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The Effects of Ketamine Abuse

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Ketamine, also known as “Special K,” is a medication that is abused for its hallucinogenic properties. Although it is most commonly used in veterinary medicine, ketamine is also used in emergency medicine for severe trauma, to treat nerve pain, and as a pediatric anesthesia. Abusers often experience ketamine effects, such as lower urinary tract symptoms, that can have a permanent impact on their bodies.

Ketamine is considered a club drug and attracts younger addicts. The Drug Abuse Warning Network notes that in 2000, 74 percent of emergency department ketamine incidents involved people aged 12 to 25. In a report in the November 2009 issue of Addiction, researchers cited one survey from MadMix which indicated that 68 percent of regular clubbers had tried ketamine.

Short-Term Ketamine Effects

Even if ketamine is prescribed to you, some effects of using the drug can be problematic. In a medical setting where you’ll be carefully monitored, these symptoms are less of a concern. However, ketamine effects can trouble addicts after only a single use, and, without medical support, these side effects can be dangerous.

According to a 2011 article published in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 40 percent of people who receive continuous subcutaneous infusions of ketamine experience some of the following short-term effects:

  • Hallucinations
  • Altered body image
  • Euphoria
  • Pain at injection site
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Altered hearing
  • Dizziness
  • Delirium
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Vivid dreams
  • Nightmares
  • Illusions
  • Impaired judgment, attention and memory
  • Involuntary eye movement
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Excessive salivation
  • Redness of the skin, known as erythema
  • Dysphasia
  • Psychomotor retardation
  • Blunted affect
  • Psychotomimetic phenomenon

People who used the oral form of the drug were less likely to experience ketamine side effects. The study also notes that one other short-term effect of ketamine use is tonic-clonic movements — seizure-like movements — which were present in over 10 percent of patients. However, this effect was only noted in users who were exposed to higher doses during anesthesia.

Results of Abuse

Although the hallucinogenic effects of ketamine last approximately 45 to 90 minutes, other effects can last for 24 hours after a single dose. These effects include impairment of the person’s coordination, judgment and physical senses.

There is an acute risk of mortality from accidents associated with ketamine use. There have been reports of people drowning in the bathtub and dying of hypothermia as a result of ketamine addiction. Ketamine is also used as date rape drug, which means users of the drug can be at risk for sexual assault. For this reason, researchers suggest that sober friends should watch ketamine users to protect them from harm.

Overdosing on ketamine can also produce harmful short-term effects. Signs of a ketamine overdose include impaired consciousness, lower urinary tract symptoms, and abdominal pain. Identifying characteristics of a ketamine overdose include high blood pressure, abdominal tenderness, and tachycardia. Using ketamine can be particularly dangerous for people with cardiac disease, hypertension or other stroke risk factors.

Even short-term abuse of ketamine is associated with increased feelings of depression. Ketamine may also increase the effectiveness of other sedatives, including alcohol, anesthetics, barbiturates, opiates and benzodiazepines. This result is particularly dangerous for addicts who mix sedatives, because the chance of respiratory depression and other side effects is increased.

Even the effects of short-term ketamine use can be traumatic. To free yourself of harmful ketamine effects, call to discuss treatment programs at some of the top rehabilitation centers in your area.

Long-Term Problems

Long-term use of ketamine can lead to addiction and physical dependence. Regular use also does not diminish the chance that you will experience any of the short-term ketamine effects. Although the risk of a fatal ketamine overdose is low, permanent damage to your internal organs can result from its use.

One of the other long-term effects of ketamine abuse is cognitive deficits. In one study published in the November 2009 issue of Addiction, researchers found that increasing ketamine use over a year was associated with a decrease in pattern recognition memory and spatial working memory. Patients also showed dissociative and delusional symptoms during evaluations of their psychological well-being. However, once ketamine use was stopped, it seemed that the damage was reversible.

Chronic ketamine users may also experience irritative urinary tract symptoms. These symptoms can occur within three months of regular use. This effect has been termed ketamine-induced ulcerative cystitis or ketamine-induced vesicopathy. Irritative urinary tract symptoms include:

  • Incontinence
  • Decreased bladder volume
  • Blood in the urine
  • Decreased bladder compliance
  • Overactivity in the muscle that controls bladder movement

In order to effectively manage the symptoms of this problem, ketamine use must be stopped. In some cases, addicts must have their bladders stretched in order to alleviate some of the symptoms.

If you’ve experienced any of these uncomfortable ketamine effects but still can’t stop using the drug, call . Our 24/7 hotline can help you evaluate your options for addiction treatment.

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