Ketamine Addiction Treatment
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that can produce hallucinations and feelings of detachment 1,2. Ketamine is strictly controlled since it has the potential for abuse and addiction 1. Long-term ketamine abuse can lead to addiction, which is a chronic condition characterized by a compulsive drive to continue using despite harmful consequences.
Ketamine is often informally referred to as a “club drug,” similar to GHB and Ecstasy 1,2. It is also classified with hallucinogens, like mescaline, LSD, and PCP 2. Ketamine addiction can have negative mental and physical health effects, interfere with interpersonal and occupational functioning, and lead to overdose or death 1,2.
This article will discuss the following topics about ketamine:
- What is ketamine and how is it used?
- Treatment for ketamine addiction.
- Cost of ketamine addiction treatment.
- Paying for treatment.
- Signs and symptoms of ketamine addiction.
- Causes of addiction.
- Long-term effects of ketamine addiction.
- Finding a treatment center.
What is Ketamine and How is it Used?
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Ketamine has been used for years as an induction agent prior to surgical procedures. It continues to be commonly used in veterinary medicine, also as an anesthetic agent. Despite its undisputed utility in the operating room, it is often abused for the dissociative and hallucinogenic effects that it causes 1. Ketamine found on the street is often diverted from veterinary practices.
Recreational use of ketamine occurs in a variety of ways, such as snorting, smoking, taking pills, mixing the liquid in drinks, or injecting the drug 1,2. It is commonly combined with other illicit substances, such as cocaine, methamphetamine, or MDMA 2. There have been reported cases of ketamine being used as a date rape drug due to its depressant and amnesic properties 1.
Ketamine works by altering the functioning of certain brain receptors and their associated neurotransmitter systems—temporarily changing the way that these chemical messengers in the brain function. In research settings, animals have self-administered ketamine, demonstrating the drug’s reinforcing effects 3.
Treatment for Ketamine Addiction
Addiction can be isolating, and treatment provides an opportunity for patients to re-learn how to socialize appropriately.
Ketamine addiction can be successfully treated and individuals in recovery can live sober, happy, and productive lives. While it is possible to quit using ketamine without professional help, participating in treatment can facilitate the recovery process in a variety of ways, helping individuals maintain long-term sobriety. Some of these benefits of attending formal addiction treatment can include:
- Therapy: Addiction treatment facilities use therapeutic techniques to help patients overcome addiction. Therapy often takes place in both individual and group settings, which both promote healing and recovery. Therapy sessions often provide patients with relapse prevention techniques, such as healthy coping skills, and peer support to overcome challenges faced in early recovery.
- Medication: There is no current FDA-approved medication for the treatment of ketamine addiction, but if any underlying mental health issues, such as schizophrenia, are present, medication can be provided to treat that condition.
- Structure: Addiction treatment facilities provide a structured routine that is often lacking in the lives of individuals who struggle with ketamine addiction.
- Support: Addiction treatment facilities also provide support to those in treatment. The treatment team and fellow patients are both invaluable sources of support during recovery. Addiction can be isolating, and treatment provides an opportunity for patients to re-learn how to socialize appropriately.
- Medical care: Most addiction treatment facilities have medical staff available to patients. Addiction can have detrimental effects on a person’s physical health. Medical care is essential in treatment to counteract any medical conditions that contribute to or were caused by the addiction.
- Addressing underlying mental health issues: Psychological care can be a very important benefit of treatment. In 2014, nearly 8 million American adults met the criteria for both a substance use disorder and co-occurring mental illness 4. For these individuals in particular – a group of people said to carry a ‘dual diagnosis’ – specialized mental health intervention can help manage both conditions.
Ketamine addiction is different for everyone, and a variety of treatment options exist. This doesn’t mean that any specific type is better than another, rather it allows treatment facilities to tailor their methods to the needs and beliefs of each individual patient. Some of the addiction treatment types available include:
- Detox: Provides a safe, medically supervised environment where individuals can comfortably withdraw from ketamine. Medical staff is on hand at all times to ensure the safety and wellbeing of individuals in withdrawal. In order to overcome ketamine addiction, detox should be followed up by additional treatment 5.
- Inpatient treatment: Provides a strongly structured setting, where individual and group therapy sessions are conducted, and peer support is emphasized to help individuals learn how to live in sobriety. Some facilities incorporate self-help meetings into the treatment process as well.
- Outpatient treatment: Allows individuals to focus on getting treatment while living at home and attending to daily responsibilities at work, school, or home. Outpatient treatment may utilize any combination of group and individual therapy sessions and may also include random drug testing to help individuals stay sober. Many outpatient programs will also encourage participation in self-help meetings to support the recovery process and assist in the development of a sober support network.
- Luxury treatment: Usually located in private, beautiful locations. The higher cost of treatment in these facilities allows them to utilize cutting-edge treatment strategies, highly individualized treatment plans, additional specialized staff, desirable amenities, and private rooms to facilitate the treatment process.
- Executive treatment: Meets the needs of business executives in treatment. This type of facility offers access to computers and telephones so that business executives can still manage their work duties while recovering from ketamine addiction. Some facilities also offer additional luxury amenities to make the treatment process more enjoyable.
- 12-step programs: Can be incorporated into treatment programs or attended as separate meetings. The 12 steps are based on those of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and tend to have a more spiritual focus. Many people in recovery find the supportive and encouraging environment to be helpful in facilitating long-term sobriety.
- Holistic treatment: Utilizes a whole-person approach to addiction treatment, aiming to heal the mind, body, and spirit. Therapeutic techniques can include acupuncture, biofeedback, hypnosis, exercise, yoga, nutrition, and meditation to help patients live a sober life.
- Population-specific treatment: Some populations may have more specific treatment needs than others and there are treatment centers that specialize in addressing the unique challenges of these populations. Examples include LGBTQ, teens, veterans, men-only, and women-only.
Price of Ketamine Recovery Programs
The cost of ketamine addiction treatment can vary widely depending on several factors, such as:
- The specific type of treatment chosen.
- The length of the treatment program.
- The amenities that are offered.
- The location of the facility.
- Your individual insurance policy.
If you have insurance, call your insurance company to discuss the specifics of your plan and the various treatment options that are covered by it.
Paying for Treatment
Even if you don’t have insurance, there are still many different ways in which you can finance ketamine addiction treatment. Some financing options include:
- Sliding scale fees based on income or financial status.
- Payment plans that allow you to pay off the cost of treatment in affordable, monthly installments.
- Borrowing money from friends and family so that you can get the help you need.
- Crowdfunding campaigns, such as GoFundMe, can help utilize social media to solicit donations towards the cost of treatment.
- Relying on savings or credit cards. This can help pay for treatment, and while it may set you back, nothing is more important than your health, happiness, and sobriety.
Signs and Symptoms of Ketamine Addiction
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If you observe any of these warning signs in yourself or a loved one , call our helpline at 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? . Recovery support specialists can help you learn more about ketamine addiction treatment options.
Ketamine addiction has various warning signs and symptoms to be watchful for. These can include behavioral, physical, and psychological signs of addiction. Some of the behavioral signs and symptoms to look for include 7:
- Using ketamine for a longer period of time than originally intended, or using larger amounts than planned.
- Making unsuccessful attempts at cutting back or stopping use of ketamine.
- Spending large amounts of time getting, using, and recovering from the effects of ketamine.
- Continuing to use ketamine despite impaired ability to function at work, school, or home.
- Continuing to use ketamine even after experiencing negative consequences, such as problems with relationships, physical problems, or mental health issues.
- Using ketamine in situations where it could be physically dangerous, such as driving.
- Giving up hobbies or social activities to use ketamine.
- Isolating from family or friends.
- Engaging in secretive behaviors.
- Reacting defensively when confronted about ketamine use.
- Displaying violent or aggressive behavior.
Physical and psychological warning signs of ketamine abuse and addiction can include 1,2,3,7,12:
- Strong cravings to use ketamine.
- Tolerance, or requiring increased doses of ketamine to elicit desired effects.
- Withdrawal symptoms with cessation of use. These may include depression, excessive sleep, and increased appetite.
- Unresponsiveness to stimuli.
- Involuntary eye movements.
- Excessive salivation and tearing.
- Coordination problems.
- Muscle weakness and stiffening.
- Impaired vision.
- Rapid heart rate.
- Slurred speech.
Many people who abuse ketamine describe a specific type of ketamine “trip” as a “K-hole.” A “K-hole” is typically characterized by profound sedation and an out-of-body or near-death experience 1,2.
Causes of Ketamine Addiction
Ketamine addiction is not caused by one specific factor. Rather, addiction is influenced by many different variables or risk factors, such as:
- Genes: Addiction tends to run in families, but not all individuals who have a genetic predisposition develop an addiction 8. There are many external factors that interact with genes to lead to addiction. The heritability rate for addiction to a hallucinogen, such as ketamine, is about 0.4, which means that 40% of the addiction can be attributed to DNA 8.
- Environment: Certain factors within the environment increase the risk of developing an addiction, such as high levels of stress, poverty, lack of parental involvement, easy access to substances, and peers or family members who use or condone use of substances can raise the risk of developing an addiction to ketamine 9.
- Adverse childhood experiences: Traumatic events during childhood, such as abuse, neglect, or witnessing violence can substantially increase the risk of developing a future addiction 10.
- Mental Health: Those with mental health disorders are much more likely to develop an addiction. About half of all individuals with a substance use disorder also suffer from a co-occurring mental health condition 11.
Not everyone with these risk factors will develop an addiction. There are many protective factors, such as strong impulse control skills, academic success, involvement in extracurricular activities, strong community attachment, anti-drug policies at school, parental monitoring, a strong family bond, supportive and attentive parents, and enforced discipline can all help to prevent drug abuse and addiction 9.
Long-term Effects of Ketamine Abuse
Addiction is known to be a chronic, progressive condition, meaning that it progresses gradually through stages and tends to worsen without treatment or intervention. Ketamine addiction can have negative consequences on the physical and mental health of the user, and cause significant distress in the user’s life.
Although there is limited research pertaining to the long-term effects of ketamine abuse, some studies have revealed the following potential effects of chronic ketamine use 1,2,3,12:
- Flashbacks, even weeks after use.
- Neurotoxicity, or damage to nervous tissue.
- Stomach pain.
- Increased risk of death due to overdose.
- Bladder issues, such as ulcers and pain.
- Kidney complications.
- Memory and cognitive impairment.
- Perforated nasal septum or bleeding nasal mucosa due to intranasal use.
- Track lines, collapsed veins, abscesses, and increased risk of contracting HIV or hepatitis due to intravenous use or possible sexual assault.
Addiction is also associated with a number of general consequences, such as:
- Child abuse or neglect.
- Failure to meet responsibilities at home.
- Financial difficulties.
- Legal trouble.
- Loss of employment.
- Medical issues.
- Poor performance at work or school.
- Psychiatric issues.
- Relationship troubles, including loss of close friends or divorce.
Find Treatment Today
If you or a loved one suffers from a ketamine addiction, please call our confidential helpline at 1-888-439-3435 Who Answers? . Addiction support specialists can help you learn more about the addiction treatment options available, and help you choose the best possible rehab for your needs.
- Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Ketamine.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug fact sheet: Ketamine.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006). Physical detoxification services for withdrawal from specific substances.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016). Co-occurring disorders.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (3rd edition).
- Narcotics Anonymous. (1998). Institutional group guide.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- Bevilacqua, L., & Goldman, D. (2009). Genes and addictions. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 85(4), 359–361.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2003). Preventing drug use among children and adolescents.
- Dube, S.R., Felitti, V.J., Dong, M., Chapman, D.P., Giles, W.H., & Anda, R.F. (2003). Childhood abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction and the risk of illicit drug use: The adverse childhood experiences study. Pediatrics, 111(3).
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2010). Comorbidity: Addiction and other mental illnesses.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Commonly abused drugs charts.