Help for Ketamine Abuse

It can cause a host of negative side effects, including problems with memory and depression. The drug can even lead to liver damage if abused too much.

Most of this damage can be reversed if you stop use of the drug. Recovery from addiction is always possible with the right assistance.

What Are the Side Effects of Ketamine?

Ketamine is a Schedule III substance, which is sometimes used to induce and maintain general anesthesia. It is more commonly used in veterinary settings for a similar purpose. More controversially, it is currently being researched for applications in treating depression, suicidal thoughts, and substance use disorder.

Ketamine has a pretty big pool of potential side effects.

  • Drowsiness
  • Changes in perceptions of color or sound
  • Hallucinations, confusion, and delirium
  • Dissociation from one’s body or identity
  • Agitation
  • Confusion or difficulty thinking or learning
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dilated pupils and changes in eyesight
  • Inability to control eye movements
  • Involuntary muscle movements and stiffness
  • Slurred speech
  • Numbness
  • Amnesia
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Behavioral changes
  • Increased pressure in the eyes and brain
  • Puffy lips, eyelids, tongue, or face

When abused, ketamine can have an even larger pool of potential side effects.

  • Trouble breathing, including being unable to breathe
  • Being unusually tired or weak, sometimes being unable to move
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Frequent urination
  • Blood in urine or cloudy urine
  • Unusual heartbeat
  • Faintness or dizziness
  • Delusions
  • Sweating
  • Blurry vision
  • Unusual excitedness, nervousness, or restlessness
  • Addiction

At high doses, users often report what is called a K-hole. This is when a user is unable to move or talk and feels very far from their body.

Because of its ability to weaken a user, potentially completely paralyzing them and affecting memory, this drug is sometimes used as a date rape drug. If you choose to abuse ketamine, you could be an unwitting victim of abuse.

Certain people should not use ketamine, especially illicitly, as it can be especially dangerous to them. If you have any of the following health conditions, do not use ketamine without explicitly talking to a doctor. Use is especially unwise for those with the bolded conditions.

  • Glaucoma
  • Brain swelling
  • Brain lesion
  • Brain tumor
  • Alcohol addiction
  • Acute alcohol intoxication (also called alcohol poisoning)
  • Aneurysm
  • Coronary artery disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Thyroid disease
  • Chest pain
  • Mental illness

Can You Overdose on Ketamine?

Overdosing on ketamine is both possible and dangerous, with most of the danger coming as a result of the extreme end of already noted side effects. These are signs of an overdose:

  • Hyperthermia
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Bluish lips or skin
  • Inability to fully breathe
  • Loss of consciousness, fading in and out of consciousness (It can be very difficult to differentiate between ketamine’s anesthetic effect versus the user losing consciousness due to breathing trouble.)
  • Coma

Most people who overdose on ketamine survive, but it can be life-threatening. If you believe you or someone you know is overdosing on ketamine, call 911 right away.

Is There a Comedown?

Coming off ketamine after legitimate application, let alone after illicit use, can be a stressful experience. You should consider taking a day or two off work or school to properly handle the situation.

During the comedown period, you may notice the following:

  • It is difficult to make decisions.
  • You experience unusual clumsiness.
  • You feel disoriented and have difficulty remembering things.
  • Your body has unusual aches and pains.
  • An unusual depression or malaise comes over you.

During this comedown period, it is important to stay safe and remain hydrated.

Are There Health Risks of Long-Term Use?

In addition to potentially causing physical and psychological dependence, long-term ketamine use wears on the body. Ketamine abuse can cause bladder problems, kidney problems, stomach pain, and memory loss.

Exactly why long-term ketamine use affects the body in this way is not entirely understood. This damage tends to be reversible if a person who frequently uses ketamine illicitly can stop use.

At the same time, kidney problems are serious enough that they should signal to a person that they need to stop taking ketamine. Most people who chronically abuse the drug need help to stop use.

Where Can I Find Help for a Drug Problem?

If you struggle with any drug addiction, not just an addiction to ketamine, help is available. There is no shame in admitting you want help quitting ketamine, whether it is necessary for you or just welcome additional support.

Drug rehabilitation facilities can guide you through the process of quitting ketamine use, providing needed therapy and support to help you address your addiction. While relapse is also a risk in addiction recovery, those who get professional help are much less likely to relapse than those who “go it alone.”

If you’re not sure where to begin seeking help for any kind of problem with drugs, the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a confidential helpline to get people started at 1-800-662-4357. They also offer a treatment locator tool to find a treatment center near you. You can specify the type of treatment help you are looking for and see a listing of local results.

Look for facilities that provide evidence-based treatment. Most often, treatment programs will consist of individual therapy, group therapy, alternative therapies (like wilderness therapy or art therapy), and support group participation. Treatment should be tailored to each individual patient, and you should be reassessed throughout the treatment process to ensure that you are getting the desired results from your care.

Be wary of facilities that claim that 100 percent, or nearly 100 percent, of patients overcome addiction at their facility. While these claims can be exciting, they are usually unrealistic enough that data is being skewed in some way that most people would find dishonest.

Also, stay away from programs that promise to “cure” addiction. As a disease, addiction has no cure. It can be effectively managed for life, but there is no quick fix that will remove addiction from your life.

Once you’ve found a facility that is safe and legitimate, visit it and talk to the professionals there. Ask any questions you have about the practices of the facility, available therapies, and anything else you’re curious about.

After Treatment: An Ongoing Recovery Plan

While a treatment program will give you the foundation you need to build your life in recovery, your efforts don’t stop when you finish the program. Relapse is common in recovery, but an aftercare plan can lower the risk of relapse.

Most addiction treatment programs will help you create an aftercare plan once you are nearing the end of structured treatment for ketamine abuse. This plan will consist of healthy lifestyle practices that support your ability to stay sober. Your aftercare plan may include daily attendance at 12-step meetings, regular exercise, weekly visits with a therapist, and a good sleep schedule.

Look for ketamine abuse treatment programs that provide this kind of comprehensive support, helping you transition to each new phase of recovery. With ongoing help, you can effectively stop all use of ketamine and other substances of abuse, and embrace a balanced life in recovery.

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