour.
A ketamine overdose occurs when you ingest a dangerously high amount of the drug, leading to severe and potentially life-threatening symptoms. Overdosing on ketamine can result in symptoms such as:
- Extreme drowsiness
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of consciousness
In severe cases, a ketamine overdose can cause seizures, coma or even death. It is essential to seek immediate medical help if you suspect a ketamine overdose, as prompt treatment can make a significant difference in the outcome.
How else do ketamine abuse and addiction affect your life?
In addition to the health effects, ketamine addiction can impact other aspects of an individual’s life, including:
- Strained relationships with family and friends
- Financial difficulties due to the cost of sustaining a drug habit
- Legal troubles related to the possession, production and supply of ketamine
- A decline in academic or work performance
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities and hobbies
- Social isolation and withdrawal
What does professional help for ketamine addiction involve?
Professional help for ketamine addiction involves a multi-stage approach to be effective. This is usually made up of:
- Ketamine detox: The process of removing ketamine from the body, often under medical supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms.
- Ketamine rehab: Focuses on addressing the psychological aspects of ketamine addiction, providing therapy, support and coping strategies to help you maintain long-term recovery.
How to get help for ketamine addiction
If you or a loved one are struggling with ketamine addiction, seeking professional help is crucial for overcoming this debilitating condition. Oasis Runcorn offers comprehensive, evidence-based treatment programmes to help you overcome ketamine addiction and stay sober long-term.
Reach out today to take the first step toward reclaiming your life from the grips of ketamine addiction.
Frequently asked questions
This is because the rapid-acting antidepressant effects of ketamine work through a different mechanism than traditional antidepressants, providing relief for some people who have not responded well to other treatments.
- Drug paraphernalia
- Changes in mood and behaviour
- Social withdrawal
- Neglecting responsibilities
- Unexplained absences
- Financial issues
- Physical symptoms such as frequent dizziness, unsteady gait, slurred speech and memory problems.
If you notice these signs, it’s essential to approach your loved one with care and support, encouraging them to seek help from a professional treatment facility or healthcare provider.