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Medically Reviewed

Can You Get Addicted to Ketamine?

- 7 sections

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine, also known as “K,” “special K,” and “vitamin K,” is a dissociative/anesthetic medication that was initially approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1970. Because it has tranquilizing effects, it was widely used for anesthetic procedures in animals and humans, but it has more recently been used to treat various mental health conditions including treatment-resistant depression.

However, ketamine is a derivative of phencyclidine (PCP), a powerful and recreational drug with dissociative effects. Like PHP, ketamine is abused as a recreational drug because it produces out-of-body experiences and other euphoric, dissociative effects. Although ketamine has recently gained popularity for its medicinal uses, it has been a popular drug of abuse in club and rave scenes for decades.

Ketamine is labeled a Schedule III controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act because it has medicinal uses, but is also recognized for its risk of abuse, dependence, and addiction. The drug usually comes in the form of a clear liquid or white/off-white powder. Liquid ketamine is usually dissolved in drinks or injected, while powdered ketamine may be smoked or snorted.

An estimated 7% of U.S. adults have abused ketamine.[2]

Ketamine Side Effects

The effects of ketamine vary greatly depending on the dose. Lower doses produce tranquilizing and sedative effects while higher doses produce more euphoric and dissociative effects.

Physical side effects of ketamine include:

  • Dizziness
  • Sedation
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Increased heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Sweating
  • Excessive salivation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shaking
  • Seizures
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slow breathing

Mental/emotional effects of ketamine include:

  • Hallucinations
  • Out-of-body experiences
  • Dreamlike states
  • Poor attention span
  • Anxiety
  • Arousal
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Delusions
  • Memory loss
  • Paranoia
  • Nightmares

While using ketamine, people be be unaware of their surroundings and any potential dangers, putting themselves at risk for things like accidents or sexual assault. In fact, ketamine is often used to sedate victims of sexual assault and rape, and it is often called a “date rape” drug.

Intoxicated states that involve out-of-body experiences, detachment from reality, and hallucinations are referred to as a “K-hole.”

Can You Get Addicted to Ketamine?

Ketamine is recognized for its potential for abuse, physical dependence, and addiction, as people who abuse the drug often get physically and mentally addicted to it.[3] Ketamine produces a short-lasting high and is often used in social interactions, so users often binge on the drug.

If you or a loved one abuse ketamine, you can certainly get addicted to it.

Signs of Ketamine Addiction

Addiction to ketamine is characterized by chronic and regular use, the inability to moderate or control drug use, and physical dependence. Physical dependence develops after the body gets used to functioning with ketamine in the system and is thrown out of balance when you stop using the drug, resulting in withdrawal.

In addition to physical dependence and withdrawal, signs of ketamine addiction include:

  • Taking increasingly large doses of ketamine to feel the desired effects
  • One or more multiple failed attempts to cut back or stop using ketamine
  • Having strong drug cravings and obsessions
  • Spending excess time and money on ketamine
  • Lying to friends and family
  • Engaging in dangerous or risk-taking behaviors
  • Continuing to use ketamine despite unwanted side effects or social problems
  • Failing to maintain work, school, or family responsibilities

If you or someone you love are addicted to ketamine, it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible to prevent the long-term effects.

Long-Term Effects of Ketamine Abuse and Addiction

Ketamine is extremely dangerous for long-term use and is linked to a variety of physical and mental challenges, including:

  • Ulcers
  • Bladder pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Depression
  • Kidney problems
  • Long-term memory or cognitive issues

Ketamine Comedown and Withdrawal

The first step toward recovery is detox. When you first stop taking ketamine, you may experience a “comedown” followed by symptoms of withdrawal. The comedown occurs when the effects of ketamine begin wearing off and the high dissipates. Ketamine comedowns are similar to a hangover, but you may experience anxiety, depression, muscle weakness, feelings of hopelessness, and more. In severe cases, numbness, vision impairment, and confusion/delirium may occur.

As the comedown ends, symptoms of withdrawal may begin. Ketamine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Cravings
  • Chills
  • Low mood
  • Poor appetite
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Body aches

These symptoms are best managed at a medical detox facility where monitoring and medications are offered for your safety.

Find Treatment for Ketamine Addiction Today

Ketamine addiction is serious, but treatment can help. Ketamine addiction treatment typically involves behavioral therapy, group counseling, and other forms of support. Because addiction often develops as a result of an underlying mental health condition, treatment must provide comprehensive mental and behavioral health services.

If you or someone you love is struggling with ketamine abuse or addiction, know that there is help available. Although you may feel hopeless, our team at Carolina Center for Recovery is qualified to help.

We are a dual-diagnosis facility with a primary focus on substance abuse. We offer individualized, extended-term treatment in an intimate setting located in Charlotte, NC. We take a holistic approach to treating addiction, offering a variety of treatment modalities centered around identifying and resolving the underlying issues associated with the addiction.

Each client enrolled in our program will receive individual attention from a therapist and psychiatrist as well as gain exposure to a multitude of traditional and alternative therapies. To learn more about our treatment programs or to begin your recovery, please call now.