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Ketamine is a prescription medication administered to induce loss of consciousness as a general anesthetic.

When ketamine is used in a controlled clinical setting, the drug causes sedation and a reduced sensitivity to pain.

A Schedule III non-narcotic (non-opioid), ketamine is only FDA-approved as a general anesthetic. There is ongoing research on the off-label use of ketamine for the treatment of depression.

This medication is considered generally safe if used in a clinical setting, but any recreational use of ketamine can be dangerous. Taking large doses of illicit ketamine can be life-threatening.

This guide outlines the addictive potential of ketamine and explores the side effects of abusing this powerful anesthetic.

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What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is classified as a dissociative anesthetic. Physicians prescribe ketamine to induce general anesthesia in medical procedures that do not demand muscle relaxation.

Dissociative anesthetics like ketamine induce a sleep-like state. Additionally, ketamine triggers intense feelings of disconnectedness. Anecdotal evidence suggests that taking ketamine in larger doses can cause near-death experiences.

Ketamine is classified by the DEA as a Schedule III controlled substance.

The drug is used in the United States in humans and animals. Ketalar is a branded formulation of ketamine that has been available in the U.S. since 1969. Ketamine is available in the following prescription formulations:

  • Nasal spray
  • Off-white powder
  • Clear, colorless liquid
  • Intravenous injectable

The branded form of ketamine marketed as Ketaset is a surgical anesthetic used by veterinarians.

Spravato (esketamine) was approved by the FDA in 2019 for the treatment of adults with treatment-resistant depression and acute suicidal thoughts.

Many people abuse ketamine for its powerful dissociative properties. Like all substances in this classification, ketamine can cause distortions sights, self, and sounds, as well as colors and the surrounding environment.

Those who abuse ketamine smoke or snort the powder. Less frequently, ketamine is injected by those seeking an intense dissociative high.

Regardless of the route of administration, ketamine can provoke the presentation of hallucinations like those associated with LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and PCP (angel dust).

Illicit ketamine has many street names, including:

  • K
  • Ket
  • Special K
  • Jet K
  • Vitamin K

Is Ketamine Addictive?

Ketamine is a non-narcotic (a non-opioid) classified as a Schedule III controlled substance. The drug can induce pain-relieving effects and mental effects.

The sustained use of ketamine can cause tolerance and physical dependence to form. This often but not always leads to ketamine addiction.

Those who develop an addiction to ketamine find that obtaining and using the drug becomes a compulsive and driving force.

Ketamine addiction, like all substance use disorders, is a chronic condition that is incurable but treatable with evidence-based inpatient or outpatient therapy.

Some of the most common indicators of ketamine addiction are:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Frequent state of distraction
  • Insomnia
  • Persistent drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulties with focus
  • Decreased sensitivity to pain
  • Reduced motivation
  • Incontinence
  • Redness of the skin
  • Slurred speech
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Tolerance

How Addictive is Ketamine?

Using ketamine long-term will cause tolerance to form. When this occurs, you will require more of the drug or more frequent doses to achieve the initial effects. If you continue this abusive pattern of consumption, you will accelerate the development of physical dependence.

When you are dependent on ketamine, expect physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms to manifest in its absence. Many people who become dependent on a substance find themselves addicted and using the substance compulsively despite obviously adverse outcomes. Both tolerance and withdrawal are diagnostic criteria of substance use disorder (drug addiction).

What does Ketamine Do?

When physicians prescribe ketamine for legitimate medical use, it will trigger general anesthesia, almost immediately inducing short-term sedation.

Ketamine acts as a tranquilizer and a dissociative hallucinogenic when abused, provoking a euphoric high and a sense of relaxation.

Higher doses of ketamine can bring about an effect known as the K-hole. Entering a K-hole means that the person will be temporarily unable to interact with others or their surrounding environment. In high doses, both motor control and environmental awareness will be significantly impaired, bringing about feelings of disconnection. Many individuals who enter a K-hole overdose on the drug, resulting in the complete loss of mobility and respiratory failure.

Common Ketamine Side Effects

These are the most commonly reported ketamine side effects:

  • Depression
  • Long-term cognitive complications
  • Paranoia
  • Flashbacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Raised blood pressure levels
  • Increased heart rate
  • Muscle weakness
  • Stumbling
  • Loss of motor control
  • Impaired coordination

Ketamine Rehab at California Detox

If you have been abusing ketamine, it is advisable to engage with treatment before you experience a deadly overdose and before addiction sets in fully.

Before you begin an inpatient or outpatient treatment program, take advantage of a supervised withdrawal at our licensed medical detox center in Southern California. Benefit from medications along with clinical and emotional care to build the strongest foundation for ongoing treatment.

At California Detox, we offer the following treatment programs for ketamine addiction:

  • Inpatient programs (residential rehab)
  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment programs (for addictions with co-occurring mental health conditions)

Although addiction to ketamine is incurable, most substance use disorders respond well to evidence-based treatments. Access the following interventions at California Detox in Huntington Beach:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotherapy (CBT or DBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy

To reclaim your life from ketamine addiction, reach out to admissions by calling (949) 694-8305.


Ketamine is rapidly metabolized by the liver, with 90% of the substance being excreted as metabolites in the urine. Ketamine has an elimination half-life of 2.5 hours in adults. A drug is effectively eliminated from the system after between four and five half-lives. Most adults who ingest ketamine will find that almost all ketamine is out of the system after between 10 and 13 hours.

Ketamine is classified as a dissociative anesthetic. Although the drug has some hallucinogenic effects, ketamine works differently to psychedelics. Psychedelics override the inhibitory architecture of the brain, whereas ketamine relaxes the inhibitory architecture.


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