Ketamine Detox & Treatment

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Ketamine Detox & Treatment

Ketamine, also known as K, or Ket, or Vitamin K, or Special K, or Donkey Dust, is a potent anaesthetic that generates feelings of detachment from the body. (1)

Ketamine is used in veterinary medicine, and has been popular with people on the party scene since the 1980s.

It was also used during the Vietnam war in casualty treatment stations as an anaesthetic.

In the UK, Ketamine is a Class B substance, meaning it is against the law to own, or pass to a third party, with or without profit. (2)

How Its Consumed

Most users will snort, a smaller number will inject to increase the intensity of euphoric feelings experienced. (3)

Research and clinical trials are underway in the US and the UK, to release a much more dilute form of Ketamine, for use as a prescription-based anti-depressant. (3)

The Ketamine Advocacy Network hopes to see its therapy made available more widely, for those affected with treatment-resistant depression. It most commonly comes in a white powder and at high potency its effects are extremely powerful. It can induce: (3)

  • Hallucination
  • Profound psychological dissociation
  • Reduced physical sensations
  • Reduced nociception (ability to feel pain)
  • Temporary paralysis

Additionally, ketamine has gained a reputation as a date rape drug because of its ability to render users incompetent while undermining their memories. (4)

Negative Side Effects of Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine drug addiction causes a series of negative effects on the body which includes the following: (5)

  • Self-injury – which can be caused without realising until the effects wear off
  • Bladder problems
  • Abdominal pain
  • Temporary Paralysis
  • Auditory and/or Visual hallucinations
  • Vein damage (if injected)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Sense of time distortion
  • Behavioral and psychological issues
  • Hearing loss
  • Rapid breathing


The risks associated with ketamine addiction include the following:

  • Long Term Bladder and Urinary tract issues
  • Incontinence
  • Serious long term injury (secondary to loss of pain sensation)
  • Memory Impairment
  • Breathing Difficulties
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Problems concentrating
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Permanent nerve damage

Importantly, the side effects and risks associated with Ketamine addiction increase substantially when combining its use with other drugs, and/or alcohol. (5)

What Ketamine Addiction Does To The Brain

In chemical terms, Ketamine is a potent synthetic opioid anaesthetic that acts to inhibit the effect of NMDA receptors in the brain, inducing a dissociative state. (1)

Other opiates such as Methadone and Tramadol have similar effects on the receptors.

It is important to note that the effect of ketamine abuse differs depending on the dosage levels. For example, at lower doses, it can have mild effects, similar to a stimulant drug. At higher doses, it will induce hallucinations and dissociation.

The NMDA receptors are responsible for propelling nerve signals from the brain to the spinal column and Central Nervous System, for action. (6)

Once these are inhibited by Ketamine, the body’s motor system stops functioning normally.

Long term ketamine abuse results in a permanent nerve damage as a result of continual stimulation of the other neural pathways it works on.

This is known as excitatory neurotoxicity. (7)

In a controlled environment, Ketamine has shown promise in controlling symptoms and relapse into alcohol addiction.

Ketamine Withdrawal Signs & Symptoms

Ketamine withdrawal during the ketamine addiction treatment consists of many psychological symptoms as well as physical symptoms. (8)

Physical Withdrawal Symptoms

Ketamine withdrawal generally does not trigger substantial physical and psychological symptoms, and as a result, it’s psychological dependence is generally considered a psychological addiction as opposed to a physical one.

Nevertheless, the degree of any physical sign experienced will be dependent on a number of factors, such as extent and recency of usage.

Individuals suffering from chronic ketamine abuse, should expect ketamine withdrawal symptoms to occur during the addiction treatment.

Withdrawal symptoms can vary greatly given that Ketamine is usually mixed with other addictive drugs, or bulking agents, before being sold on the street.

In addition, the nature of the psychological withdrawal symptoms experienced still makes the drug detox difficult to do unaided.

Ketamine users are likely to experience the following physical withdrawal symptoms;

  • Visual disturbances such as double vision
  • Respiratory and cardiac functions
  • Hearing issues
  • Compromised balance and/or co-ordination
  • Erratic/reduced motor function
  • Tachycardia/Bradycardia
  • Reduced respiratory function
  • Nystagmus

Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms

Ketamine drug abuse acts on multiple pathways in the brain beyond the NMDA receptors, and has mixed agonist/antagonist effects on receptors for Serotonin, Dopamine, and Nor-epinephrine. (9)

This means that users in UK and American addiction centers will experience withdrawal, corresponding to the psychological lows associated with reduced free levels of these neurotransmitters. (9)

The UK drug enforcement administration says that ketamine has potent psychologically addictive properties, especially with repeated drug use, as users seek to restore this neurotransmitter imbalance, and feel emotionally better, by continued use.

Psychological Symptoms Of Ketamine withdrawal Includes:

Intense cravings of this drug leads to ketamine drug addiction. When one decides to abruptly discontinue or quit ketamine use cold turkey, they will experience and the psychological effects of ketamine withdrawal will include the following: (10)

  • Intense depression, low mood
  • Sleep disturbance & insomnia
  • Anxiety & agitation
  • Confusion
  • Delusion or hallucination
  • Paranoia
  • Anger and increased temper
  • Cognitive impairment and difficulty concentrating

Addiction Withdrawal Treatment Timeline

Ketamine withdrawal generally lasts from 3 days to 14 days or longer. (9)

The withdrawal symptoms above can appear to varying degrees, commensurate with:

  • Recency of drug taking
  • Longevity of the substance abuse
  • Purity of substance used
  • Co-occurring physical and mental health issues
  • Interaction with pre-prescribed medications
  • Age, gender and physical fitness

Treatment: Ketamine Detox > Rehab > Aftercare

The process of ketamine dependence treatment takes three main stages.


Detoxing from Ketamine and other drugs means completing a supervised withdrawal, under the safety and control of medical supervision.

In the UK, this would usually be completed in an inpatient rehab detoxing facility or clinic.

Detox Symptoms and Drug Addictions

Drug addictions cause severe detox symptoms that must be observed by a treatment provider at a professional treatment detox center.

This helps mitigate against the negative consequences of the substance abuse problems of this dissociative drug.

The detox symptoms of withdrawal for physically dependent people requires specific medications to help the addict through this journey.

In most cases, the supervising professional can choose to prescribe pain relieving, anti-depressant, or other compensating medication which can assist with any withdrawal symptoms experienced.

The medical staff overseeing treatment should take account of any pre-existing health conditions, mental health issues, and pre-existing prescribed medications, when deciding how to best facilitate a successful recovery.

The ketamine detox period for young adults can last from 3 to 14 days or longer from the last dose but, it also depends on the above personal factors.

Following detoxification, it’s typical to be integrated into a therapeutic rehabilitation program, to identify and make progress on the underlying bio-psycho-social factors contributing to the addiction.

In most cases however, cravings for ketamine disrupts the process as this dissociative anaesthetic critically affects treatment options.

Doctors will try to use other types of drugs during rehab to counter the dissociative aesthetic and its effects on the human body.


After detox for ketamine misuse is done, and the symptoms of withdrawal have subsided, one is then ready for full on rehab treatment in order to become drug free.

Of course the withdrawal process can be difficult, because physical dependence has probably developed over a long time.

A good treatment provider will ensure the detox process is smooth and the dissociative anesthetic leaves the body fully.

For chronic users, the withdrawal timeline may be longer, but various treatment options are available to help deal with the primarily psychological issues associated with larger doses of ketamine use.

The withdrawal timeline differs from one treatment centre to another.

What Happens During addiction and Rehab Treatment?

A typical day in rehab for Ketamine could look like this:

  • 8am

Breakfast & Morning medication (if appropriate)

  • 9:30am

Therapeutic session

  • 1pm


  • 2pm 

Further therapeutic work/Exercise programme

  • 5pm


  • 7pm – Mutual aid meeting/Progress meeting with case manager/12 step work

While not every day is this busy, it’s important to take part in an agenda of daily activities, that allows one to restore a sense of structure, and balance, to daily life.

A Reputable addiction Rehabilitation Programme Should Include:

Individualised care planning

This treatment allows one to collaborate with care staff, on a treatment plan aligned to one’s recovery goals. This should include benchmarking, and regular sessions to measure progress and address any gaps in treatment planning, as the programme progresses.

Directed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

CBT therapy or a similar therapeutic modality addresses the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours associated with Ketamine use.

Deep self work like this should include a thorough reflection on life history, how the individual arrived in addiction, and the patterns they are playing out, during periods of both addiction and abstinence.

Complementary therapies

These will provide additional options for stress relief and stress management, both during treatment time and later, in long term recovery. Typically this would include options such as reiki, reflexology, massage, etc.

A Physical Exercise Programme

Exercise helps balance the mind and body to work in unity once more. A varied program of exercise options allows us to find the options which will best complement the practicalities of life in recovery.



Is Ketamine addictive?

Yes. It is generally considered less physically addictive than other illicit drugs, and for mild-moderate users, produces fewer discontinuation symptoms, however this will be subject to multiple variables including amount consumed, toxicity, tolerance developed, and other factors.

Am I addicted to Ketamine?

Probably, if one can answer the following questions as yes.

–Does one prioritise obtaining Ketamine over daily routine, or more important elements of life balance such as your relationship, children, or work?

– Has one postponed or avoided other commitments in life in order to use Ketamine

– Does Ketamine use, and obtaining Ketamine, pre-occupy one’s thoughts as one goes about the rest of their daily life?

If one has answered Yes, to any of the above questions, they are likely suffering from Ketamine addiction.


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About the author

Laura Morris

Laura Morris is an experienced clinical practitioner and CQC Registered Manager with over twenty years experience, over ten of which have been as an Independent Nurse Prescriber.

She has held a number of senior leadership roles in the substance use and mental health sector in the NHS, the prison service and in leading social enterprises in the field.

Last Updated: October 31, 2023