Is Ketamine Addictive?

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If you’ve been reading the recent news articles about ketamine, you may have questions. For example, is ketamine a beneficial medicine, a dangerous club drug, or both? Is it ever safe to use? Is ketamine addictive? What happens if you overdose? 

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a powerful drug that is classified as a dissociative anesthetic. 

The drug’s pain-blocking properties have made ketamine valuable to both doctors and veterinarians. It has been on the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines List since the 1980s, and more recent research has revealed that it may be helpful for people who have treatment-resistant depression.

Unfortunately, the dissociative effects that a person can experience when they take ketamine has also made it a popular substance of abuse.

Is Ketamine Addictive?

As is the often case with strong drugs, people who use or abuse ketamine may wonder, is ketamine addictive?

The likelihood that someone will become addicted to ketamine can vary depending on how they use the drug:

  • When a person receives ketamine from a qualified professional for a legitimate medical purpose, they can use it safely and with minimal danger of significant negative outcomes, including addiction. 
  • When a person misuses the drug in an attempt to self-medicate, or abuses the drug for recreational purposes, the many risks of this behavior include developing ketamine addiction.

If a person struggles with ketamine use disorder (which is the clinical term for ketamine addiction), they may exhibit signs and symptoms such as:

  • Intense urges to use ketamine
  • Missing school, work, or other important responsibilities due to ketamine use
  • Using ketamine in clearly hazardous ways, such as in combination with alcohol and other drugs
  • Taking larger doses of the drug or using it more often than intended
  • Spending significant amounts of time thinking about, acquiring, and using ketamine
  • Needing to use greater amounts of ketamine to experience the effects they desire
  • Becoming agitated or irritated when they can’t acquire or use ketamine
  • Trying to stop using ketamine, but being unable to do so

Someone who shows signs of ketamine addiction should be assessed by a professional who can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options. Ketamine addiction is a treatable condition. When a person gets the right type and level of care, they can overcome the compulsion to continue using this drug.

Can You Overdose on Ketamine?

In addition to asking “Is ketamine addictive?” many people also wonder if this drug poses a risk for overdose.

As noted in an April 2022 StatPearls article on the website of the National Library of Medicine, ketamine overdoses are rare, but they do occur. This article reported that ketamine overdose can lead to the following respiratory, cardiovascular, and neurological symptoms:

  • Slow, shallow, and/or stopped breathing
  • Slowed heart rate and blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Heart attack
  • Seizure
  • Coma
  • Death

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?

The amount of time that it takes to experience the effects of ketamine and the length of time the drug remains in your system can be influenced by several factors.

Let’s start with the onset of ketamine’s effects:

  • When ketamine is delivered via intravenous injection, which is how it is typically provided prior to surgery or during treatment sessions for depression, you will typically feel the effects within about 60 seconds.
  • If a person abuses ketamine by snorting it, they will usually begin to experience the hallucinogenic or dissociative effects within about 15 minutes.
  • When someone takes ketamine orally in tablet or capsule form, the effects often begin to become apparent after about 30 minutes.

Once they have set in, ketamine’s effects typically last about 60 minutes. However, the drug will remain in a person’s system for longer than that. The exact amount of time it takes a body to eliminate all traces of ketamine can vary depending on the person’s age, weight, and overall health. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of how long ketamine remains in your system:

  • Ketamine has a half-life of about 45 minutes. The standard way to determine how long it takes to eliminate a substance from the body is to multiply the half-life by four or five. Using this formula, you can expect ketamine to remain in your system for three to four hours.
  • Even though ketamine may be eliminated from your system within four hours of your last dose, it will be detectable by drug screens for longer periods of time. 
  • You may test positive for ketamine on a saliva test up to 24 hours after taking the drug.
  • Ketamine use will be detectable in a blood test for about 72 hours.
  • Urine tests can detect ketamine use for up to two weeks after your last dose.
  • Hair follicle tests may find evidence of ketamine use for about four months after the last time you took the drug.

Additional Dangers of Ketamine

The dangers of ketamine abuse don’t end with addiction and overdose. Untreated ketamine addiction can put you at risk for a wide range of additional negative effects, such as these:

  • Poor performance in school or at work
  • Academic failure, job loss, and long-term unemployment
  • Conflicts with loved ones
  • Memory problems and other cognitive impairments
  • Serious physical injuries due to perceptual distortions
  • Polysubstance abuse
  • Onset or worsening of mental health concerns

Begin Treatment for Ketamine Addiction in Southern California

If you have been seeking effective ketamine addiction treatment in southern California, Renewal Health Group can help. With the assistance of our skilled and dedicated treatment professionals, you can end your ketamine use and build a foundation for long-term recovery. Don’t let ketamine addiction prevent you from living the life you deserve. Contact Renewal Health Group and discover the path to a healthier and more hopeful future.