Skip to content

Is Ketamine Addictive? 

Ketamine belongs to the chemical class of drugs known as arylcyclohexylamines, developed by Parke-Davies to find a safe and reliable anesthetic. The first drug of this kind was phencyclidine (PCP), and ketamine was later synthesized in 1962 by the chemist Calvin L. Stevens as he produced a series of PCP derivatives. In clinical settings, ketamine is normally administered intravenously, where it rapidly induces dissociation, sedation, and analgesia. At sub-anesthetic doses. Ketamine can also produce psychedelic experiences, and this begs the question, ” Is Ketamine addictive and can it cause Ketamine Addiction?”

When a user uses ketamine repeatedly, a physical or psychological tolerance forms, leading to Ketamine addiction. Due to this tolerance, the user starts to want the drug, want more of it, and use it more frequently. Numerous adverse outcomes and side effects, such as withdrawal symptoms, long-term side effects, irreversible psychosis, or other issues, are possible due to Ketamine addiction. Ketamine, while not generally regarded as addictive, has the potential to produce substantial dependence that necessitates professional treatment if the user decides to stop using.

When ketamine is involved, Ketamine addiction is primarily psychological. For instance, cravings and thoughts of the drug may occur, but they are not accompanied by severe physical side effects like nausea or vomiting when the drug usage is stopped. This is not to imply that overcoming psychological dependency on ketamine is any simpler than overcoming physical dependence, as any drug dependence, whether psychological or physical, is challenging for the user and can present a number of obstacles.

Photo of Ryan Zofay forming a circle with friends and event attendees

Get Your Life Back

Find Hope & Recovery. Get Safe Comfortable Detox, Addiction Rehab & Dual Diagnosis High-Quality Care.

Hotline (877) 378-4154
ketamine addiction
Ketamine addiction can occur when one abuses it in high doses.

Is Ketamine Physically Addictive?

Without assistance, it can be tough to overcome a ketamine addiction. Chemical changes in the brain make it very tough to stop using the drug without expert assistance, even when a person wants to. Due to its sedative effects, which provide an out-of-body sensation where users feel disconnected from themselves and their surroundings, ketamine is classified as a dissociative anesthetic. Additionally, ketamine affects the user’s perception of hearing and sight, which makes it challenging to move.

Ketamine (sold under the brand name Ketalar) is a schedule III controlled substance, the same category as Codeine and Anabolic Steroids. Schedule III substances can lead to physical dependence and are very likely to lead to psychological dependence. Ketamine addiction is similar to cannabis addiction but differs from opiate addiction in that it is more psychological than physical. In opioid addiction, there may be physical dependence, leading to withdrawal symptoms when the drug use is stopped.

How Addictive is Ketamine?

Higher doses (usually administered as injections) can produce the “K-hole” effect, where the user experiences what is often described as a near-death or out-of-body experience and feels separated from reality. The drug can cause numbness in its user, which increases the risk of accidents and serious injury.

Ketamine’s unpredictable nature makes it challenging for users to determine how much is too much. A small amount of ketamine can occasionally result in an overdose, especially if additional drugs or alcohol have been consumed. Because it is a Tranquilizer, a complete lack of mobility can occur; this is especially dangerous if the user cannot ask for aid. Many unintentional overdoses happen when a user tries to reach the “K-hole.” The main reason for death from a Ketamine overdose is respiratory failure.

Because Ketamine is a psychedelic and psychedelic substances have a reputation for being less habit-forming than other types of drugs, many individuals wrongly think that the drug is not addictive. Ketamine addiction is, unfortunately, quite dangerous, and using this drug can result in habitual patterns of drug-seeking behaviors that frequently appear when drug usage is stopped.

Can You Get Addicted to Ketamine?

You can easily get addicted to ketamine if you use it in high quantities and for a long time. Some people start taking ketamine as their preferred recreational club drug. Clubbers may seek a mild psychedelic experience, which is why ketamine and MDMA are often abused. Chronic drug usage, on the other hand, can lead to ketamine addiction. Why is Ketamine so addictive? The neurotransmitter glutamate is activated by ketamine in the frontal cortex of your brain. Additionally, it allows more synapses to form in the same location, allowing information to move throughout your brain.

ketamine addiction
Ketamine addiction can occur when one abuses it in high doses.

How is Ketamine Used?

How Ketamine is used depends on the form it is in. There are several ways to get ketamine. It might be a liquid or a powder. Users who do it illegally typically snort, smoke, inject, or add it to drinks.

The most typical is a white powder that resembles cocaine in appearance. This type is well-liked since it makes it simple for users to regulate their dosage.

The powdered form is generated through another form, liquid ketamine, which is the normal state of the drug when used for medical purposes. The third is as a tablet form, often cut with other drugs and sold as a variant of ecstasy.

When used for medicinal purposes, the drug’s normal state is liquid ketamine, which is how the powdered version is produced. The third comes in tablet form, is frequently cut with other drugs, and is marketed as an ecstasy substitute.

There are four ways that ketamine is usually used. Oral use, swallowing, or adding ketamine to beverages creates the longest high with stronger effects but needs a larger dose. Snorting, also called “taking bumps”, has a quicker effect with smaller doses but a shorter high.

Ketamine users can inject ketamine, typically intramuscularly. When injected, the effects often take effect within a few minutes and can last up to an hour. The rapid injection can be extremely risky, and it can be lethal when done intravenously. According to New York University, intravenous injection has an almost immediate effect but will result in a sharp decline in respiratory function.

Get Help. Get Better. Get Your Life Back.

Searching for an Accredited Drug and Alcohol Rehab Centers in Near You?

Even if you have failed previously and relapsed, or are in the middle of a difficult crisis, we stand ready to support you. Our trusted behavioral health specialists will not give up on you. When you feel ready or just want someone to speak to about therapy alternatives to change your life call us. Even if we cannot assist you, we will lead you to wherever you can get support. There is no obligation. Call our hotline today.

FREE Addiction Hotline – Call 24/7

Ketamine Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Recently, ketamine has attracted attention as a possible medication for reducing problematic alcohol and drug use. According to research [1] Ketamine has been shown to effectively prolong abstinence from alcohol and heroin in detoxified alcoholics and heroin-dependent individuals, respectively. Moreover, ketamine reduces the craving for and self-administration of cocaine in non-treatment-seeking cocaine users. However, further randomized controlled trials are urgently needed to confirm ketamine’s efficacy.

These studies have limitations, and more high-quality clinical research in humans is urgently needed to confirm that ketamine can help reduce relapse in people who have recently stopped using drugs. Ketamine is both a fascinating psychedelic and a medically accepted drug; if previous studies are replicated, ketamine is destined to become one of the most exciting directions in treating addiction.

Ketamine Treatment for Drug Addiction

Two clinical studies that focused on alcohol dependence and cocaine addiction, respectively, found that patients who received ketamine treatment in addition to counseling fared better than those who only received therapy.

The people who had cocaine addictions got ketamine through an IV for five days and five weeks of mindfulness relapse prevention therapy. The people dependent on alcohol got ketamine through an IV during the second week of a 5-week motivational enhancement therapy session. In both studies, the researchers concluded that ketamine lowered the chances of restarting or relapsing into addiction.

Ketamine for Depression

Ketamine therapy is often reserved for patients with severe mental illness who have tried other drugs but found little to no relief. People with acute suicidality and treatment-resistant depression have been the subjects of the most extensive research. Patients with illnesses like PTSD, OCD, bipolar depression, anxiety, and eating disorders may also find it helpful. In general, therapeutic ketamine is not a good choice for people with specific illnesses like psychosis.

Ketamine was approved as an anesthetic, but using it to address psychiatric conditions is considered “off-label.” That means it’s legal for a doctor to prescribe, but it’s not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for that indication. The exception is esketamine, a nasal spray approved by the FDA in 2019 and marketed as Spravato for treatment-resistant depression and acute suicidal thinking.

ketamine addiction
 The effects of a Ketamine overdose may include adverse symptoms.

Is Ketamine Addictive When Used for Depression?

Even though ketamine has yet to be approved by the FDA for use in treating depression, patients are flocking to ketamine clinics to receive the treatment off-label. It provides fast relief, which is vitally important in cases where patients feel suicidal. For depressed patients who have tried all of the other anti-depressants available with no luck, ketamine offers new hope. 

The FDA hasn’t yet approved ketamine for use as an anti-depressant, but both Esketamine and Rapastinel (developed by Johnson & Johnson and Allergan, respectively) have been fast-tracked as breakthrough drugs. The demand for these two medications is projected to grow rapidly in the coming years. 

Doctors can only prescribe ketamine for depression off-label since ketamine has been FDA approved for use as an anesthetic, not as an anti-depressant. Researchers have cautioned doctors to avoid over-prescribing this drug because patients’ long-term health and well-being could be at risk. Ketamine has a high potential for abuse after all and experts claim that the evidence does not exist to prove that this drug is safe

World-class, Accredited, 5-Star Reviewed, Effective Addiction & Mental Health Programs. Complete Behavioral Health Inpatient Rehab, Detox plus Co-occuring Disorders Therapy.

CALL (877) 378-4154

End the Addiction Pain. End the Emotional Rollercoaster. Get Your Life Back. Start Drug, Alcohol & Dual Diagnosis Mental Health Treatment Now. Get Free No-obligation Guidance by Substance Abuse Specialists Who Understand Addiction & Mental Health Recovery & Know How to Help.

Ketamine Addiction Side Effects

Ketamine drug causes users to have distorted perceptions of sight and sound and to feel disconnected and out of control. In addition, the use of the drug can impair an individual’s senses, judgment, and coordination for up to 24 hours after the drug is taken, even though the drug’s hallucinogenic effects usually last for only 45 to 90 minutes.

The use of ketamine has been associated with severe mental and physical problems. Ketamine addiction can cause:

  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Delirium
  • Amnesia
  • Impaired motor function
  • Ulcers and pain in the bladder
  • Kidney problems
  • Unconsciousness
  • High blood pressure
  • Potentially fatal respiratory problems

A couple of minutes after taking the drug, the user may experience increased heart rate and blood pressure, gradually decreasing over the next 10 to 20 minutes. Ketamine drugs can make users unresponsive to stimuli. When in this state, users experience:

  • Involuntarily rapid eye movement
  • Dilated pupils
  • Salivation
  • Tear secretions
  • Stiffening of the muscles
  • Nausea

In addition to the risks associated with ketamine itself, individuals who use the drug may put themselves at risk of sexual assault. Sexual predators reportedly have used ketamine to hurt their intended victims, either by lacing innocent victims’ drinks with the drug or by offering ketamine to victims who consume the drug without understanding the effects, it will produce.

Ketamine Addiction Signs

Ketamine addiction symptoms are often easy for a user to recognize. As with most drug addictions, early detection is key to helping your loved one make a quick recovery. The longer a person uses ketamine, the more dangerous it is, and the more they are exposed to the risks of long-term abuse. The influence of ketamine over the brain and its impact on the body become more apparent the longer a person abuses it. The physical symptoms of ketamine abuse to look out for are as follows:

  • Unexplained radical weight changes
  • Helplessness or being unable to move (one of the reasons why ketamine can be used as a date rape drug)
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Agitation
  • Paranoia
  • Sedation and drowsiness
  • Amnesia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessive salivation
  • Hallucinations and aggressive behavior

What is Ketamine Psychosis?

Ketamine recreational users and abusers frequently experience a range of symptoms that resemble psychosis or a psychotic episode. A ketamine user experiencing a psychotic episode may speak, believe, or act in ways that are inconsistent with reality. After taking the Ketamine, they were more likely to have disorganized thinking and may have had trouble trying to finish simple words.

Loss of connection to reality is a hallmark of psychosis. It’s possible for someone to have incorrect beliefs or delusions that are based on hallucinations. Their ability to perform at work, in the home, and in society is substantially impacted by ketamine psychosis. Psychosis sufferers frequently have poor physical conditions. The greater the psychotic symptoms are, the higher the related level of impairment. People frequently have difficulty telling the difference between psychotic disorders like bipolar disorder or other similar disorders and drug-induced psychosis. In the case of ketamine psychosis, intervening as quickly as possible with treatment provides the best long-term solution for the patient.

Are Ketamine Infusions Addictive?

What is Ketamine infusion? Ketamine infusions are delivered intravenously in a hospital or clinic setting and typically last around 40 minutes. It treats conditions like depression, anxiety, stress, chronic pain, and more. Ketamine infusion therapy helps with a number of psychiatric conditions, but it is most commonly used in those with treatment-resistant depression, a form of major depressive disorder. You will likely be diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression if you have tried more than two antidepressant treatments and have not responded adequately.

Is ketamine for depression addictive? It is thought that ketamine infusions work by inducing the production of glutamate, a neurotransmitter in the brain. Abnormal levels of glutamate have been linked with depression. The glutamate leads the brain to form new connections and repair damaged ones, increasing its adaptability.

According to the National Center on Biotechnology Information (NCBI) research, preclinical and clinical studies indicate that repeated treatment with low-dose ketamine infusions can have addictive properties and induce cognitive deficits.

  • Animal studies suggest that adolescent and adult female rodents are more sensitive to ketamine’s abuse potential. In contrast, adolescent and mature male rodents are more susceptible to the memory-impairing effects following repeated ketamine exposure. 
  • Furthermore, the presence of ovarian hormones enhances sensitivity to the abuse potential of low-dose ketamine. In humans, it remains unclear whether women are more sensitive to the antidepressant and addictive potential of ketamine since most studies only examine one dose (0.5 mg/kg, i.v.). 
  • A clinical trial examining the effects of ketamine across a wide range of doses is currently underway, though, and should provide insight into any effect of gender on antidepressant response soon. In humans, it has been reported that men are more sensitive to the impairments ketamine causes on both episodic and semantic memory following repeated, low-dose infusions.

Treatment for Ketamine Addiction

First and foremost, if you think a loved one is abusing ketamine, you should research the drug and its associated addiction to understand better what your loved one needs. Next, you must plan an intervention to provide your loved one with options to battle their addiction in a safe and supportive environment. During this intervention, offer compassion and support instead of judgment. Lastly, show your support throughout the entire Ketamine treatment process.

Clearing ketamine from the body and overcoming ketamine withdrawal symptoms is the goal of medical detox, which is the first step of ketamine addiction treatment for ketamine addiction. Here at We Level Up NJ, a comprehensive team prescribing medications as part of our medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program aims to alleviate your ketamine withdrawal pains while monitoring your health 24 hours during the detox. We prioritize your safety and comfort because this is a fragile and challenging time for you.

Once detox is complete, a new doorway in Ketamine addiction treatment opens up, which is referred to as an inpatient drug rehab or residential level of care. Our residential care program slowly and effectively introduces the individual into an atmosphere of therapeutic growth, marked by master’s level therapists, clinicians, group counselors, psychiatrists, and a community of like-minded individuals with the same aim: to attain sobriety and live a great life.

Some of the many modalities applied and practiced within our residential treatment facility are:

Our Ketamine addiction treatment tailors the program to the individual and the individual to the recovery program. We begin by assessing our client’s history of mental health, drugs, and substance abuse-related past. The needs of each individual are specific and personalized because we aim to provide comprehensive support for mental health, addiction, and dual diagnosis treatment. Our supportive environment is designed accordingly to give clients 24-hour care for sobriety. Most importantly, we hope to have our clients live comfortably within the facility during this crucial and fragile time.

At We Level Up NJ, we prioritize removing the stigma and temptations for relapse and applying an air of recovery into every component of the treatment timeline. We find that clients living in a supportive community, especially during their early recovery process, can genuinely focus on what matters most: their recovery. 

ketamine addiction
  Ketamine addiction is a chronic disease that will take time and effort to heal, but it can be treated.

Start a New Life

Begin with a free call to an addiction & behavioral health treatment advisor. Learn more about our dual-diagnosis programs. The We Level Up treatment center network delivers recovery programs that vary by each treatment facility. Call to learn more.

  • Personalized Care
  • Caring Accountable Staff
  • World-class Amenities
  • Licensed & Accredited
  • Renowned w/ 100s 5-Star Reviews

We’ll Call You