Dangers of Ketamine: Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine is an FDA-approved drug that is typically used for pain relief after surgery. Because ketamine is a potent dissociative anesthetic, it can be harmful to take higher doses and for an extended period.  

Unfortunately, it is often misused as a recreational drug causing ketamine withdrawal and even acts as a popular club drug to spike drinks. 

Ketamine has been used for treating depression off-label, sparking controversy. Drugs may be used for off-label purposes when approved by the United States (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Misusing the drug can lead to addiction and serious long-term side effects. Learning more about the dangers of ketamine and ketamine addiction can help people recognize abuse in themselves or loved ones.

What Is Ketamine?

Medical professionals and veterinarians primarily use ketamine as an anesthetic.  Developed in the 1960s, it comes in an injectable liquid, but it evaporates into a powder when misused recreationally. Then, individuals snort it to get high. 

Like opioids, ketamine can reduce pain, leading to solid dissociative experiences that make people feel as if they aren’t inside their bodies. Ketamine can also sometimes induce hallucinations, such as PCP or LSD. 

Ketamine Abuse

The most common use of ketamine happens in a party or club setting oftentimes as a date rape drug.

About an hour after taking it, individuals will feel an abrupt high. Some users often report feeling a euphoric high or even out-of-body experiences and sensations. 

Physical dependence and withdrawal may occur with chronic use of ketamine, but psychological support is far more prevalent. As ketamine is abused, people build up a tolerance very quickly. 

Consequently, they try to get high by taking larger and larger doses of Ketamine. 

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Flashbacks

The amount of drugs taken by people is challenging to determine. Ketamine overdoses are very rare but can happen. 

When individuals overdose on ketamine, it usually involves people mixing the drug with other substances like alcohol.  One of the biggest dangers of ketamine is that people dont know how much they are taking, especially when combined with drinks. 


Ketamine can have a number of different adverse effects, such as: 

  • Drowsiness
  • High blood pressure 
  • Agitation 
  • Changes in perceptions of color & sound
  • Memory loss
  • Nausea
  • Dilated pupils
  • Depression
  • Slow heart rate
  • Anxiety 
  • Numbness 

Long-Term Effects 

Ketamine abuse at high doses causes physical tolerance to the drug and dependence. In ketamine, tolerance can lead to very harmful practices to get a more intense high, such as taking more of the drug to feel the original effects.

Mental health is also one of the largest and most significant things ketamine can affect.  The same is true for ketamine. Using intoxicating substances long-term leads to cognitive decline, memory loss, and mood disorders. 

When this anesthetic is abused, the victim will forget things easily, develop brain fog, and have mood swings.  

As people use more ketamine, they begin to face memory loss and forget things like certain words, a person’s name, and even conversations they had. 

Depression and Ketamine

People who have been helped to overcome ketamine addiction are likely to experience improvements in these areas.

Ketamine users who use it heavily are more likely to be depressed than occasional users. We don’t yet know if depression results from ketamine abuse and its effects on people’s lives or if the misusing of ketamine by those who are already depressed may only exacerbate it.

In terms of treating depression, there are numerous practical and safer methods. Behavioral therapy can help you deal with feelings of guilt and emptiness that may arise after experiencing trauma, including physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. 

Addiction Treatment 

In addition to causing problems in everyday life, the substance can also have long-term health effects, especially on the urinary tract. Ketamine is thought to damage the kidneys in mice if given regularly. 

Because memory loss is a significant side effect, people with these deficits may find it harder to realize that they have a problem and need help. Given these factors, patients addicted to ketamine often require inpatient treatment after detox.

Individuals will also go through ketamine withdrawals.  While they aren’t life-threatening, they are still very unpleasant.  During detox, people experience intense cravings as well. 

The aftereffects of a drug usually last for weeks or months after it leaves an individual’s system. Participating in an inpatient rehab program will allow the individual to focus on learning skills on how to cope with their cravings and avoid temptation.

At SoCal Sunrise Recovery Center, we provide a welcoming environment and a strong community to reach sobriety. Located in Orange County, California, our comprehensive treatment approach uses a combination of traditional and holistic methods.  We focus on healing the mind and body and bringing balance back into our patients’ lives.

SoCal Sunrise Is Ready to Help

If you feel that you or your loved one’s substance abuse is taking over, we’re here to answer any questions you might have about treatment.  SoCal Sunrise creates a personalized treatment program that offers a variety of therapies to foster growth.

Get your questions answered and get the help you deserve by contacting us today.  

Clinically Reviewed By

Dawn Masick, LMFT

Dawn has experience dealing with various relational, emotional, and psychological struggles. Dawn’s training has prepared her to work with children, teens, young adults, adults, couples, and families. She has undergone training in DBT, TF-CBT, and Family Therapy.  Other competencies include dealing with ADHD, mood/anxiety disorders, parenting challenges, addiction, PTSD, co- dependency, and relationship issues. I have experience in residential, school-based mental health, children’s community mental health, victims of crime (VOC), and private practice settings.

Dawn has been committed to guiding clients through their trauma, coming alongside them in their healing, and supporting them as they navigate life changes. Dawn’s passion is working with clients struggling with trauma in substance abuse and mental health.