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Ketamine Signs, Symptoms, and Effects

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Ketamine abuse can have lasting detrimental effects and has even resulted in death. Ketamine is a type of dissociative drug, meaning it can distort reality and make you feel disconnected from yourself and your surroundings. Even producing hallucinations. Ketamine is an anesthetic that’s often legally used for treatment in humans and animals, but it is commonly abused by young adults and teens at dance clubs and raves and is considered a “club drug.”

Ketamine’s street names include:

  • Special K
  • Super K
  • Super Acid
  • Vitamin K
  • Purple
  • Kit Kat
  • Cat Valium
  • Jet K

Ketamine comes in a white or off-white powder or clear liquid. The powder is snorted or smoked, often in tobacco or marijuana cigarettes. In its liquid form, ketamine is either injected or mixed into drinks. Long-term ketamine use may impair your memory and cause depressive or delusional thinking. Ketamine is commonly taken with other substances. If used with high levels of alcohol or other depressants, it can cause respiratory distress or even death.

Many signs of ketamine addiction can be obvious, while others might be harder to notice. If you believe someone you know is abusing ketamine, it’s important to learn about the signs and symptoms.

ketamine side effects

Physical Signs of Ketamine Addiction

Physical changes can be some of the first noticeable differences in someone abusing drugs. The short-term physical signs of abuse can start to appear minutes after the drug is taken. The long-term physical signs will be present after extended ketamine abuse. Make sure to pay close attention if you notice these symptoms, as they could be signs of addiction.

Short-term physical signs of ketamine addiction include:

  • Dilated pupils
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Agitation
  • Raised blood pressure
  • Loss of coordination
  • Changes in processing of sights, sounds, shapes, and time
  • Being frequently distracted
  • Decreased ability to feel pain

Long-term physical signs of ketamine addiction include:

  • Kidney problems
  • Bladder pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Ulcers
  • Urinary tract problems

Self-Assessment: Am I Addicted?

Behavioral Signs of Ketamine Addiction

Drug abuse and addiction can severely impact your behavior. There are short and long-term effects of ketamine that can include symptoms ranging from changes in mood to changes in how you interact socially. It is important to pay attention to these signs in conjunction with the physical symptoms of ketamine abuse. Short-term behavioral signs of ketamine addiction include:

  • Withdrawing socially
  • Aggression
  • Disrupted sleep (insomnia)
  • Slurred speech Long-term behavioral signs of ketamine addiction include:
  • Continued use despite negative impact on work or health
  • Craving for the drug
  • Developing a tolerance (needing to take more to get the same effect)
  • Withdrawing from family or friends

Mental and Emotional Ketamine Side Effects

While the effects of long-term abuse of dissociative drugs are still being studied, there have been documented mental and emotional symptoms. For example, studies report that there can be long-term adverse effects on the brain, including impaired memory recall after extended abuse. There have also been reported long-term effects on mood.

Short-term mental and emotional ketamine addiction symptoms include:

  • Poor memory
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Hallucinations
  • Feeling detached from yourself or your environment
  • Anxious feelings

Long-term mental and emotional ketamine addiction symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Poor memory recall
  • Anxiety
  • Flashbacks

Other Features of Ketamine Addiction

There are a couple more things to keep in mind about the signs of Ketamine abuse. For example, there are several slang terms associated exclusively with experiences had during ketamine use, such as:

  • K-hole – An out-of-body, near-death experience, this experience can be terrifying for the user and can make them feel as if they are completely detached from their senses.
  • Baby food – A blissful and childlike experience
  • K-Land – A colorful and calm experience
  • God – Feeling as if the user has had a divine experience

If you have heard a loved one use these terms to describe an experience they had, they could be abusing ketamine.

Withdrawal Symptoms from Ketamine Addiction

The abuse of dissociative drugs, such as ketamine, can lead to dependency. This means your body becomes dependent on the substance and reacts negatively when the drug is no longer taken. If you experience symptoms once you are no longer taking ketamine, you could be experiencing withdrawal symptoms. Common withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Cravings for the drug
  • Shaking

Learn more about ketamine withdrawal here.

Don’t Wait Too Long to Get Help

Although the long-term adverse effects of dissociative drug use are still being studied, there have been reports of physical, emotional, and mental symptoms documented after long-term abuse. Also, while it is rare, there have also been documented deaths associated with ketamine abuse. With that in mind, it’s important to pay attention to changes in behavior and address those changes with your loved ones.

Talking to a loved one about suspected ketamine abuse can feel scary and daunting, but approaching them with care and without judgment can go a long way. They may be defensive when discussing the addiction, but explaining your concern and being knowledgeable about options for help can be beneficial. Keep in mind that those struggling with their addiction often go to great lengths to hide it, and being faced with it can be extremely difficult. So while it can be a challenging conversation to have, it can also lead to your loved one getting the help they need. It can be comforting to know what to expect if you or your loved one decide to seek treatment for an addiction. When seeking treatment for addiction, the first step is usually detoxification or detox. This is the process of removing drugs from the body, and it should ideally be done while managing withdrawal symptoms under the supervision of medical professionals.

After the detox process, the recommended next step is individual mental health counseling. In counseling, individuals learn about triggers for their substance abuse. They then learn about healthy coping strategies to use when exposed to these triggers. They’ll learn other helpful tools as well, like how to build a support system and how to avoid high-risk situations in sobriety. There are many different treatment options available. The option that is right for you or your loved one depends on the severity of the ketamine addiction. You can learn more about the different options here:

If you or a loved one is struggling with ketamine addiction and you would like more information, contact Footprints to Recovery treatment center. All calls are free and confidential. We’re happy to help you find the best option available for ketamine addiction treatment for you or your loved one.

Questions about treatment options?

Our admissions team is available 24/7 to listen to your story and help you get started with the next steps.

David Szarka
Medically Reviewed by David Szarka, MA, LCADC
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