Excessive ketamine use can rapidly lead to psychological dependence. As tolerance to ketamine increases, ever-increasing doses and more frequent use culminate in addiction. When an addicted individual stops using ketamine, withdrawal symptoms will onset.
Withdrawal symptoms occur because ketamine has altered opioid receptors in the brain. Psychological withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous. Perhaps the most hazardous is intense depression, which can lead to increased suicidal tendencies.
Symptoms of Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms from ketamine are primarily psychological. Some long-term users have reported experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms, but these have mainly been unproven on a scientific basis. The most common ketamine withdrawal symptoms include the following:
- Impaired motor skills
- Depressed respiration
- Slowed cardiac function
- Loss of hearing
- Cognitive impairments
During the withdrawal process, the user will likely become emotionally unstable and may need to be isolated to protect others. Therefore, professional supervision for ketamine withdrawal is recommended for a safer, more controlled withdrawal and detox process. It would be best to try to do whatever is suggested by a health care provider and addiction specialist.
Duration of Withdrawal
Ketamine withdrawal from ketamine can last from 72 hours to several weeks. While it is not generally life-threatening, it can be very uncomfortable. Symptoms typically set in between 1-3 days after the last dose. How long it persists may be determined by the amount of drugs in the addict’s body, their tolerance, and how long they had been using the medicine, and if they also used other drugs.
Ketamine Withdrawal Timeline
Days 1-3 – Acute withdrawal symptoms typically begin within one day of the last ketamine use. Symptoms include shakes, fatigue, insomnia, sleep disturbances, rage, depression, hallucinations, delusions, tremors, double vision, nausea, accelerated breathing, and hearing loss.
Days 4-14 – Withdrawal symptoms may continue for two weeks but begin to subside in intensity toward the two-week mark.
More Than Two Weeks – Most withdrawal symptoms have decreased or at least stabilized. However, nerve cell damage in the brain may be, to some degree, indefinitely permanent, and specific psychoemotional issues may persist.
Detoxification is the first step in recovery, as the substance is being purged from the user’s system. However, because ketamine dependence and addiction are best stopped “cold turkey,” the detox process can be challenging to endure. In addition, intense cravings can occur as the user goes through the psychological discomfort experienced during withdrawals. Fortunately, some medications are available to help relieve ketamine withdrawal effects.
Typically, the individual’s respiratory function and heart rate will be supervised closely during the early phase of ketamine detox. This is done to assure the safety of the individual in recovery.
About Ketamine and Getting Treatment
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic commonly used in liquid or powdered form, most often on animals. Ketamine can be administered through injection, snorted as a powder, consumed as a liquid, or combined with tobacco or marijuana for smoking. Ketamine was designated as a controlled substance in the US in 1999.
Short- and long-term effects include heightened heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, numbness, depression, amnesia, hallucinations, and potentially lethal respiratory complications. Drug cravings among ketamine users are common.
Ketamine addiction is challenging to overcome. A comorbid disorder or multiple drug dependencies are often present, requiring a high level of support and care. Many residential rehabs offer treatment programs for ketamine addiction that can range from 28 days to several months. Outpatient programs are also available, allowing the person to have more flexibility regarding their family, school, and work responsibilities.
Because ketamine dependence is a psychological addiction, various behavioral therapies should be integrated into the treatment plan. Some of these include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which addresses thinking patterns that affect behaviors.
Getting professional treatment at a center, such as Just Believe Detox or Just Believe Recovery, is the best way to ensure a successful recovery, but this requires the user to stop using ketamine. Ketamine is a problematic drug to withdraw from due to intense cravings and the highly unpredictable psychotic behaviors present during withdrawal. Careful monitoring by expert clinical staff is key to a successful recovery.
After treatment, it is essential to have a support system to provide community and accountability. This support should include family and non-using friends or a recovery-based support group, such as Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery.