What is Ketamine? Special K Drug Symptoms and Effects

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Published in Drug Addiction, Drug Facts

Ketamine is a drug sold for recreational use, for “alternative medicine”, and for people who want to use it to replace amphetamines and cocaine. The drug, which causes euphoria and feelings of power and energy, much like amphetamines, is thought to be a safe alternative to other drugs. However, like other drugs, Ketamine or “special K” has its own problems and side effects – meaning it’s important to use the drug with caution.

If you or a loved one is using ketamine or considering doing so, it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor. In most cases, if you’re taking medication for any reason that is not a medical prescription, you’re abusing drugs – and Ketamine is no different.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine was developed during the 1960s as an anesthetic, where it was first used during the Vietnam War. At the time, it was hoped that the drug would provide a safer alternative to opioids, which have a high addiction profile – making them dangerous to use in the field. However, it was quickly noticed that ketamine has a high side-effect profile. Soldiers receiving the drug suffered hallucinations, a high risk of temporary paralysis, and would often act “high” and euphoric. The drug was removed from medical use for humans but remains in use for animals in veterinary applications today.

By the 1970s, ketamine had become a popular party or rave drug. Its effects, which include hallucinations (mostly auditory), euphoria, and feelings of power are popular among those looking to have a good time.

But, Ketamine was classified as a Schedule II drug in the 1971 Controlled Substances Act. It was listed as equally as dangerous to opioids, amphetamines, and cocaine.

Today, many people question this classification. After all, Ketamine has a much lower addiction profile than other Schedule II drugs. There’s also plenty of research into using Ketamine for medical purposes other than anesthesia. However, that doesn’t make the drug safe to use.

Ketamine Effects

Ketamine takes effect 4-30 minutes after administration and then lasts for another 4-30 minutes. In most cases, it’s taken with an injection, via a pill, or snorted in powder form. Some people also mix powder with water and drink it. Here, the duration of effect depends on how it’s taken. However, users always experience the same range of effects. In most cases, these include:

  • Euphoria
  • Feelings of power
  • Feelings of togetherness or comradeship
  • Disassociation
  • Audio and visual hallucinations
  • Disorientation
  • Respiratory depression
  • Impaired motor controls (like with alcohol)
  • Impaired cognition (like with alcohol)
  • Temporary paralysis while being fully awake and able to move. This leads to rare incidences of ketamine being used as a date rape drug.

In most cases, these effects wear off very quickly. For that reason, many people using ketamine will take multiple doses over the course of a night. However, because ketamine

photo of a forgetful manSymptoms of Ketamine Use

Ketamine has a low addiction profile; however, it does have many long-term symptoms and side-effects. For example, people who use ketamine regularly will experience memory gaps, frequent gastrointestinal problems, and mood swings.

These include:

  • Problems creating new memories
  • Problems accessing old memories
  • Verbal memory problems such as forgetting names, words, and conversations
  • Decreased sociability/ decreased enjoyment from spending time with friends and family
  • Increased difficulty maintaining attention
  • Problem urinating or blood in the urine
  • Ulcerative cystitis

Ketamine is strongly associated with ulcerative cystitis, a painful bladder condition in which you develop cysts in the bladder lining. This can result in blood, pain when urinating, difficulty urinating, and blood in the urine. If you experience any of these symptoms while taking ketamine, see a doctor immediately.

Long-term physical damage normally only happens with consistent abuse of ketamine. However, it can result in nutritional deficiencies, abdominal pain, gastrointestinal problems, and many other issues.

Ketamine and Addiction

Ketamine has a low addiction profile. This means that it is unlikely for someone to become addicted. However, that does not mean impossible. Thousands of people become addicted to ketamine every year – showing the same behavioral addiction and seeking behavior patterns as those addicted to other drugs. Ketamine addiction can be difficult to spot without knowing that someone is using, however you will always see seeking behavior.

  • Using, even when they express desire to stop
  • Using in situations that could be problematic, such as at work or before driving
  • Trying to stop and failing
  • Acknowledging that ketamine has a negative effect on their life yet failing to stop
  • Physical symptoms such as inconvenience, consistent insomnia, or rashes
  • Hiding how much they are using

If someone is trying to stop and can’t, they have a problem. If someone is using in situations outside of safe recreation, they have a problem. Further, ketamine is a controlled drug, taking it puts them at risk of legal action at best. Therefore, using ketamine always knowingly puts you at risk. If you combine that with frequent usage, with alcohol, or with operating motor vehicles, chances are, you have a problem.

Withdrawing from Ketamine

While Ketamine has a low addiction profile, it does cause chemical dependence and tolerance. Fortunately, this process is slower with some other drugs like amphetamines. In most cases, individuals who take a single, controlled dose for self-medication purposes won’t experience too much of an increase in tolerance.

However, chemical dependence means that you will feel bad when quitting the drug. It also means you’ll normally experience cravings and withdrawal symptoms after quitting. In most cases, ketamine has an onset of 24-72 hours for withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can last for up to 2 months without treatment – however, with management, it typically lasts for a few weeks at most.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Cold and flu symptoms
  • General malaise
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Heart palpitations
  • Fatigue or lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea or vomiting
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • Nightmares or restless sleep
  • Panic attacks or anxiety attacks
  • Decreased mood
  • Difficulty eating / no appetite

Going “cold turkey” on ketamine can also result in feelings of emotional blunting or feelings of nothingness. This is similar to quitting other “uppers” like amphetamines. Here, it’s important to make sure you are in a detox program or have friends and family around you, because it puts you at greatly increased likelihood of suicidal ideation.

Getting Help

Moving on from drugs like ketamine can be difficult even without an addiction. For example, most people start using drugs of this type to deal with other addictions. You might also do so because there’s something wrong in your life. Ketamine is very often used for self-medication. Getting better means seeking out treatment for those underlying problems so that you can move forward with the tools to deal with life, stress, and coping mechanisms.

Ketamine is often thought of as safe, easy to use, and an alternative to other addictive drugs. But it has negative side-effects, causes significant harm to physical and mental health, and can cause addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling, there is help.

Contact Us at Sheer Recovery at 1-888-979-7703 and speak with one of our experienced treatment team today in complete confidence about any questions you have on rehab, or about our Top-Rated Southern California Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center.


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