Ketamine is an anesthetic drug, developed and used for pain management during Vietnam. Since then, it’s moved into use as a recreational drug, popular for clubs and raves, used to boost the effect of other drugs, and, more and more often, even used by people trying to self-medicate to get off another drug.
In addition, ketamine is increasingly used by people trying to cure depression and anxiety, following studies showing positive results in clinical trials using the drug to treat depression. In fact, following the 2019 FDA approval of a nasal spray ketamine product, ketamine usage peaked at 0.9% of the population.
What that means is that non-supervised usage of the drug is at an all-time high, meaning increases in ketamine related seizures, increases in poisonings, and increased hospital visits. While many people treat ketamine as a safe drug because it has a low addiction profile, the drug is still dangerous and can cause temporary paralysis, significant withdrawal symptoms, and seizures. Understanding Ketamine and how it works should help you to make good decisions for your or your loved one’s health.
History of Ketamine
Ketamine was first developed in 1962 by chemist Calvin L. Stevens and published in a paper in 1966. After short human trials, including tests on prisoners, the drug was approved by the FDA in 1970 and shipped to Vietnam. There, the “dissociative anesthesia” proved critical in providing a new supply of anesthesia. With fewer major side effects and no severe emergence of delirium as was the case with the leading anesthesia of the time, phencyclidine (PCP), ketamine was rushed through trials. After the war Ketamine continued to grow in popularity, as an injectable, short-acting anesthesia for both humans and animals. That remains true today, although the largest use of ketamine is by veterinarians.
At the same time, Ketamine started growing in popularity as a club drug. Its short highs including visual hallucinations, audio hallucinations, feelings of disconnection, and feelings of euphoria are popular for people who just want to let go and lose control. And, with a duration of 30-60 minutes instead of the several hour trips of LSD and PCP, it’s often a safer and more controllable choice.
In 2019, following extensive research, the drug was also approved for short-term and emergency treatment for depression. Spravato is a nasal spray containing the S(+) enantiomer of ketamine approved by the FDA for treating depression. Since then, more and more people have attempted to use ketamine to self-medicate and treat depression with ketamine on their own – although those people still make up a statistically small percentage of the population.
How is Ketamine Used?
Ketamine is available as a powder or a liquid in recreational settings. Here, the powder is normally snorted or smoked in pipes or in cigarettes or even joints. The liquid version is normally swallowed as-is, injected, or mixed into drinks – sometimes with alcohol.
In medical settings, ketamine is normally available as an injectable liquid, dosed for human or veterinary usage. In addition, the Spravato product is a nasal spray, which is available with a prescription.
People using ketamine normally start to experience effects within about 10 minutes, with spikes in blood pressure and heart rate over the next 20-30 minutes, after which they start to return to normal. The “high” lasts for 30-60 minutes depending on body weight, dose, and sensitivity.
What is Using Ketamine Like?
For many people, ketamine is about losing control, disassociating, and losing connection with the real world. People have widely varied results from the drug, ranging from an explosion of colors and sound with euphoria to temporary paralysis and fear of feelings of death. Out of body experiences, inability to move, and feeling as though you’ve met a higher spiritual being are all common experiences for ketamine users.
Here, many people experience mental and physical effects, with euphoria and increased sensitivity brought on by increased blood pressure and heart rate. That can result in real physical danger, as persons with cardiovascular problems may experience a heart attack and people very often risk respiratory depression with high doses.
In high doses, ketamine can also cause poisoning, temporary paralysis, and seizures. Temporary paralysis is often a reason to go to the hospital, because users are aware and able to experience everything around them even when paralyzed. This causes panic, increasing risks of cardiovascular issues (heart attack or heart strain) and choking.
Ready to Start A New Life?
Our hands-on approach, compassionate staff, and home-like environment are here for you. Call us today.
Self-Medicating with Ketamine
Ketamine has increasingly been popularized as a potential anti-depressant, and while the studies which show its possible use as an antidepressant have not yet made it through FDA testing, many people choose to use the drug to self-medicate. Here, ketamine presents a high risk, because users who are self-medicating are not doing so with doctor’s supervision and may be at risk of overdose, drug toxification through taking ketamine cut with other substances, and increased risk of suicidal ideation, panic attacks and other problems relating to not taking medication proven to help and regulated to a dose that would help.
Self-medicating without supervision also results in a high rate of drug abuse and addiction, because users often increase their dose as tolerance increases. When an original dose no longer has the same effect, they take more – which becomes a negative cycle leading to true chemical dependence and problematic drug-seeking behavior.
Symptoms of Ketamine Use
Persons who are high on ketamine act high, disassociated, and out of it. But they also experience significant long-term effects. For example, someone who habitually uses might show increased depression, impaired cognition, might be prone to nausea and vomiting, might show consistently worse memory problems, etc.
In addition, people who use ketamine are vulnerable to Persistent Hallucination Disorder, in which the flashbacks of visual hallucinations can reoccur for up to months following hallucinogenic use.
- Persistent issues with abdominal pain/digestion
- Urinary issues including infrequent urination, blood in urine, loss of bladder control, or ulcers
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unexplained lethargy
- Numbness/not reacting to pain
- Skin rashes
- Reduced coordination
- Slurring or impaired speech
Of course, many of these symptoms only occur with prolonged and heavy use. This means that they’re as much a symptom of ketamine abuse as of ketamine use. Anyone showing these symptoms will likely experience withdrawal symptoms if they stop using.
In addition, a small percentage of people will also start to show signs of addiction. This includes seeking behavior, where they habitually prioritize the drug over other responsibilities or activities, their personality changes, and they spend a significant amount of time and energy acquiring and using the drug, even if it means lying, stealing, or breaking the law to do so.
If you or a loved one is using Ketamine, there is help. Ketamine has a relatively low addiction profile, which means that it isn’t as habit forming as many other drugs, but it is still addictive. You can still develop an addiction by using ketamine, you can still experience withdrawal, and you might still feel incredibly sick every time you put it down. In addition, ketamine causes major disruptions to your mental health, quitting it without getting help might mean experiencing traumatic and even dangerous withdrawal.
A detox and treatment program will help you to go through withdrawal safely and will follow that up with behavioral therapy, counseling, and treatment to help you understand the underlying causes of drug abuse, to undo the harm caused by the drug, and to gain the tools you need to recover.