Written by: Dale Conlon
Medically Reviewed by: Dr Mateen Durrani – MBBS, DPM, MSc, BCPsych
Last Updated: January 3rd, 2023
Ketamine addiction is a serious problem in the UK. While ketamine is sometimes prescribed as an anaesthetic or to help with depression, it is sometimes abused for its dissociative and hallucinogenic effects. Ketamine can be extremely addictive and can have a hugely negative impact on every aspect of a person’s health, life and relationships.
If you or a loved one is addicted to ketamine then it’s important to know the facts. Here, we discuss what ketamine is, how it’s abused and the signs of ketamine addiction. We will also dispel some of the common myths about this dangerous drug.
What is ketamine?
Ketamine is a class B drug that is approved only for use in medical settings as an anaesthetic. It can relieve pain and produce feelings of relaxation in humans and animals and works by disrupting communication between the brain and the body so that the person feels disconnected from their surroundings. The medicine is usually taken as a pill, or in liquid or powder form but it can also be injected.
Unfortunately, ketamine is often abused for its dissociative and hallucinogenic effects. When taken recreationally, it can cause out-of-body experiences, relaxation, hallucinations and a sense of detachment from reality. It can also make people feel euphoric and relaxed.
These effects are short-lived – typically lasting for thirty to sixty minutes – but can be much longer if the person takes a larger dose or mixes it with other drugs. People who abuse ketamine usually take it in powder or pill form, which they can snort, swallow or inject.
Routes to ketamine addiction
There are two main routes that can lead to ketamine addiction: legal and illegal.
The legal route is via prescriptions given by doctors for medical reasons. A person may be prescribed ketamine for pain relief or as an anaesthetic, for example, after an accident or surgery. However, a small number of people become addicted to ketamine even when taking it as prescribed.
The illegal route is via the purchase of ketamine on the street or online. Ketamine is often sold as a white powder, which can be snorted, swallowed or injected. It is also sometimes sold in liquid form, which can be used in e-cigarettes or mixed with drinks.
Why is ketamine addictive?
Whether obtained legally or illegally, ketamine can be highly addictive. Like all addictions, there are various factors that contribute to a person becoming addicted to ketamine.
Some may have an underlying mental health condition, such as anxiety or depression, which makes them more vulnerable to addiction. They may begin taking ketamine as a way of self-medicating or coping with their mental health condition. As they develop a tolerance to the drug, they may take larger and more frequent doses, which can lead to addiction.
Others may start taking ketamine recreationally without realising the potential risks. They may be curious about the drug’s effects, or peer pressure may play a role. Whatever the reason, once they start taking ketamine, they too can quickly become tolerant to its effects requiring higher doses. This then leads to dependence where they cannot stop taking the drug without experiencing unpleasant symptoms and, ultimately, a full-blown drug addiction.
How ketamine addiction can effect your health
Ketamine can cause:
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle stiffness
- Blacking out
- Dizziness and light-headedness
- Double vision
- Upset stomach
Other short-term or immediate effects of ketamine use include changes in perception of sound, time, surroundings, and body such as:
- Dream-like state
- Feelings of invulnerability
- Reduced awareness of the environment
- Impaired thinking
- Reduced pain perception
- Out-of-body experiences
Additionally, using high doses of ketamine can lead you into a “K-hole”, a hallucinogenic state often described as frightening or like a near-death experience. Allergic reaction to the substance is also possible and can result in severe consequences. Ketamine can also dramatically reduce heart rate which can be fatal if not immediately treated.
Other negative effects of ketamine addiction
Ketamine addiction is a mental health condition that causes people to go to extreme lengths to satisfy cravings, even if it means breaking the law or putting themselves in danger. They may lie, cheat or steal from those closest to them in order to get their hands on ketamine. This can cause a great deal of upset, anger and betrayal within families and friendships.
Ketamine addiction can also lead to financial problems as the person addicted to ketamine begins to spend more and more money on the drug. Performance at work and school can also suffer as you become less able to concentrate and focus on tasks.
Your social life may also suffer as your addiction takes over and you become more isolated from friends and family. You may find it difficult to keep up with previous hobbies or interests and you may start to neglect your personal appearance.
If you or someone you know is addicted to ketamine, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help you or your loved one overcome ketamine addiction.
Ketamine addiction in the UK
Government statistics show ketamine use is the highest ever recorded in the UK with most of the drugs being abused on the streets usually being stolen from veterinary clinics. Ketamine is often referred to as a party drug as abuse is particularly prevalent among teenagers and people in their twenties in nightclubs and at music festivals. For this reason, many of the people we treat who are addicted to ketamine are young people.
Am I addicted to ketamine?
An accurate way to look at addiction is as a cunning and manipulative voice that tries to convince you and the people around you that there is no problem. This enables addiction to isolate you and continue to have a hold on your life.
If you think you might be addicted to ketamine, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I take ketamine regularly, even if I don’t want to?
- Do I spend a lot of time thinking about ketamine or obtaining it?
- Has my use of ketamine led to problems or dishonesty with friends or family?
- Do I continue to use ketamine even though it’s causing me physical or psychological harm?
- Have I tried to quit using ketamine but been unsuccessful?
If you recognise any of these ketamine addiction signs, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. At Primrose Lodge, we have a team of experienced addiction professionals who can help you take the first steps on your road to recovery.
How to help a loved one who is addicted to ketamine
If your loved one is displaying any ketamine addiction signs, the most important thing you can do is avoid enabling them. This means not giving them money to buy ketamine or helping them to obtain it in any way. This can put further tension on what may already be a strained relationship but it’s important to remember that enabling them will only serve to perpetuate their ketamine addiction.
It’s also important to try and get your loved one to see how their addiction is impacting their life and the lives of those around them. They may be in denial about their addiction or unwilling to seek help but it’s important to keep trying.
If you have a loved one who is addicted to ketamine, contact us today and we’ll be happy to help you get the support and information you need.
Five important facts about ketamine
- Ketamine is a class B drug in the UK, which means it’s illegal to possess, supply or produce.
- Common street names for ketamine include K, Special K, Vitamin K and Horse.
- Ketamine is sometimes used as a date rape drug as it can cause memory loss and make people more compliant.
- While some studies show that ketamine may have a positive effect on conditions such as depression, these studies are in their early stages and are not universally agreed upon.
- Ketamine purchased on the street is sometimes cut with other substances, which can lead to dangerous and unpredictable effects.
How ketamine addiction can be overcome
The best way to overcome ketamine addiction and live a drug-free life is to enter an addiction treatment programme. Ketamine addiction is an extremely serious problem that often needs professional medical attention.
At Primrose Lodge, we provide evidence-based treatment methods that effectively treat drug abuse and addiction, and our caring team is equipped with the resources and experience to ensure your recovery and long-term abstinence. If you or your loved one needs urgent help, get in touch with us today to start your ketamine addiction treatment process.
Myths about ketamine
Ketamine is a “safe” drug because it’s sometimes used in medical setting…
False! Just because a drug is used in medical settings does not make it safe. Ketamine is a powerful and dangerous drug that should only be used under the supervision of a qualified medical professional.
Ketamine addiction is not as dangerous as other types of addiction…
False! Ketamine addiction is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition. It can lead to physical and psychological health problems as well as social and financial difficulties.
You can’t overdose on ketamine…
False! While it’s true that ketamine overdoses are relatively rare, they can and do occur. A ketamine overdose can lead to serious health problems or even death.