Ketamine Abuse: Dangers, Effects, & Treatment

Table of Contents


How is ketamine abused? Ketamine drug abuse occurs when this dissociative anesthetic is used for non-clinical purposes. Although ketamine has FDA approval for inducing anesthesia in humans and animals, abusing ketamine can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening. Read on to learn more about ketamine abuse potential and discover how to connect with evidence-based treatment near you.

The Dangers of Ketamine Abuse

Ketamine abuse poses significant risks and can lead to a variety of serious health and life consequences. Chronic use of ketamine can cause urinary tract and bladder problems, liver damage, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. High doses can lead to potentially fatal respiratory problems.

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Ketamine can induce severe mental health issues, including persistent hallucinations, delusions, and a disconnection from reality. Long-term use of the drug may worsen existing mental health conditions.

The sustained use of ketamine can lead to the development of physical and psychological dependence. People may develop tolerance to the drug, meaning that they need larger doses to achieve the same effects, increasing the risk of overdose. This risk is further magnified if ketamine is combined with alcohol or opioids. Overdosing on ketamine can lead to unconsciousness, coma, and even death, especially when combined with other drugs or alcohol. 

Discontinuation of ketamine after long-term use can trigger the manifestation of withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, tremors, sweating, palpitations, and in severe cases, psychotic symptoms.

Prolonged ketamine abuse can impair memory, attention, and learning ability. These cognitive deficits can impact daily functioning and quality of life. In younger people, this could trigger future cognitive and psychological issues.

Under the influence of ketamine, many people experience impaired motor function and altered perception, significantly increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.

Ketamine abuse can lead to deteriorating personal relationships, employment issues, and legal problems, including arrest and incarceration.

If you or someone that you care about has been abusing ketamine, early intervention can prevent many of the long-term health risks associated with ketamine abuse.

Man looking off in thought representing Ketamine abuse effects

Ketamine Abuse Statistics

Here is a snapshot of ketamine use, its dangers, and its potential medical uses:

  • Ketamine use remains relatively rare: Research shows that less than 1% of people in the U.S. use ketamine recreationally.
  • Peak recreational ketamine use: Peak recreational ketamine use (0.9%) was reported in 2019, according to the same data.
  • Ketamine-related poisonings: Poisonings related to ketamine in the United States were highest from 2000 to 2001 but declined afterward. That said, there was an increase again through 2014 to 1.1 poisonings per 1,000,000 people, which has remained fairly consistent since.
  • Law enforcement seizures of ketamine: Ketamine seizure rates by law enforcement have increased dramatically since 2012, suggesting an increase in the drug’s availability. However, seizures are still relatively uncommon, according to DEA (United States Drug Enforcement Administration).
  • FDA approval: A nasal spray version of ketamine was approved by the FDA for treatment-resistant depression in 2019.

Ketamine Abuse Effects

The effects of ketamine abuse extend beyond immediate health risks, potentially impacting all areas of life.

  • Impaired judgement and decision making: Ketamine, like all dissociatives, can alter perception and cognitive function, leading to poor decision-making and risky behaviors.
  • Social isolation: Chronic use of ketamine often leads to social withdrawal and isolation as people start to prioritize drug use over relationships and social activities.
  • Emotional numbness: Emotional detachment and numbness are common ketamine abuse symptoms, making it difficult for some people to experience pleasure or engage in emotional connections.
  • Financial strain: The ongoing cost of ketamine can lead to financial difficulties and debt.
  • Work and academic problems: Cognitive impairments and altered mental states due to ketamine abuse can drastically impair performance in school or work settings, potentially leading to academic failure or job loss.
  • Psychological dependence: Some people may develop a psychological reliance on ketamine as a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety, or depression, further entrenching the cycle of abuse.
  • Altered perception of reality: Frequent ketamine use can lead to a distorted view of reality, impacting a person’s ability to engage in everyday life and relationships.
  • Impaired interpersonal relationships: Relationships with family, friends, and colleagues can suffer due to erratic behavior, neglect, or the social stigma associated with drug abuse.
  • Long-term psychiatric symptoms: Some people may experience long-lasting psychiatric symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and paranoia, even after stopping ketamine use.
  • Deterioration of physical appearance: Chronic ketamine abuse can lead to noticeable physical changes such as weight loss, poor hygiene, and overall decline in physical health.

These effects highlight the need for comprehensive treatment approaches that address not only the physical aspects of ketamine abuse but also the psychological, social, and behavioral consequences – read on to discover how you can achieve this in Southern California.

Getting Treatment for Ketamine Abuse

Treating ketamine abuse is essential for both physical and mental well-being. Here are some steps and options for seeking treatment.

Professional assessment

The first step is to get a professional evaluation from a healthcare provider or a substance abuse specialist. This will help determine the extent of the abuse and the appropriate level of care needed.


For those who have developed a physical dependence on ketamine, medically supervised detoxification may be necessary. This process helps safely manage withdrawal symptoms under medical supervision.

Inpatient or outpatient rehab programs

Rehab can provide structured treatment, including therapy and support for overcoming ketamine addiction. Inpatient programs are more intensive and may be recommended for severe addictions. Outpatient ketamine abuse treatment is more flexible and affordable.

Talk therapies

CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and other forms of psychotherapy can be effective in addressing the underlying issues that contribute to substance abuse. These therapies can help people change harmful patterns of thinking and behavior.

MAT (medication-assisted treatment)

While there are no medications with FDA approval for treating ketamine addiction, medications may be used to manage co-occurring disorders or symptoms of ketamine withdrawal.

Family therapy and support

Including family members in the treatment process can improve outcomes. Family therapy helps in understanding the dynamics of addiction and how to support a loved one during recovery

Holistic interventions

Techniques like mindfulness, yoga, and acupuncture can complement traditional treatments by reducing stress and improving overall well-being.

Aftercare planning

Once the initial treatment phase is complete, an aftercare plan, which may include ongoing therapy, support groups, and lifestyle changes, is beneficial for maintaining sobriety.

Support groups

Participating in support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) can provide peer support and encouragement, which can be highly beneficial in long-term recovery.

Keep in mind that recovery from ketamine abuse is a journey that involves both overcoming physical dependence and addressing psychological and emotional aspects. Professional guidance and a supportive environment are key components of successful treatment and recovery.

luxury bedroom at california detox representing Ketamine abuse effects

Get Treatment for Ketamine Abuse at California Detox

If you are concerned about the effects of ketamine abuse, reach out to California Detox and connect with evidence-based ketamine abuse treatment in Southern California.

Begin your recovery with supervised detoxification to streamline ketamine withdrawal and address any issues with physical dependence. After a week of detox, you can move into an ongoing inpatient treatment program at our luxury rehab in Laguna Beach, CA.

All treatment plans at California Detox are individualized, blending the following therapies for a whole-body approach to addiction recovery:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Talk therapies
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies
  • Group therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Aftercare and support

When you feel ready to address ketamine abuse, call 949.694.8305.


Ketamine abuse involves the non-medical use of the dissociative anesthetic ketamine, often for recreational purposes or to achieve altered states of consciousness. Prolonged misuse can lead to physical and mental health issues, including addiction, cognitive impairment, and potential long-term damage to the bladder.
Ketamine abuse is dangerous because it can lead to severe physical and mental health consequences. Prolonged misuse may result in addiction, cognitive impairment, hallucinations, and adverse effects on the cardiovascular and urinary systems, posing significant risks to overall well-being.


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