Ketamine is a drug originally intended to be administered to animals during veterinary procedures. However, it has become a popular street drug in Ireland.
Taking ketamine produces feelings of dissociation, and of being outside one’s body.
The user can enter a dreamlike mental state, and experience a distorted reality, and sometimes feelings of euphoria. At higher doses, it can induce intense hallucinations, which may be either enjoyable or frightening, due to the drug’s unpredictability. During these hallucinations, the user becomes temporarily paralysed and unable to respond to external stimuli. It has a strong anaesthetic effect too, making the user unable to feel pain.
Ketamine addiction – the basics
- What is it? Ketamine is a powerful anaesthetic and tranquiliser that’s used for pain management in veterinary settings and on occasion, in hospitals. In veterinary settings, ketamine is used by vets to euthanise horses, which makes a fatal overdose in humans very possible. When illicitly abused, ketamine is snorted (or injected) and produces sedated-like effects. Ketamine causes physical and psychological dissociation and is abused to numb thoughts, feelings and emotions.
- Street names: Special K, Kit-Kat, K, Ket, vitamin K.
- Signs of use: People can appear drunk with microdoses, however, increased use can make people seem motionless, mechanical, still and unresponsive (k-holes). Loss of motor control and paralysis.
- Poly-use (common substance combinations):
- Side effects: Altered perception of time, poor perception of reality, foggy vision, feeling drunk and unstable, disconnection from the body, the body feels heavy and is difficult to move and abnormal beliefs (delusions or misinterpretation). Source.
- Psychological symptoms: Poor concentration, depressed mood, derealisation, depersonalisation, heightened perception, inefficient thinking, autonomic anxiety, nervous tension, delusions of misinterpretation and tiredness. Source. Other psychological effects of ketamine on the mind include paranoia, mood swings, memory loss and confusion.
- Long-term medical effects: Damage to nasal passageways, sinus cavities and sense of smell as well as damage to the structure of the nose. When injected, ketamine can cause damage to the veins, muscles, skin and internal organs. Damage to the kidney and liver is also recorded in high doses over an extended time. Ketamine abuse is very dangerous can prevent a person from functioning normally, and can even lead to organ failure, heart attacks, and in some circumstances, death.
- Withdrawal: Withdrawal is uncomfortable and medical assistance is recommended. The most severe period of ketamine withdrawal is often around 2-4 days. Dependencies are often more psychological than physical, but as symptoms like psychosis, hallucinations, severe depression and suicidal thoughts can arise, a detox under medical supervision is the safest option. Ketamine withdrawal symptoms are reported to typically last around six days.
Health Risks of Taking Ketamine
Long-term ketamine use can lead to a host of dangerous health effects. Prolonged use can cause the user to experience abdominal pain, known as ‘K-cramps’. The most widely reported and serious health risk resulting from heavy and prolonged ketamine use is damage to the bladder and the urinary tract. This condition has been named the ‘ketamine bladder syndrome’ due to its prevalence among users.
Users may experience the frequent need to urinate and experience pain when they do so. The urine may be stained with blood, meaning that it contains tissue from the wall of the bladder. In the long term, ketamine use can also cause incontinence and ulcers in the bladder. If the damage is serious enough, the user’s bladder may need to be removed. There is also increasing evidence that the liver is damaged as a result of ketamine abuse.
Regular ketamine users build up a tolerance to the drug, meaning they have to take increasingly large doses to experience the same effect and incur ever-increasing health risks. There is no safe way to take ketamine; every pattern of use is damaging to health.
Ketamine Addiction Treatment
Patients seeking help with ketamine addiction will commence their treatment programme with a period of detox. This gives them the best possible start to treatment and prepares them mentally and physically for the journey to recovery.
The biggest and ultimate risk with ketamine withdrawal is depression – and one that can fastly lead to suicidal urges – this will be especially true for those who use ketamine to treat feelings of underlying depression in the first instance.
Withdrawal from ketamine is more challenging in a psychological, rather than a physical sense. The patient will experience few physical symptoms, but these can include loss of hearing and motor skills, and an increased breathing and heart rate.
The ketamine user will experience intense cravings for the drug, which is why it is most effective to detox from ketamine in a residential facility, with an attentive medical team on-hand.
The patient’s condition will be monitored throughout the ketamine detox, and they may be provided with medication to reduce discomfort. Removing the patient from their chaotic everyday lives, and the easy accessibility of ketamine is one of the factors that make our residential treatment so successful.
The residential nature of our rehab treatment means that patients can join in with the daily regime of therapy while they are detoxing from ketamine.
The goal is sustained abstinence and a smooth, safe withdrawal
Our psychiatrists and therapists will likely prescribe therapies like CBT and DBT to help you cope, manage triggers and help you live a life free from a ketamine dependency.
As the drug in question causes the brain to release certain chemicals and neurotransmitters, the brain will cease to produce any of its own. Thus, when the abuse of a substance stops, there’s a serious deficit in the natural chemicals, which cause severe withdrawal symptoms.
Residential Rehab Treatment for Ketamine Addiction
Our residential ketamine rehab programme aims to heal mental, physical and spiritual health with a combination of therapeutic and leisure activities. We tailor our programme to each patient depending on their history of drug use, their current personal circumstances and their goals within treatment. Our clinically proven model involves a combination of specialised addiction therapies, including:
Our core programme of therapies targets the patient’s psychological well-being and breaks the mental links to ketamine addiction. These are supported by our complementary therapies, which help to reconnect the patient with themselves, others around them, and nature.
We also aim to improve the patient’s physical condition in order to give them the energy they need to beat addiction and repair the damage wrought by drug and alcohol abuse. This is achieved by a combined programme of healthy, balanced meals and regular exercise in our gym, swimming pool, or extensive grounds.
Continuing Care – After Rehab
When the patient is ready to re-enter their daily lives, we equip them with a personalised two-year continuing care plan. They will also be advised to attend peer support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous, to continue their progress. In addition, we offer a series of teletherapy sessions, as well as optional weekly, drop-in therapy sessions.
We believe in you – we’re in your corner
Things might not make much sense right now, and what you’re going through would make anyone feel frightened and helpless.
At Smarmore Castle, we’ve helped hundreds of people overcome drug dependencies, but you won’t be another number or statistic, you’ll be someone who got their life back.
Something better awaits just around the corner.
Ketamine might make you feel happy and detached, but it’s not a sustainable way to feel good or to be mentally healthy. Talk to us when you’re ready, but not before it’s too late.
Last updated & clinically assessed 22 April, 2022