Ketamine is one of the safest anaesthetics when used correctly, because, unlike other substances such as opiates, ether, and nitrous oxide, it does not suppress breathing or heart rate. It can be dangerous when misused though, as well as being addictive.
Ketamine abuse is not as common as misuse of many other drug addictions, but it is on the rise. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of adults entering treatment for ketamine abuse rose from 1,140 in 2019-20 to 1,444 in 2020-21.
This represented a rise of more than a quarter (27%) in a single year and the total was nearly 3.5 times higher than it was in 2014-15.2
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Are you suffering from Ketamine Addiction and need help? If so, Rehab Clinics Group are a leading UK based experts in drug rehabilitation treatment. Find out how we can help by getting in touch with our friendly team today. You can either call our confidential helpline on 0800 470 0382 or request a callback by clicking on the below form.
Dangers of Long-term Ketamine Abuse
While ketamine is generally considered to be a safe anaesthetic, that is when it is used as it is meant to be, in a medical setting and under medical supervision. Some studies have even been undertaken to see if low doses of Ketamine can actually help people who suffer from various addictions, but these are strictly monitored in a medical setting. When misused recreationally however, it can be very dangerous and potentially harmful.
The dissociative sedative effect of taking the drug can leave you vulnerable to poor decision-making and the risk of being involved in an accident. People on ketamine may not recognise dangers like roads and have even died after lying outside without recognising how cold it is, or by falling unconscious in the bath and drowning.
You might not feel pain and so might not realise if you injure yourself, and ketamine can be particularly dangerous when combined with other drugs.
Stimulants such as cocaine and ecstasy can put extra pressure on your heart while taken with depressants like alcohol or heroin which can slow or stop your breathing.3 Accidental overdose is also a risk as users may underestimate the dose or forget what they have taken.
There are also numerous long-term effects. Ketamine abuse can lead to urinary tract issues and a syndrome combining cystitis and a contracted bladder.
It can cause upper gastrointestinal symptoms (heartburn, nausea, difficulty swallowing) and can damage the kidneys, potentially leading to the use of a dialysis machine.
Frequent use of ketamine can affect memory and users may experience difficulty in remembering conversations or people’s names. Ketamine use has also been linked to a number of mental health issues including anxiety and depression.4
Ketamine is also a prescribed, class B drug, which means it is illegal to possess, give away or sell. Possession could result in an unlimited fine and/or up to 5 years in prison. Supplying another person could also result in an unlimited fine, as well as a prison sentence of up to 15 years.5
Signs and Symptoms of Ketamine Addiction
Another serious risk associated with the long-term use of ketamine is addiction. Some people may be able to use ketamine occasionally without developing a dependency (although all the short-term risks still apply).
Others can develop an addiction to the drug, which may be gradual or happen quite quickly. You may start to develop a tolerance to the drug, meaning you need more and more of it for the same effect.
If you develop a physical dependency, you may suffer a range of withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop. You can also develop a psychological dependency on the immediate effects including sensations of lightness, relaxation and euphoria.
The signs and symptoms of ketamine addiction can vary from person to person but some common signs could include:
- Increased tolerance – needing to use more for the same effect
- Craving the drug when you are not using it
- Suffering withdrawal symptoms when you do not use it
- Feeling anxious about securing more ketamine
- Focusing more and more on drug use
- Continuing to use it despite negative consequences
- Using ketamine on a regular or daily basis
- Trying and failing to stop or cut down
- Losing interest in other things
Some physical and psychological symptoms of ketamine addiction could include:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Reduced ability to feel pain
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of motor control and paralysis
- Loss of consciousness
- Fear and paranoia
- Memory loss
- Audio and visual hallucinations
- Distorted sense of reality
- Inability to focus on other things
Next Steps for Ketamine Addiction
Addiction to ketamine can cause long-lasting changes in the way the brain functions and is characterised by a compulsion to continue taking the drug, even when you know there may be negative consequences.
When you add the potential withdrawal symptoms, this all makes it very difficult to quit using willpower alone. It is possible to successfully treat addiction, however, using evidence-led treatments developed through study and experience.
The most effective way to treat serious addictions is generally through a course of these treatments delivered at a residential drug rehab. This will allow you to undergo a medically supervised detox, which is safer and more likely to be successful.
You will be in a safe environment away from your usual stresses and triggers, not to mention dealers. This allows you to really focus on your recovery, which will also include a range of therapies and other treatments.
Techniques like group therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy can help you to explore the root causes of your substance misuse and to change the way you think and act around the drug.
Get Help Today
If you are worried that you might have a ketamine problem, or that a loved one might be addicted to this dangerous drug, it’s always best to seek help as soon as possible. Contact us today for free confidential advice.
If you decide that rehab might be your best way forward, we can answer any questions you might have and start the admission process to get the help you need as quickly as possible.