Ketamine, commonly known as Special K, is often abused recreationally for its dissociative effects and auditory and visual distortions.People began using it recreationally in the late 1960s. It is now listed as a Schedule III controlled substance, meaning it has potential for abuse and dependence.
Pharmaceutical ketamine is used for anaesthesia and sedation in emergency medical procedures with animals and humans. When injected, it works very quickly and wears off within 30 minutes, making it ideal for emergencies and short procedures. Ketamine is a derivative of phencyclidine (PCP) and has been used off-label for pain management and for treating depression and suicidal thoughts. Another form of the drug known as esketamine is FDA approved for treatment-resistant depression.
Also known as K, vitamin K, special K, cat tranquilliser and jet, ketamine’s intoxicating effects include distorted perceptions of sight and sound and feeling detached from pain and your environment with people describing it as ‘out of body experiences’ and feeling as if they’re ‘melting into their surroundings’. These hallucinogenic and dissociative effects along with Ketamine being accessible and cheap, make it a popular recreational party drug.
Pharmaceutical ketamine is legal and the illegal supply is often stolen from vet clinics. The drug comes in a white or off-white powder form or a clear liquid. The liquid can be made into powder form through an evaporation process, which creates crystals.Liquid ketamine is mixed into drinks or injected while the powder form is put in capsules, paper, glass vials and plastic bags and is snorted or mixed with marijuana or tobacco and smoked.
Once you become addicted to Ketamine, you can expect to spend your days feeling detached from your surroundings with various cognitive impairments, speech and memory deficits and pretty much incapable of living a normal or productive life.
Because ketamine’s high is quite short, tolerance builds up quite quickly, leading to increased usage.
Signs of a ketamine addiction:
- Having to use more to get high
- Spending too much time and money on the drug
- No longer interested in prior responsibilities
- Issues with friends and family
Effects of Ketamine
Effects vary by dose and individual but generally, lower doses produce sedation and analgesia with higher doses producing more dissociative effects. The intoxicating effects can last from a few minutes to several hours depending on the individual’s use history, amount used and route of administration.
Physical effects of ketamine include:
- Clumsiness, poor muscle control, muscle stiffening
- Difficulty speaking
- Nausea, vomiting
- Loss of consciousness
- Cardiovascular issues (high blood pressure & heart rate, palpitations, irregular heart beat, chest pain)
Psychological effects of ketamine use include:
- Confusion, disorientation
- Memory loss
- Hallucinations, dreamlike states
While under the influence of ketamine, you are likely to be less aware of your surroundings putting you at risk of injury.
What is a K-hole?
High doses of ketamine can lead to an effect known as the ‘K-hole’, where users report feeling completely detached from reality and describe it as near-death or out-of-body experiences. While unable to stand up or speak, many users describe this as a state of bliss.
Overdose can occur, especially if alcohol or other drugs have been used. Many accidental overdoses are a result of users trying to reach the k-hole. Ketamine is a tranquilliser and can lead to users not being able to walk or speak. Respiratory failure is the number one cause of death from Ketamine overdoses, which is due to the fact that people cannot ask for help.
The comedown from ketamine is a drug-induced equivalent to an alcohol hangover. Since Ketamine is a powerful sedative, users will likely feel extreme confusion, delirium, anxiety, muscle weakness, numbness, impaired vision and hopelessness. The severe confusion and delirium can lead to aggressive behaviours. These symptoms will be more intense with prolonged use or when combining Ketamine with alcohol or other drugs.
Ketamine is often combined with other drugs, which can increase the negative side effects. In its liquid form it can be mixed with alcohol which is dangerous as they are both depressants which can seriously reduce heart rate and respiratory function. In its powder form, ketamine is sometimes added to joints. Mixing ketamine with MDMA is dangerous as you are mixing a stimulant with a depressant. Other drugs that are often mixed with ketamine are LSD and DMT.
Ketamine Overdose & Withdrawal
Ketamine overdose is usually the result of respiratory failure but overdose rates are quite low as are serious-complication rates.
Withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, depression and cravings. The shaking, sweating and heart palpitations experienced during alcohol or opioid withdrawal, are not common with ketamine. There are no medications to treat ketamine overdose and no medication-assisted treatments (MAT)for the withdrawal symptoms, but there are antidepressants and antipsychotics that can be prescribed to manage the depression, psychosis and agitation.
Treatment for Ketamine Addiction
As with all substance-use disorders, effective treatment for ketamine addiction involves a combination of therapeutic approaches and interventions. In order for treatment to be successful, treatment plans should be tailored to meet the physical and mental health needs of each individual.
Treatment aims to help people develop the skills and tools they need to overcome addiction and live healthy, productive and fulfilling lives.
Treatment typically includes some of the following components:
- Medications can help with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, treat co-occurring mental health issues and reduce the risk of relapse.
- Behavioural therapies help people understand and modify their attitudes and behaviours related to their addiction, teach healthy life skills and problem-solving skills.
- Group therapy offers people with similar experiences a sense of belonging within a space where they can share, learn and teach while feeling supported and held accountable.
- 12-Step groups such as AA and NA are effective in helping maintain recovery due to the strong sense of connection among members.
If you are struggling with ketamine addiction or any substance-use disorder, there is help available. The Hills offers luxury treatment at affordable rates in beautiful Chiang Mai. They have an onsite hospital to manage any of your detox needs and a robust treatment program where you will be engaged in various therapies to identify and address your specific issues. To learn more about this amazing facility, give them a call today.