According to the American Addiction Centers, ketamine is defined as a dissociative anesthetic. It means that in addition to sedating the user, ketamine also produces a sort of out-of-body experience in which the user feels detached from the self and the surrounding environment. Ketamine actually alter the perceptions of sight and sound and can make it difficult for the individual using it to even move. When taking high doses, the user could often feel as though a near-death experience is taking place. People also have reported experiencing a state of euphoria and happiness, making it a very appealing drug to take.

Ketamine has been classified as a Schedule III controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration due to its potential for abuse and addiction. It can be abused in a number of ways, by injection, snorting, or orally. It is usually sold as a fine white powder after being converted from its original liquid state. Ketamine has also been used as a “date rape drug” and put into people’s drinks to sedate them to the point that they can hardly move.

In the medical setting, ketamine is often used to sedate children who have had problems with other anesthetic medications, as well as for patients in radiation and burn therapy It is useful in situations where sedation is necessary but stronger anesthetics may be too much, but due to its abuse potential, its use in hospital settings is becoming more rare. Ketamine is now more commonly used in veterinary clinics for the sedation of animals for surgery.

Signs of Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine does indeed have the potential to lead to addiction for an individual abusing it. Once an individual begins using Ketamine on a recreational basis, it can become easy to spot the effects in a friend or loved-one, since they are so noticeable. According to the American Addiction Centers, the effects can include:

  • Frequent state of distraction and/or drowsiness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue or lack of motivation
  • Reduced ability to feel physical pain
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Redness of the skin
  • Insomnia
  • Bladder pain
  • Incontinence

Just like the addiction to any drug, addiction to ketamine is characterized by cravings for the drug and the general preoccupation with the it. Individuals abusing ketamine and other drugs are often observed neglecting family, friends, school, or work, because they are, in most cases, absorbed in obtaining and taking the drug. These people who are addicted to ketamine may also notice the negative effects of ketamine on their daily lives and try to quit, but in most cases cannot do it on their own.

Who Abuses Ketamine?

Some reports claim that ketamine began arriving on the recreational drug scene in the early to mid 1980s. Ketamine became part of the nightclub scene and was popular in certain dance cultures, including raves, originally to increase the effects of other drugs, such as MDMA (ecstasy). Recreational use has continued to grow since then, even after ketamine was given the Schedule III classification in 1999. Today, it remains a party drug, often used by high school students and young adults in order to achieve a hallucinatory, dream-like state.

Ketamine addiction is a serious problem and requires immediate treatment. Not only does the substance prevent individuals from functioning in day-to-day life, it can also have serious long-term health effects, particularly in relation to one’s urinary tract. One study found that mice given ketamine on a regular basis were prone to kidney problems. The American Addiction Centers describes long-term use can also cause neurocognitive impairments, especially in memory. These cognitive deficits can make it harder for the individual to realize an addiction has developed and that treatment is needed. Because of this, inpatient treatment following detox is often recommended for those addicted to ketamine. Ketamine withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening and generally not as severe as with some drugs, being purely psychological, but they are still unpleasant and come with strong cravings. However, weaning oneself off the drug does not work well due to its effects on the brain, especially when it comes to memory.