Ketamine Addiction and Abuse

Special K, Super K, K2, K, Jet K, Kit Kat, Vitamin K, cat tranquilizer, and cat Valium. While these names might be cute or funny, the drug it represents is anything but. That drug is ketamine.

Ketamine is a synthetic (man-made) drug that can be very dangerous due to its dissociative properties. That means it can make you feel as if your mind is disconnected from your body.

Ketamine is commonly used by sexual predators because it can give memory problems and doesn’t have a taste or smell. This makes it easy to add it to victims’ drinks and makes them an easier assault target.

Ketamine Addiction and Abuse

Since ketamine allows people to disassociate themselves from bodily sensations like pain, doctors use the drug as a general anesthetic for surgery. Veterinarians have used the drug for the same purpose, leading to cat-related nicknames such as Kit Kat, cat tranquilizer, and cat Valium. (Other names for illegal forms of the drug include Special LA Coke, Green, Purple, Mauve, and Super C.) Researchers are also conducting studies to determine whether ketamine could be used as an antidepressant to treat bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder.

The drug comes in different forms. Doctors and veterinarians use injectable liquid forms of ketamine known as Ketalar, Ketaset, and Ketaject. Illegal users also snort or smoke the drug in its powdered form. Because ketamine can cause people to abuse themselves and others, it is important to recognize the dangers of the drug and how ketamine abuse can be treated.

According to the U.S. Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Services Administration, 203,000 people aged twelve and up reported that they had used ketamine in 2006. The amount of people twelve and over who used ketamine at least once in their lives is an even higher number: 2,277,000.

Ketamine is classified as a dissociative drug. Other drugs in this class include PCP. These drugs create a disconnected feeling between your head and your body. Yet ketamine also has hallucinogenic properties. Like other drugs with hallucinogenic properties, ketamine can and is combined with other drugs, such as cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), amphetamines, and methamphetamine (meth). This kind of combination makes a dangerous drug even more dangerous.

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Signs of Ketamine Use

Ketamine is often referred to as a “club drug,” or a “party drug,” due to its use at parties, nightclubs, and raves. Since ketamine can produce hallucinations, it is commonly used to alter the reality of the user and change the way they feel and sense things. Sometimes, these changes can even make a person feel more calm and relaxed due to the drug’s dissociative properties.

Ketamine affects the body by changing the activity of glutamate, a neurotransmitter (chemical) in the brain. Glutamate affects our emotions, how we feel pain, and the way we learn and form memories. This means that ketamine abuse can alter the chemistry of a person’s brain.

People abusing this drug could feel its absence when they stop taking it because it is no longer there to stimulate their brains’ chemicals, which can cause a person to feel tired, depressed, or experience other withdrawal symptoms. An addiction occurs when the body physically needs the stimulation that ketamine provides, and there is an emotional attachment to the substance.

While most recreational users of Ketamine use it to experience the hallucinogenic effects, it affects people differently, which can make it difficult to recognize in those who use it. However, there are some common ketamine abuse signs which include:

  • Nervous Behavior
  • Red or flushed skin
  • Insomnia|
  • Slurred speech and appearance of drunkenness
  • Loss of coordination
  • Depression
  • Rapid eye movements
  • Irritability
  • Hallucinations

Short-term and Long-term Effects of  Ketamine

Using ketamine can produce a number of short-term and long-term effects. These effects can depend on the amount of ketamine taken at one time.

In lower doses, it can make you feel detached from things, change the way you see you see yourself and other things, make you hallucinate for about thirty to sixty minutes, and make you nauseous.

In higher doses, ketamine can produce hallucinations as well as memory loss.  It has the potential to produce symptoms of psychological distress by making the user feel panicky, anxious, and paranoid. It can cause aggression, and feelings of extreme strength and invincibility.

There are even different names for different types of ketamine experiences:

  • Baby food means users feel happy and like babies during their ketamine usage.
  • K land is a colorful ketamine experience where users feel mellow.
  • God experiences are incidents where ketamine users feel that they’ve met God.
  • K hole is an experience where users feel as if they’ve left their bodies and are close to death.

In addition, the muscles might stiffen, pupils often dilate, and users might experience rapid eye movement if they take ketamine. It may be difficult to remember things, speak, or move. Some researchers have found that ketamine use can also produce kidney problems as well as ulcers in the bladder.

Even after a person uses this drug, ketamine can cause other effects by creating flashbacks. This means a person can relive their ketamine experiences hours or weeks after actually using the drug.

Overdose Symptoms of  Ketamine

Because ketamine affects the brain chemistry, it can severely affect mood. Overdose can cause:

  • Nausea
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Panic and terrors
  • Elevated heart rate
  • High blood pressure.
  • Seizures
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Coma

If you believe someone is overdosing on ketamine please call 911. You might be saving their life.

Ketamine Withdrawal and Detox

Detoxing from ketamine can be dangerous when done alone. A medically supervised detox process can minimize many of the uncomfortable withdrawal effects and help ensure that relapse doesn’t occur during this time.

Ketamine withdrawal has symptoms that include:

  • Urges or cravings to use the drug
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or tendancies
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Irregular blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing
  • Confuion and trouble focusing
  • Schizophrenic type behaviors, delerium, paranoia, or hallucinations
  • Becoming violent or aggressive
  • Trouble speaking and loss of coordination
  • Trouble sleeping or nightmares

Choosing a medical detox facility can help with these symptoms because they include skilled staff that understand what a person is going through when they get clean from substances like ketamine, and have a strong understanding of how to keep them safe and on track to overcome their dependence.

Ketamine Treatment and Rehab

Choosing a rehab that focuses on ketamine addiction can make overcoming it much easier. There are some aspects of this drug that are different than others, and having a treatment program that understands and treats accordingly can make all the difference, especially when it comes to some of the side effects and withdrawal symptoms of ketamine that can be challenging for those going through it to deal with.

Additionally, choosing a program that offers longer stays when needed, and a wide variety of treatment models can help increase the chances of a successful recovery journey.

Rehab Process

  • Step 1: Intake – When you arrive at your facility you will be assessed by the medical professionals to determine your treatment through detox, as well as your rehabilitation program.
  • Step 2: Detox – After your assessment or intake you will be taken to your room where you can rest and be monitored while you go through the withdrawal of your drug use. Detox can range from 1 day to a week, depending on the drug of choice and the user.
  • Step 3: Rehab – After you finish detox you will be ready to begin your addiction treatment, which can range from a variety of different options. This is when you will be able to meet others, attend lectures, participate in group or individual counseling, and learn the tools you need to stay clean.
  • Step 4: Aftercare- When your time at the facility is over, you will have to go back to your life. This can be a challenge for a lot of people, but part of your treatment includes aftercare. This is usually outpatient counseling in a group or individualized setting, where you are slowly introduced back to your life and responsibilities.

The steps to recovery are tough, it is difficult and scary but also exciting. By going to treatment you are giving yourself a second chance at life, and allowing yourself to be free from your addiction.

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Addressing  Ketamine Addiction

It is common to want to justify any kind of substance use disorder, and ketamine is no different. It’s easy to say a person is just having fun if they don’t experience the negative side effects of ketamine. However, certain experiences such as anxiety, frightening hallucinations, and blackouts are often signs of a growing dependence, and even an addiction.

Coming to Terms with Your Ketamine Addiction

Coming to terms with any type of addiction can be really difficult. It’s a time when a person realizes that they just can’t use their drug of choice on the weekends or at the club. It’s also a time when all of the problems continued use of a substance is causing. This is also the time when many people choose to treatment their dependence or addiction, or not. The first step to overcoming an addiction is accepting it for what it is, and choosing to treat it.

Helping a Friend or Family Member Address Their Ketamine Addiction

Other people, too, might be in denial about their ketamine use. That’s why it can be useful to stage an intervention. During this meeting, friends and family members could tell the ketamine user how the person’s drug use has been harmful. They should give specific examples, such as, “When you used ketamine and blacked out, you could’ve really hurt yourself. You also really scared us because you put yourself in so much danger.”

Discussing specific examples can show loved ones how their drug use not only hurts themselves but others as well. These interventions should be conducted when no substances have been used. This way, everyone at the meeting can clearly assess the situation without the disconnection or emotional changes caused by mind-altering drugs.


  • Let them know you are aware of their problem
  • Let them know that you care, and want to help
  • Tell them that there are treatment options for them
  • Tell them that you love them and will be there


  • Bring this up when they are under the influence
  • Make them feel like they are failures
  • Let them convince you they don’t need treatments
  • Bring up too many hurtful reminders of their addiction at once

The Bottom Line: You Can Beat Ketamine Addiction

If you or a loved one has been abusing ketamine and might be struggling with a dependence or addiction, you need to know that there is help. Nobody wants to find that they have developed an addiction to something, but if you have, you should know that you can overcome it and live a healthy life.

With the right type of addiction treatment to meet your needs, a strong desire on your part, and enough time, your ketamine addiction can become a thing of the past.

Payment Options for Ketamine Abuse Treatment

If you find that you need treatment for ketamine abuse or addiction, it’s important to understand that your insurance might cover some of the cost of your stay. We have specialists that understand insurance coverage, and how to get the most of your benefits so you can get the treatment you need.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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