Substance Use

Ketamine Withdrawal

Ketamine (Drug)
LAST UPDATED: August 3, 2022

<h1><span data-sheets-value="{" data-sheets-userformat="{">Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline &amp; Detox Treatment Options</span></h1> <div><a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ketamine_(Drug).jpg">Photo credit</a></div> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Ketamine is an anesthetic that has some hallucinogenic effects. When taking this drug, you feel disconnected, and your perceptions of sound and sight become distorted. This drug is used in medical settings as well as for recreational purposes. When used clinically, it is ideal because it creates a trance-like state in patients, producing pain relief but doesn’t slow breathing, which is common among other anesthetics. On the street, ketamine is referred to as Special K and has effects similar to PCP.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12075653/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Ketamine abuse</span></a><span data-preserver-spaces="true">&nbsp;has been reported, typically among users who abuse multiple drugs. Although not always, these users also often have some contact with medical agencies — depending on the form that’s abused. For example, ketamine is manufactured commercially in&nbsp;</span><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Ketamine-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span data-preserver-spaces="true">powdered and liquid form</span></a><span data-preserver-spaces="true">. However, illicit ketamine is also often formed from pharmaceutical ketamine using a process that creates crystals from a liquid. Once ground into powder, it is often cut with other drugs, including cocaine, MDMA, or methamphetamine. These circumstances can be frightening and dangerous if a user is unaware.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Although ketamine abuse is generally associated with street drug users, most often being sold as a popular “club drug,” ketamine misuse among some medical professionals also is a cause for concern. For example, ketamine is highly accessible to anesthesiologists. However, this only occurs in isolated incidents, as outlined in&nbsp;</span><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4100428/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span data-preserver-spaces="true">this case study</span></a><span data-preserver-spaces="true">. When someone in the medical field has a history of substance abuse and proximity to drugs, including ketamine, these variables can trigger use.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">This case study, where ketamine dependence developed in an anesthesiologist, shows that ketamine use is not isolated to a particular group, just as substance use disorder does not discriminate. Anyone can be affected by addiction, which is why it’s essential to seek help when substance misuse becomes an issue. Substance misuse can cause you to lose everything — your career, your family, and under certain circumstances, your life.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Quitting any drug can be challenging once dependence develops. Most drugs of abuse create withdrawal symptoms that hinder one’s ability to stop using, but ketamine is relatively unique. Ketamine withdrawal is not overly common compared to other substances, like opiates and&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: #ffffff;"><a class="editor-rtfLink" style="background-color: #ffffff;" href="https://zinniahealth.com/research/binge-drinking-prevalence-by-state" target="_blank" rel="noopener">alcohol</a></span><span data-preserver-spaces="true">. Prominent physical withdrawal symptoms are not experienced by many users, even though they often develop significant tolerance. With ketamine withdrawal, the greatest concern is psychological variables and the combination of other substances. If you often mix substances of abuse, this can make the ketamine withdrawal process more complicated.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">If you have been struggling with ketamine use and other substances of abuse, it’s vital to seek the help you need to ensure a safe, comfortable withdrawal period. From there, you can begin a recovery program that helps you overcome any underlying mental health conditions. The goal is to learn how to overcome your triggers and develop healthy coping skills.&nbsp;</span></p> <h2><span data-preserver-spaces="true">What Are the Symptoms of Ketamine Withdrawal?</span></h2> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">If you excessively abuse ketamine, this can lead to psychological dependence. For some, this can be more challenging to overcome than the initial physical withdrawal symptoms associated with other drugs of abuse. Some users become dependent on their ability to escape. In some cases, this is because of ongoing issues within their life, which is why structured help is so important. Completing the ketamine withdrawal process is the first step of many.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">So, what can you expect from&nbsp;</span><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34270337/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span data-preserver-spaces="true">the ketamine withdrawal process</span></a><span data-preserver-spaces="true">?</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Research is currently limited, as there isn’t much evidence indicating physical dependence among ketamine users. The issue is that users build a tolerance, taking more and more ketamine to achieve the same effect. Chasing this high is what gives rise to ketamine misuse.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">During the withdrawal process, you may experience some or all of the following symptoms:</span></p> <ul><li><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Agitation, irritability, and potential rage&nbsp;</span></li><li><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Confusion and cognitive impairment&nbsp;</span></li><li><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Nausea&nbsp;</span></li><li><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Mood changes</span></li><li><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Changes in sleep</span></li><li><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Cravings</span></li><li><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Fatigue&nbsp;</span></li><li><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Psychosis, including possible hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia</span></li></ul> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Data from&nbsp;</span><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma15-4131.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span data-preserver-spaces="true">the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration</span></a><span data-preserver-spaces="true">&nbsp;shows that&nbsp;</span><strong><span data-preserver-spaces="true">the most common ketamine withdrawal symptoms in humans include excessive sleep, depression, cravings, and increased appetite</span></strong><span data-preserver-spaces="true">.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Ketamine withdrawal is not typically life-threatening. However, the withdrawal process can become dangerous if you combine several substances of abuse or if you have a pre-existing health condition. Ketamine withdrawal may also be dangerous if you have a severe mental health disorder, as psychological withdrawal symptoms can hinder your ability to think clearly. For some, this may lead to increased suicide risk.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Like all drugs of abuse, the withdrawal process is highly individualized. Since there are so many potential variables, withdrawing from ketamine can be complex. During the withdrawal process, you may become emotionally unstable, and depending on your current mental health, this can complicate the detoxification period. It is highly recommended that you do not withdraw from ketamine unsupervised. Depending on the situation, you could harm yourself or someone else.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">As mentioned, ketamine withdrawal symptoms are primarily psychological. Although some individuals have reported physical symptoms, these have not been scientifically verified. Some concerning signs include a potentially faster heart rate and rapid breathing.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Some users do not experience any “withdrawal” symptoms per se, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need help. If your life revolves around using, you need to seek help. Even if withdrawal symptoms are not significant, most users will experience heightened anxiety when they abruptly stop taking ketamine — especially when psychological dependence is of concern or if you have an underlying mental health condition.&nbsp;</span></p> <h2><span data-preserver-spaces="true">What Causes Ketamine Withdrawal?</span></h2> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">It is not entirely clear how ketamine works. However, this process is complex, involving several brain areas and chemicals.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/d7/priv/sma15-4131.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Research shows</span></a><span data-preserver-spaces="true">&nbsp;that both ketamine and PCP act specifically at the MDMA/glutamate receptor. Animal studies indicate that ketamine is reinforcing in that animals will press a bar to obtain more. Some of these studies have showcased the development of ketamine withdrawal symptoms. When you take ketamine, this drug causes changes to cerebral GABA and glutamate. Following repeated use,&nbsp;</span><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="https://www.nd.gov.hk/pdf/Evidence-of-Brain-Damage-in-Chronic-Ketamine-Users_Final-report.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span data-preserver-spaces="true">several regions of the brain are affected</span></a><span data-preserver-spaces="true">.</span></p> <p><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12075653/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Research shows</span></a><span data-preserver-spaces="true">&nbsp;that ketamine abuse often occurs within polydrug abuse. Many users experience withdrawal symptoms because of the other substances they abuse in conjunction with ketamine. The combination of various drugs can cause many physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Dangerous effects may also occur during use, which is why it’s crucial to address problematic drug use before a life-threatening situation arises. For example, when users take high doses of ketamine or combine ketamine with alcohol, they can experience amnesia, more intense dissociations, numbness, and delirium. So, the cause of ketamine withdrawal is not always black and white. Often, other substances are involved.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">If you continually use ketamine, a tolerance will develop, which may result in higher and higher doses. There are also potential&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: #ffffff;"><a class="editor-rtfLink" style="background-color: #ffffff;" href="https://zinniahealth.com/research/overdose-deaths-every-state-during-covid" target="_blank" rel="noopener">overdose risks</a></span><span data-preserver-spaces="true"><span style="background-color: #ffffff;">,</span> as seen in the clinical setting. In select cases, patients require airway management and ventilatory support for hours.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Although ketamine withdrawal can be a daunting process, you must understand the dangers of continued use.&nbsp;</span><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3713393/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Research shows</span></a><span data-preserver-spaces="true">&nbsp;that chronic and prolonged use leads to organ damage, including brain damage. Using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), researchers were able to see changes in the brain among ketamine addicts of 0.5 to 12 years. A total of 21 subjects were observed. The results showed that lesions in the brain of ketamine addicts appeared within 2-4 years of chronic use.&nbsp;</span></p> <h2><span data-preserver-spaces="true">How Long Does Ketamine Withdrawal Take?</span></h2> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">When considering the duration of ketamine withdrawal, symptoms aren’t always as distinct as other substances of abuse. Since ketamine causes very few, if any, physical withdrawal symptoms, it’s challenging to determine how long someone will experience psychological symptoms. For some, this could be days, whereas others may struggle for weeks or months. As discussed, this is an individualized process — no two people are identical.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">That said, whenever you’re considering the length of a withdrawal process, you must consider a substance’s half-life. Ketamine is lipid-soluble with a&nbsp;</span><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12075653/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span data-preserver-spaces="true">half-life of just 2-3 hours</span></a><span data-preserver-spaces="true">. This timeframe means that within 2-3 hours, half of the plasma concentration of ketamine is eliminated from the body. Once ketamine and other substances of abuse are eliminated, you can then address variables that may have contributed to repeated ketamine use. It’s crucial to address these variables so that you do not relapse or replace ketamine with another substance of abuse — one that may lead to more significant withdrawal symptoms.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">If you are using ketamine as a means of escape. It is time to seek help from<span style="background-color: #ffffff;">&nbsp;</span></span><span style="background-color: #ffffff;"><a class="editor-rtfLink" style="background-color: #ffffff;" href="https://zinniahealth.com/team" target="_blank" rel="noopener">an expert team of professionals</a>.&nbsp;</span></p> <h2><span data-preserver-spaces="true">How To Safely Manage a Ketamine Detox</span></h2> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Case studies on ketamine withdrawal most often involve polydrug use.&nbsp;</span><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0310057X0203000323" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span data-preserver-spaces="true">One 28-year-old male was observed</span></a><span data-preserver-spaces="true">&nbsp;following 17 years of cannabis use, 15 years of alcohol use, and injection use of pentazocine (an opiate), followed by ketamine for five to six years. Once addicted to pentazocine, he contacted a pharmacist friend to try and help him quit. His friend injected him with ketamine. He lost consciousness. A few days later, he returned. He was experiencing distressing&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: #ffffff;"><a class="editor-rtfLink" style="background-color: #ffffff;" href="https://zinniahealth.com/research/opioid-crisis-documentaries" target="_blank" rel="noopener">opiate withdrawal symptoms</a></span><span data-preserver-spaces="true">. He was injected with ketamine again, experiencing relief without losing consciousness.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Following this experience, he began injecting himself with 100 to 200 milligrams of ketamine daily. Over two to three months, he increased his daily dose to approximately 1,000 milligrams daily. Once admitted to an in-patient treatment center, he did not experience physical withdrawal symptoms. However, he had significant insomnia. He experienced mild discomfort and was given diazepam for a few days.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">This case showcases ketamine abuse, yet even at high doses, withdrawal symptoms are not as significant as other substances of abuse. It is the psychological implications that can be very challenging to overcome. For this reason, it is recommended that you complete the ketamine withdrawal process in a professional, supportive environment — especially if other substances are involved. Once you have eliminated all substances from your system, you can focus on holistic healing.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Ongoing therapy in&nbsp;</span><span style="background-color: #ffffff;"><a class="editor-rtfLink" style="background-color: #ffffff;" href="https://zinniahealth.com/research/drug-treatment-facilities-common-types-of-care" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a professional treatment facility</a></span><span data-preserver-spaces="true">&nbsp;will allow you to address triggers and any underlying mental health conditions that may lead to a cycle of abuse. For example, researchers continue to examine&nbsp;</span><a class="editor-rtfLink" href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketamine-for-major-depression-new-tool-new-questions-2019052216673" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><span data-preserver-spaces="true">the link between ketamine and depression</span></a><span data-preserver-spaces="true">. If you have been suffering from depression, you know how debilitating it can be. You may have a history of drug abuse, and upon trying ketamine, you liked how it made you feel — disconnected from your feelings. Major depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, which creates another layer during the treatment process. You cannot treat one without the other — which is the whole idea behind the concept of holistic treatment. You need to treat substance abuse and mental health concerns together, as they influence each other.&nbsp;</span></p> <h2><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Take the First Step</span></h2> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">Regardless of the substance of abuse, overcoming physical or psychological dependence is challenging. Having the support you need to overcome the ketamine withdrawal process can make all the difference. Although the ketamine withdrawal process is not as significant as other substances of abuse, that does not mean you will not continue to relapse — especially when your goal is to mask the symptoms of a mental health condition.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">A professional treatment facility will offer evidence-based treatment options that ensure individualized care. Your treatment plan will be created based on your unique needs, history, and ongoing goals. This approach will ensure the highest levels of success.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">If you are a polydrug user, you must complete the withdrawal process in a supervised, controlled environment. Your safety is of the utmost importance, and when there are several drugs involved in the withdrawal process, symptoms can become much more complicated and severe. With the help of a professional facility, you will be able to manage withdrawal symptoms in a way that makes your experience as safe and comfortable as possible.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span data-preserver-spaces="true">If you are currently stuck in a cycle of ketamine abuse or are experimenting with several drugs, now is the time to take action. Contact a professional facility to begin your road to recovery today!</span></p>

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