Ketamine is a very appealing drug to many users. It’s a dissociative anesthetic, which means that it creates a sort of out-of-body experience to those who use it. Some describe it as a near-death experience, while others say that, after taking ketamine, they’ve never felt so at peace.
Is ketamine addictive? What are the dangers of ketamine, and what does it do to your body? Why is ketamine known as a party drug? Read on to learn more about ketamine.
Is Ketamine Addictive?
Ketamine is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance. This is the same classification as drugs like oxycodone, methadone and fentanyl, all of which are opiates or opioids. Ketamine actually does have some medicinal purpose: it’s been used as a sedative, though this practice is declining.
You may also be familiar with ketamine as a date rape drug. The substance is slipped into people’s drinks, which sedates them. The drug renders them literally unable to move.
Ketamine addiction is certainly possible. The drug causes the body to build a tolerance, and that may cause a physical dependence. The user will need more and more of the drug to get the same effect. It’s also possible to become psychologically addicted to ketamine.
How Common is Ketamine Addiction?
It’s uncommon for a user to become addicted to ketamine. That is to say, it’s much less likely to become addicted to ketamine than, for example, meth or heroin. However, as it’s possible to build a tolerance to the drug, drug-seeking behaviors may occur. Also, it’s possible to experience ketamine cravings.
It’s most common for people between the ages of 12 and 25 to become dependent on ketamine. This age group is most frequently admitted to the emergency department as well. It’s unclear why that statistic is true, but ketamine is widely known as a party drug, and teenagers and children are most susceptible to addiction and abuse than older adults.
Ketamine Effects (Positive)
Ketamine causes dependence because the effects of the drug on the user feel like positive ones. As mentioned, it causes a feeling like an out-of-body experience. A sort of delirium follows after taking the drug, and users say that the experience is, in a word, blissful. Like they’re detached from reality.
Some users say they experience a distorted sense of self and of time, making it a popular “escape drug” for those who use it. It can cause hallucinations, and can also cause vivid dreams. The illusions and dizziness heighten the effects of ketamine, which last about an hour.
Ketamine Side Effects
Unfortunately, as with most drugs, ketamine side effects can be negative as well. Nausea and vomiting are not uncommon. The dizziness caused by the drug can cause injury. Hypertension, an increased heart rate and blackouts are common with ketamine.
There are long term effects of ketamine, too. A majority of these are social – a user may experience decreased desire to involve himself with friends, and may withdraw entirely. Ketamine causes attention deficit disorder, and can impair a person’s memory. People who have used ketamine may also suffer flashbacks, similar to those who’ve abused LSD.
Ketamine Bladder Syndrome
One of the most common long-term side effects of ketamine use is ketamine bladder syndrome. It’s one of the most embarrassing as well. The side effect was first documented in 2007, so it’s a relatively new discovery. In short, those who abuse ketamine will notice that with continued use of the drug, they’ll experience a loss of control of the bladder.
Ketamine destroys the bladder. The drug causes the organ to stiffen and develop ulcers, and this causes serious problems for the ketamine user. He’ll begin to notice changes in the frequency of urination, his ability to control his bladder, and will usually start to see blood in his urine.
Help with Ketamine Bladder Syndrome
If you need help with ketamine bladder syndrome, the first step is to stop using ketamine. You can do this through an inpatient or an outpatient program; check with your doctor for a referral to a rehab provider.
There are drugs available to help you with ketamine bladder syndrome. The drugs include pentosan polysulfate, amitryptiline and hydroxyzine, and you’ll be prescribed these by your doctor or your rehab case worker.
Because the side effect has only recently come to light, researchers are still developing new ways of treating ketamine bladder syndrome. Your best option is to seek medical help immediately, before the side effect gets worse.
In addition to the side effects of ketamine on the body, there are other ketamine dangers. The flashbacks are one of the most important dangers, as they can affect you even years after your last use.
Impaired judgment is a danger of ketamine as well. That, combined with the confusion that ketamine causes can lead to very dangerous situations as well as poor decision making. Aggressive behavior and an insensitivity to pain are also very dangerous side effects of ketamine.
Of course, one of the most obvious dangers of ketamine is the danger to the date rape victim. Unfortunately, it’s usually impossible to tell that someone has been given ketamine until it’s too late.
Ketamine Abuse in the US
Ketamine is a party drug in the United States. It’s usually sold as a liquid or as a white or off-white powder. There are several street names for ketamine, including:
- Cat tranquilizer
- Special K
- Vitamin K
- Super K
- Kit Kat
Ketamine Abuse in the UK
In the UK, like in the US, ketamine is a club drug. And use of ketamine has been on the rise over the past decade. It’s estimated that there are more ketamine users in the UK than in the rest of Europe.
In 2015, a study was conducted, surveying 100,000 drug users. Of the UK citizens, over a quarter responded that they’d used ketamine in the past 12 months. Compare that to only 5% of United States respondents.
As with most drugs, ketamine overdose can be fatal. This is especially true if the drug is injected, because the effects take place almost immediately. Death by overdose isn’t common, but the side effects of too much ketamine are very dangerous.
A spike in blood pressure, chest pain and arrhythmia, paralysis and coma are common signs of ketamine overdose. If you suspect someone you know has overdosed on ketamine, call for an ambulance immediately. There is no drug to reverse the effects, but medical professionals will monitor the victim’s heart and breathing to try to prevent further danger.