What Are The Long Term Effects of Ketamine?

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Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that is chemically similar to PCP (phencyclidine) and has some hallucinogenic properties.

Used as an anesthetic since the 1970s for human and veterinary medical applications, this Schedule III controlled substance is prohibited for non-medical use.

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Despite the potential ketamine shows as a treatment for some mental health conditions, the effects of ketamine can cause the development of addiction and health complications that may render it unsuitable for therapeutic use beyond anesthesia.

What happens when you take ketamine, then?

Effects of Using Ketamine

When ketamine is administered medically – whether by intramuscular injection or via an intravenous line – the medication induces anesthesia ketamine is considered a safe and effective anesthetic because it does not lower breathing rate or blood pressure dangerously. Physicians often prescribe ketamine together with other medications to counter its hallucinogenic effects.

Ketamine, like all dissociative anesthetics, creates a feeling of disconnectedness where the body and mind are separated when the substance is abused. This is known as depersonalization. The other effects of dissociation include:

  • Euphoria
  • Dream-like sensation
  • Hallucinations
  • High blood pressure
  • Changes to heart rate

 Like all Schedule III drugs, ketamine has a low to moderate risk of dependence and addiction. When ketamine is used in a clinical setting to induce anesthesia, there should be few adverse effects.

 Short Terms Effects

The effects of ketamine are felt within a few minutes of use, lasting for between a few hours and several days. Effects are unpredictable and heavily dose-dependent.

At low doses, short-term effects of ketamine include: 

  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Raised heart rate
  • Breathing problems
  • High body temperature.
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Detachment

At high doses, short-term effects of ketamine can be much more intense, bringing about a sense of complete detachment.

Combining ketamine with CNS depressants like alcohol or opioids may lead to life-threatening respiratory depression.

Long Term Effects

There is minimal research on the effects of the long-term use of ketamine and other dissociative drugs. 

That said, NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) reports that the primary long-term risk of ketamine abuse is the development of an addiction (substance use disorder).

Chronic ketamine abuse may cause tolerance, physical dependence, and withdrawal syndrome upon discontinuation of the substance. SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) states that the main symptoms of ketamine withdrawal are depression, intense cravings, and excessive sleepiness.

Additionally, studies show that the sustained abuse of ketamine may provoke neurological complications, altering the function and structure of the brain.

Next, what does ketamine do to your body?

an image of a woman looking off into the distance, after learning about the long term effects of Ketamine

How Does Ketamine Affect the Body?

Taking ketamine nasally can damage the sinus cavities and nasal passageways.

The long-term consequences of ketamine snorting include an impaired sense of smell and permanent damage to the structure of the nose.

Injecting ketamine may trigger the following physical complications:

  • Damaged veins, skin, and muscles
  • Issues with internal organs
  • Skin infections
  • Endocarditis (infection of heart valves)
  • Infectious diseases

Chronic ketamine abuse is associated with kidney and liver damage. Taking high doses of ketamine on an ongoing basis may cause bladder problems and UTIs (urinary tract infections).

Other adverse effects of ketamine on the body include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Respiratory issues
  • Organ failure
  • Heart attack

What Does Ketamine Do to You?

Doctors use ketamine to induce general anesthesia. The drug is used alone or in combination with other general anesthetics like nitrous oxide. Ketamine rapidly induces short-term sedation.

When abused, ketamine acts as a dissociative hallucinogenic tranquilizer. Ingesting the substance in any form brings on a strong sense of relation, with the ketamine high lasting for an hour or so.

Taking higher doses of ketamine leads many people to experience an effect informally known as the K-hole. Individuals entering a K-hole will find themselves temporarily unable to interact with others. Special K drug effects include both bodily control and environmental awareness being radically impaired. This intense dissociation leads many people to feel disconnected from their bodies, unable to speak, and unable to control their bodies. Ketamine in higher doses also induces a sense of numbness, potentially leading to accidents and injuries.

Many people accidentally overdose on ketamine in an attempt to enter a K-hole. As a tranquilizer, ketamine can cause a complete loss of mobility and respiratory failure.

The primary adverse Ketamine side effects are:

  • High blood pressure levels
  • Increased heart rate
  • Respiratory issues
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Flashbacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Long-term cognitive issues

Ketamine effects on the body occur even if the drug is taken in small doses for short periods and can last for up to one day after the last dose. The most common sustained side effects of ketamine are:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Stumbling
  • Loss of coordination

Using Ketamine

Ketamine is a clear liquid or a white powder. Occasionally, illicit ketamine is pressed into pill form.

Powdered ketamine may be: 

  • Snorted nasally
  • Smoked with marijuana in joints
  • Mixed into drinks and ingested

How dangerous is ketamine?

The Dangers of Ketamine

Is ketamine dangerous? When used in a controlled clinical setting, the substance is typically safe.

Any abuse of ketamine, though, may cause serious adverse effects on physical and mental health and can cause the development of tolerance, dependence, and addiction.

 Street Drugs Dangers

Illicit ketamine in powdered form is frequently adulterated with other substances. This can lead to unpredictable interactions.

What happens when you take ketamine, like any anesthetic, is a reduction or elimination of pain. This can make it difficult to determine whether you have sustained an injury and can lead to people hurting themselves while under the influence of ketamine.

As the effects of the ketamine high wear off, abdominal pain often presents. Those who abuse ketamine chronically may encounter bladder problems and UTIs.

Kidney problems associated with ketamine abuse may occur as the drug interacts with the kidneys as it metabolizes.

Bad Reactions to Ketamine

Some people may experience a bad reaction to ketamine as the substance impairs their ability to drive, while at the same time potentially causing confusion, agitation, or violent paranoia.

If you enter a k-hole, you may be unable to move or communicate with others. Due to this, ketamine has been used for the purposes of date rape.

Combining ketamine with CNS depressants heightens the risk of a bad interaction, potentially producing: 

  • Amnesia
  • Delirium
  • Depression
  • Impaired motor function

Risks of Taking Ketamine Unprescribed

The primary risk of taking ketamine unprescribed include:

  • Raised heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Drowsiness
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Derealization
  • Detachment from reality

The more acute risks of illicit ketamine abuse include vomiting that may lead to choking.

Like all Schedule III controlled drugs, ketamine may also lead to addiction in the form of substance use disorder when it is abused without a prescription.

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Get Help for Ketamine Addiction Today at California Detox

At California Detox, we can help you combat ketamine addiction at our luxury treatment facility in Laguna Beach. Choose from the following programs:

  • Inpatient rehab
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment programs

Whatever level of intensity makes the right fit for you, you can engage with evidence-based treatment here at California Detox. Through a combination of MAT (medication-assisted treatment), counseling, and psychotherapies (talk therapies like CBT or DBT), you can move beyond ketamine addiction. 

Call admissions right away at 949.694.8305 and our team will guide you every step of the way.


Yes, ketamine can be addictive. While ketamine is not considered to be as addictive as drugs like opioids or stimulants, the sustained use of ketamine may still lead to physical dependence and addiction. The risk of addiction is increased when ketamine is used frequently or in high doses. Additionally, those who have a history of substance abuse or addiction may be more susceptible to developing a ketamine addiction.
The long-term effects of ketamine on the brain are still being studied and are not fully understood. That said, there is some evidence to suggest that long-term use of ketamine can have negative effects on brain function and structure. Ketamine abuse may also heighten the risk of developing depression or anxiety.


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