What Is Ketamine?
Ketamine, also known as K, Ket, Vitamin K, Special K, or Donkey Dust, is a potent anaesthetic that generates feelings of detachment from the body.
Used in veterinary medicine, it became popular among 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.
Most users will snort; a smaller number will inject to increase the intensity of euphoric feelings experienced.
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.
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:
- Profound psychological dissociation
- Reduced physical sensations
- Reduced nociception (ability to feel pain)
- Temporary paralysis
Negative Side Effects of Addiction
- Self-injury can be caused without realising until the effects wear off
- Bladder problems
- Stomach cramps
- Temporary Paralysis
- Auditory and/or Visual hallucinations
- Vein damage (if injected)
- Sense of time distortion
- Long Term Bladder and Urinary tract issues
- Serious long term injury (secondary to loss of pain sensation)
- Memory Impairment
- Breathing Difficulties
- Panic attacks
- Problems concentrating
- Increased blood pressure
- Permanent nerve damage
Importantly, the side effects and risks associated with Ketamine use increase substantially when combining its use with other drugs, and/or alcohol.
What Ketamine Addiction Does To The Brain
In chemical terms, Ketamine is a potent synthetic opioid anaesthetic which acts to inhibit the effect of NMDA receptors in the brain, inducing a dissociative state.
Other opiates such as Methadone and Tramadol have similar effects on these receptor sites.
However, the effect differs from low to high dose, e.g. at lower doses, it can have mild effects, similar to a stimulant drug. However, at higher doses, it will induce hallucination and dissociation.
The NMDA receptors are responsible for propelling nerve signals from the brain to the spinal column and Central Nervous System, for action.
Hence once these are inhibited by Ketamine, the body’s motor system stops functioning normally.
Long term use results in permanent nerve damage as a result of continual stimulation of the other neural pathways it works on.
This is known as excitatory neurotoxicity.
Ketamine Withdrawal Signs & Symptoms
Physical Withdrawal Symptoms
Withdrawing from Ketamine use generally does not trigger substantial physical symptoms, and as a result, it’s 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 using large amounts, or over long periods, should expect withdrawal symptoms to occur.
Withdrawal symptoms can vary greatly from what we suggest here, given that Ketamine is usually mixed with other additives, or bulking agents, before being sold on the street.
In addition, the nature of the psychological withdrawal symptoms experienced still makes it difficult to detox from, unaided.
Physical withdrawal symptoms, where present, can include:
- Visual disturbances such as double vision
- Hearing issues
- Compromised balance and/or co-ordination
- Erratic/reduced motor function
- Reduced respiratory function
Psychological Withdrawal Symptoms
It acts on multiple pathways in the brain beyond NMDA receptors, and has mixed agonist/antagonist effects on receptors for Serotonin, Dopamine, and Nor-epinephrine.
This means that users in withdrawal, experience the corresponding psychological lows associated with reduced free levels of these neurotransmitters.
It does therefore have potent psychologically addictive properties, especially with repeated use, as users seek to restore this neurotransmitter imbalance, and feel emotionally better, by continued use.
Psychological withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Depression, low mood
- Sleep disturbance & insomnia
- Anxiety & agitation
- Delusion or hallucination
- 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.
The withdrawal symptoms above can appear to varying degrees, commensurate with:
- Longevity of usage
- Purity of substance
- Co-occurring physical and mental health issues
- Interaction with pre-prescribed medications
- Age, gender and physical fitness
Treatment: Ketamine Detox > Rehab > Aftercare
Detoxing from Ketamine means completing a supervised withdrawal, under the safety and control of medical supervision.
In the UK, this would usually be completed in a residential detoxing facility, or rehab clinic.
There are no medically assisted therapies, or specific detox medications available, which exclusively target discontinuation symptoms associated with Ketamine.
However, 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 also take account of any pre-existing health conditions, mental health issues, and pre-existing prescribed medications, when deciding how to best facilitate your treatment.
The ketamine detox period itself could last from 3 to 14 days or longer, depending on all of 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 your addiction.
What Happens During addiction and Rehab Treatment?
A typical day in rehab for Ketamine could look like:
- 8am – Breakfast & Morning medication (if appropriate)
- 9:30am – Therapeutic session
- 1pm – Lunch
- 2pm – Further therapeutic work/Holistic therapy/Exercise program
- 5pm – Dinner
- 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 you to restore a sense of structure, and balance, to daily life.
A Reputable addiction Rehabilitation Programme Should Include:
- Individualised care planning, allowing you to collaborate with care staff, on a treatment plan aligned to your 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 work – or a similar therapeutic modality – to address 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. The personal insights gained from this work can be used to plan a more targeted and effective set of supports later, during aftercare planning.
- Complementary and holistic therapies that 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 that 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.
- Structured aftercare planning, as below.
Ketamine Detox Aftercare
Relapse prevention planning is central to long term recovery success, and by this stage in treatment, you should much more clearly aware, of the key factors that you should be planning support for.
By this point in treatment, you’ll have gained certain insights about addiction in your life, the triggers, and costs of falling into old patterns again.
Together with help from clinical staff, you’ll plan out the day-to-day practicalities of what life in Ketamine recovery will look, sound, and feel like.
Taking the time to lay out these future supports now, will reap dividends, once clinic treatment time is complete.
A typical Ketamine aftercare plan will include:
- Detailed schedules and a new routine for day to day life in recovery. The more detail in this plan, the better, as it makes it all the easier to follow through on.
- This will include both the very practical elements of daily life as well as supports you can turn to, when trigger situations arise.
- These could include arranging a sponsor, attending local aftercare groups, specialist addiction recovery groups, or arranging one to one counselling. Planning ahead for this now, will give you greater confidence leaving treatment, making the possibility of success feel much more realistic, and achievable.
- Is Ketamine addictive?
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.
Ketamine tolerance develops quickly in the body, and as a result, users typically seek increasing doses of the medication, and suffer increasing psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, etc as a result.
In this sense, Ketamine can be considered to be psychologically addictive.
- Am I addicted to Ketamine?
– Do you prioritise obtaining Ketamine over your daily routine, or more important elements of life balance such as your relationship, children, or work?
– Have you postponed or avoided other commitments in life in order to use Ketamine
– Does Ketamine use, and obtaining Ketamine, pre-occupy your thoughts as you go about the rest of daily life?
– Have you lied, manipulated, or stolen in order to fund your Ketamine use?
– Are you unable to stop the use, on your own?
– Are you unable to control Ketamine use, once started? Do your intentions to use a little, turn into a lot?
– Have you been challenged by loved ones on your Ketamine use, or suspicious behaviour around your use?
– Have you lost your job, as a result of Ketamine use?
– Have you sacrificed your ideals or morals, as a result of seeking or using Ketamine?
If you’ve answered Yes, to any of the above questions, you are likely suffering from Ketamine addiction.
- Can Ketamine kill you?
It is unlikely to kill when taken standalone, although toxicity varies wildly as most street drugs are mixed with other illicit substances, making it impossible to predict the effects of any one dose.
It’s important to note that risks associated with Ketamine use rise substantially when combined with other substances like alcohol or further street drugs.
The simplest way to avoid these risks is simply to abstain from Ketamine use entirely.
- Can Ketamine cause depression/schizophrenia/anxiety/other mental health issues?
It causes huge fluctuations in neurotransmitters in the brain like nor-epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and acts on receptors involved in initiating movement.
Prolonged or escalated acute usage can affect and disrupt these pathways, causing over or under reactivity in brain pathways, thereby causing depression and other mental health symptoms.
In cases of longer usage, this can result in permanent damage to neurons in the brain.
- What is the detoxing for Ketamine addiction?
Whilst there is no specifically assigned MAT (Medically Assisted Therapy) for Ketamine withdrawal, compensating medication can be prescribed to manage symptoms as they arise. In Abbeycare, this is determined at the sole discretion of our medical team.
- How long does it take to detox?
Duration to withdraw or detox from Ketamine will depend on a number of factors including amount consumed, purity, history of usage and tolerance, interaction with other prescribed medicines, and others.
As a general guideline detoxing typically takes anywhere from 3-14 days or longer, for mild-moderate usage. Please see the withdrawal timeline above.
- How does Ketamine rehab treatment work?
The first part of admitting for treatment is a detox period of 3-14 days approximately, with or without the assistance of compensating medication, for any symptoms arising.
You’ll stay residentially in a clinic like Abbeycare, where you’ll have your own room.
Once it is complete, you’ll begin to take part in a daily agenda of therapeutic work, comprising the main rehab programme.
This includes (e.g.) CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) work, holistic and complementary care like massage, reiki, reflexology, etc, and integration into the 12 step program. See the full elements of our rehab program, above.
Around a week before leaving treatment, you’ll plan out supports for the future, that you’ll have after treatment is complete – this is called Aftercare planning.
- How do I admit for Ketamine detoxification or treatment?
To get help for Ketamine addiction, ring Abbeycare direct on 01603 513 091.
How To Book
To book for Ketamine detox or treatment, ring our Admissions team direct on 01603 513 091.