Ketamine Addiction: Dangers of Abuse and Side Effects

What is Ketamine

How addictive is ketamine?

Ketamine is a supplementary drug that starts and maintains anesthesia on a patient. By inducing dissociative anesthesia, the user enters a trans-like state that provides sedation, pain relief, and even amnesia. Although its medical use is for pain management, people can abuse this drug to experience its effects and other harmful symptoms.

Statistically, the number of people who abuse hallucinogens are the lowest compared to other addictive medications. This results in very little data about ketamine addiction across the United States. Unfortunately, the United States still ranks higher than most countries in the number of high school students who are addicted to hallucinogens.

Part of why comparative data is so few, yet abuse rates are high, is due to ketamine’s low fatality rates. When used alone, it generally doesn’t induce fatal conditions, unlike other addictive medications. However, it can still produce heightened effects in combination with other drugs like LSD and PCP. Beyond potential adverse behavioral changes, you will also experience damages to your different organs. Learn more about Ketamine addiction.

What are the common signs of ketamine addiction?

Ketamine addiction creates chemical changes to your brain, causing you to be more detached from your surroundings. Most of the signs of ketamine addiction are related to cognitive impairment and memory damage. Some of the behavioral changes you may experience are:

  • Building a tolerance for the drug’s prescriptive dosage
  • Increasing your dosage of ketamine
  • Developing obsessive behavior when anticipating your next hit
  • Failing to respond to other social responsibilities
  • Disassociating away from your social circles

What is ketamine?

The roots of ketamine come from religious rituals, where cultures induce detachment through visions and out-of-body experiences. Religious leaders use a combination of hallucinogenic plants as a requirement to connect to a spiritual plane. 

In modern times, hallucinogens have a more practical effect of distracting a person’s system from mitigating pain. This is apparent in the practical use of anesthetics. In regulated dosages, it can also aid in the management of diseases that induce perceptual distortions, like dementia and schizophrenia.

Although hallucinogens have religious and practical use, many people are also known to use them for social or recreational purposes. Ketamine is popular in many names, such as Special K, Dorothy, Vitamin K, or Kit Kat. It’s a dissociative anesthetic that can produce what people consider as an out-of-body experience with the level of sedation it offers.

Ketamine was discovered in 1956 and was then approved in the United States by 1970. By then, ketamine was commonly used as surgical anesthesia for victims of the Vietnam war. However, there have also been historical reports of people using it as a recreational drug for its dissociative and hallucination-inducing effects.

What is Ketamine Addiction
Learn the Signs of Ketamine Addiction

What are the side effects of abusing ketamine?

You can take ketamine either through injection or pill form. For injections, its effects will occur almost immediately since it directly goes to your bloodstream. In contrast, taking pills will take anything from 5 to 30 minutes before it takes effect. People with substance abuse disorders can take the pill form and break it into a powdery mixture. Snorting ketamine nasally will take 5 to 15 minutes before it takes effect.

After the initial hit, the sensation of dulled senses will last as long as 2 hours. People report a sense of feeling floaty, increased sensitivity, or an altered sense of sight. However, you may experience disarray with your coordination and memory for 24 hours or longer. If you take ketamine in its prescribed dosage, you’ll generally experience physical symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, double vision, and dizziness. You may also develop drowsiness or confusion, depending on how your body responds to it.

People who abuse ketamine tend to mix it with other substances like alcohol and other hallucinogens. This makes them experience stronger sensations from the drug, resulting in more harmful effects to your body.

Short-term side effects of ketamine: In addition to its effects for medicinal use, ketamine users will also experience dreamlike states, hallucinations, a sense of confusion, raised blood pressure, and even fainting.

Long-term side effects of ketamine:  Besides the behavior changes you’ll experience, you’ll also have complications with your blood pressure, liver, and urinary toxicity. These are the long-term effects of abusing ketamine.

What are the withdrawal symptoms of ketamine?

Excessive ketamine abuse can do more than psychological dependence on the drug. You will also experience physical and mental withdrawal symptoms if you’re ready to take the step forward to get better. Some common withdrawal symptoms are as follows:

  • Sense of agitation or confusion
  • Insomnia and other cognitive impairments
  • Uncontrollable shakes and nausea
  • Psychosis through delusions and hallucinations
  • Lower respiratory and cardiac functions
  • Intense cravings

Besides these physical and mental hurdles, you’ll also be more prone to emotional instability. This may require you to undergo isolated treatment in a controlled environment. For your safety, it’s best to check yourself in an in-patient rehab facility. However, you may opt for an outpatient program if your physician allows you to have it for your condition.

Withdrawal from ketamine can last as short as 72 hours or as long as several weeks. Although it’s not as life-threatening as other drugs’ withdrawal symptoms, you can still feel discomfort while going through the recovery process. It will take longer if you’re abusing ketamine with other drugs.

How long does ketamine stay in your system?

Ketamine’s half-life is around 45 minutes, which means that it will take 4hours and 30 minutes to eliminate its trace from your body. However, it may take longer if you end up forming metabolites. Thankfully, these only last within 24 hours of your previous dosage of ketamine. Since its primary form of excretion is through urine, you can get rid of the drug faster if you’re well-hydrated.

Although ketamine generally goes out of your system within 3 days, it can still show up for longer in drug tests. Additionally, it requires specialized tests to detect ketamine.

For blood tests, ketamine will only be detectable for over 24 hours after use.

For urine tests, ketamine can be present after 2 weeks. However, there have been cases where it can be detectable for longer than 30 days.

For hair tests, traces of ketamine will be present for months after a person’s last dose.

Remember that your age, body mass, hepatic function, and genetics contribute to how long ketamine will stay in your system. To compare, younger and healthier individuals will eliminate ketamine faster in contrast to an elderly individual.


You shouldn’t underestimate the potential damage that ketamine abuse can do to your body. Although it doesn’t put you at risk of fatal conditions, you may sustain permanent damage throughout your body. For example, you may have lasting nerve cell damage and psychological issues that will remain long after your withdrawal phase. It’s best to receive treatment immediately to mitigate these avoidable adverse effects.