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Ketamine Addiction | Warning Signs, Side Effects, & Treatment

Published on October 6, 2021
Ketamine Addiction | Warning Signs, Side Effects, & Treatment

Ketamine is an anesthetic drug used to sedate humans and animals. It’s also been found effective for severe pain relief in some cases.

Many people abuse ketamine at nightclubs and raves to distort the senses and create a more intense experience. Like other “club drugs,” such as LSD (acid) and MDMA (ecstasy), ketamine can change the way you perceive colors, sounds, and time. It may also make you feel relaxed and euphoric.

In high doses, ketamine can cause hallucinations and dissociation (a feeling of detachment from your body). Ketamine abuse has been on the rise for the last decade and has led many people to become addicted and experience negative long-term effects.

Warning Signs Of Ketamine Addiction 

Ketamine is a Schedule III controlled substance, monitored closely because of its abuse and addiction potential. It has a quick onset and its effects don’t last long, which makes it desirable as a party drug.

Unfortunately, the short duration leads some people to take multiple doses of ketamine for a continued effect. Taking ketamine recreationally—especially in high amounts—raises your chance of becoming addicted to it. 

Warning signs of ketamine addiction include:

  • taking ketamine more often or at higher doses than intended
  • an inability to cut back on ketamine use
  • depending on ketamine to boost your social experience
  • often seeming sedated or disconnected from reality
  • pulling away from family and friends
  • difficulty at work or school because of ketamine use
  • experiencing side effects from excessive ketamine use

How Ketamine Is Abused

Ketamine comes as a white powder or clear liquid and may be kept in small bags or glass vials. If someone is addicted to ketamine, they might use rolled paper to snort (insufflate) it or syringes to inject it. They might also smoke ketamine by adding the powder to regular cigarettes.

Some street names for ketamine are K, Special K, vitamin K, and ket. If someone uses these terms to talk about ketamine, they are likely abusing it and may be suffering from addiction.

Ketamine Addiction Side Effects

Ketamine side effects can occur even with a doctor’s guidance. But you’re much more likely to have side effects from excessive use and abuse, especially if you take it in high doses.

Ketamine addiction side effects may be:

  • sedation
  • confusion
  • memory loss
  • attention or learning problems
  • psychosis
  • hallucinations
  • high blood pressure
  • respiratory depression
  • loss of consciousness

Some of these side effects can continue to impact you even if you stop using ketamine. Amnesia (memory loss) may be permanent, so you may never remember some of the things that happened while you were taking the drug.

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) occurs in some people who abuse ketamine. This condition produces adverse side effects from ketamine for weeks after you take it.

Can You Overdose On Ketamine?

You can overdose on ketamine by taking too much, which may result in dangerously repressed breathing and loss of consciousness.

Other signs of a ketamine overdose include:

  • high blood pressure
  • slow heart rate
  • heart attack
  • stupor (feeling dazed)
  • seizure
  • coma

Learn more about Ketamine Overdose


It’s possible to experience a mild hallucinogenic and dissociative effect when taking ketamine, called “K-land.” But sometimes—especially if you take a high dose—you might have an intense, mind-altering episode, referred to as the “K-hole.” 

The “K-hole” is marked by severe disconnection from reality. Some people enter an alternate life, in which they may have family or friends that don’t exist. Others feel like they’re on the verge of death. 

To learn more, read K-Hole | Meaning, Experiences, & Effects

Long-Term Effects Of Ketamine Abuse

Abusing ketamine for a long time can have irreversible effects on your mind. It may cause memory problems, brain damage, and depression.

Long-term effects of ketamine abuse may also be physical, such as ulcers, kidney problems, and pain in the stomach or bladder. Ulcerative cystitis (inflammation and irritation of the lower urinary tract) has been linked with ketamine use.

Ketamine Withdrawal

Research is limited on whether you can become physically dependent on ketamine. However, some people have reported withdrawal symptoms such as shaking, sweating, and heart palpitations when they stopped taking the drug.

You can build a tolerance to ketamine if you take it regularly. Over time, your body will adjust, and you’ll need a higher dose to have the same effect. This can make your brain dependent on ketamine (addicted to it).

If you stop using ketamine, you may experience psychological withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and cravings.

Learn more about Ketamine Withdrawal

Ketamine Addiction Treatment

Ketamine addiction treatment may begin with medically supervised detox to help you get the drug out of your system safely. This type of detox consists of monitoring your vital signs in an inpatient medical setting as you go through the withdrawal process.

Treatment for ketamine addiction should include a variety of therapies that target the root of substance abuse and help you live a healthy life. It may take place at an inpatient or outpatient treatment center, depending on your situation. 

A personalized treatment program based on your unique needs is the most effective way to go.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is generally the foundation for ketamine addiction treatment. Treatment may also include evidence-based and experiential methods like group therapy, individual counseling, yoga, and meditation.

To learn more about ketamine addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, contact an Ark Behavioral Health treatment specialist today.

Ketamine FAQs

How Long Does Ketamine Stay In Your System?

Most of a standard ketamine dose is out of your system after a day, but its metabolites can be found in your urine for up to 2 weeks. Ketamine detection time depends on the type of drug testing as well as many personal factors—such as age, health, and genetics. 

To learn more, read How Long Does Ketamine Stay In Your System?

What Is Ketamine Called On The Street?

The most popular name of Ketamine bought/sold on the street is Special K. Other names ketamine include Cat Food, Jet K, Kit Kat, and Super C.

Learn more about Ketamine Street Names

What Is A Ketamine Clinic?

Ketamine clinics are becoming popular in treating neuropathic pain, major depressive disorder, and mood disorders. A ketamine clinic is generally a last resort after other treatment options have failed. 

A ketamine clinic provides intravenous infusions of ketamine at low doses usually weekly or monthly. Although ketamine clinics are gaining popularity, ketamine also poses a risk for long-term health effects, dependence, and addiction. 

Learn more about Ketamine Treatment Centers

Can You Smoke Ketamine?

Yes, you can smoke ketamine. Smoking ketamine can increase your chances of adverse effects, including long-term physical and mental health problems. 

Learn more about Smoking Ketamine

Can You Snort Ketamine?

When used as an illicit drug, ketamine is generally snorted (nasal insufflation) rather than injected or orally consumed. However, this process is very hard on the delicate tissues of the nasal cavity and can cause irritation and serious long-term side effects.

Learn more about Snorting Ketamine

Can Ketamine Cause Brain Damage?

Ketamine is a hallucinogenic drug that can cause disassociation and other effects on the brain. Short-term effects on the brain may include disorientation, confusion, and hallucinations. 

After long-term use, ketamine may cause severe damage to several areas of the brain. Frequent use of high doses may lead to memory loss and depression. Ketamine may also affect cognitive and motor function, emotion, and learning. 

Learn more about How Ketamine Affects The Brain

Is Ketamine Legal?

Ketamine is a legal substance when used in a medical setting as an anesthetic or as a treatment for severe depression and other mental health disorders. It is not legal to possess otherwise, and is a Schedule III controlled substance. 

Learn more about The Legal Status Of Ketamine

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
This page does not provide medical advice.

Drug Enforcement Administration - Ketamine
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Ketamine Toxicity
National Institute on Drug Abuse - Commonly Used Drug Charts: Ketamine
ResearchGate - Ketamine use: A review

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