Updated on March 20, 2024
6 min read

What are the Dangers of Ketamine Addiction?

Key Takeaways

Ketamine is a powerful medication that can be incredibly helpful in managing pain during surgery and even treating conditions like depression. It offers hope and relief for many people who struggle with these challenges.

However, it's important to be aware that, like any potent medication, ketamine has the potential for misuse. For some, its effects can become a source of dependence and addiction.

It's crucial to remember that responsible use is key.  By following your doctor's instructions carefully and avoiding any misuse of ketamine, you can benefit from this medication without the risk of addiction.

Is Ketamine Addictive?

Yes, it can be. Ketamine is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance, meaning it has a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence. Although ketamine addiction is less common compared to other substance use disorders, it can still happen.

This is because of the hallucinogenic effects it has. Much like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and phencyclidine (PCP), ketamine can cause you to enter a dissociative state where you can experience the following:

  • Vivid dreams
  • Hallucinations
  • Altered perception of time and space
  • Feeling of not being in your body

People who misuse ketamine enjoy this state of detachment and often feel like they’re floating. Ketamine has become popular because of this, combined with its sedative and pain-relieving effects, and is often abused to replicate those feelings.


Online Therapy Can Help

Over 3 million people use BetterHelp. Their services are:

  • Professional and effective
  • Affordable and convenient
  • Personalized and discreet
  • Easy to start
Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Woman drinking coffee on couch

What Are the Signs of Ketamine Addiction?

Addiction centers around compulsive drug-seeking behavior. This means feeling a strong need for the drug and acting on that need, even when it has negative consequences.

Common ketamine addiction symptoms could include:

  • Anxiety, disorientation, and insomnia
  • Psychotic episodes, hallucinations, and flashbacks
  • Intense cravings for the drug
  • Difficulty stopping or controlling use, despite wanting to
  • Neglecting responsibilities and losing interest in previous hobbies
  • Engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using
  • Developing tolerance (needing higher doses for the same effect)
  • Facing legal, financial, or relationship problems due to use
  • Changes in personal hygiene or appearance
  • Struggles with work or school performance

If you or a loved one are exhibiting these signs, get medical intervention immediately. The quicker you act, the quicker you can address the addiction and start treatment. Remember to follow all your doctor’s instructions so you can avoid withdrawal.

What are Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms?

Long-term ketamine use and addiction change the way your brain functions. When you stop using the drug, your body will experience withdrawal symptoms as it adjusts to the substance’s absence.

This is because your body has grown so used to the drug that it has depended on it to do the heavy lifting. Without it, your body perceives the lack of the drug as an imbalance, which causes withdrawal symptoms.

These symptoms can be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. Symptoms of ketamine withdrawal typically include:

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Confusion
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Psychosis
  • Agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Rage
  • Heart rate fluctuations
  • Hearing loss
  • Shakes or tremors
  • Trouble sleeping

The Food and Drug Administration states that withdrawal syndrome with psychotic features can occur after people discontinue prolonged ketamine use.

If you’re looking to quit ketamine, make sure you listen to your doctor’s instructions for getting off it. More often than not, your use will be tapered slowly, as abruptly stopping can cause more severe and even fatal symptoms to occur.

Quitting cold turkey may also intensify cravings, leading to potential overdose or relapse. You want to make sure you’re quitting safely. Don’t surprise your body by suddenly stopping; ask your doctor how best to do it.

What are the Risks of Ketamine Use?

Ketamine can be unpredictable, and that's what makes it so risky. Even if you've had positive experiences, a slight increase in dosage can be the difference between a good time and a dangerous situation.

Taking too much ketamine can increase your tolerance for it, making you need more of it to feel the same effects. This can lead to ketamine dependence which makes your body need the drug to function normally.

However, the most dangerous risk of ketamine use is an overdose which can lead to dangerous, if not fatal, side effects, including: 

  • Respiratory depression 
  • Severe confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Low blood pressure
  • Slow heart rate).
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Seizure
  • Stupor
  • Coma

Get Professional Help

BetterHelp can connect you to an addiction and mental health counselor.

Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Rehab Together

What are Ketamine Addiction Treatment Options?

Ketamine addiction treatment often involves getting therapy and joining support systems. Some options include:

  • Inpatient treatment: It involves staying in a facility and receiving round-the-clock care, therapy, and support
  • Outpatient treatment: A flexible treatment option that allows you to return home while receiving support and therapy
  • Behavioral therapy: Psychotherapy method that helps you identify and change negative thought patterns associated with substance use
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): Treatment that involves medication to help manage addiction, dependence, and withdrawal symptoms
  • Support groups: Provide a community of people with similar struggles to share stories, challenges, and keep each other accountable
  • Holistic therapy: Focuses on healing the mind, body, and spirit through activities like yoga, meditation, art therapy, etc.

Therapy can help you overcome addiction and maintain long-term recovery. A doctor or addiction specialist can help tailor a suitable treatment plan for your needs.

What are the Side Effects of Ketamine Abuse?

Due to its dissociative properties, the most common short-term side effect of ketamine is hallucinations. It also creates a sense of detachment from reality, which has made it popular among club-goers and ravers.

In lower doses, some people report positive experiences like enhanced creativity. However, abusing or taking a large amount of ketamine can lead to severe side effects like:

  • Panic and anxiety
  • Seizures
  • Memory loss
  • Psychotic symptoms
  • Amnesia
  • Mood swings
  • Trouble breathing
  • Inability to move

Long-Term Effects

The long-term effects of dissociative drugs can last a year or more after you stop using. These include:

  • Memory loss
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Speech problems
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts
  • Bladder problems (including pain and damage)

The "K-Hole" Experience

One of the more notable side effects of ketamine abuse is the “K-hole” experience. This happens after taking a large dose and entering a dissociative state.

During this experience, you’ll lose your sense of time, space, and self. Other users compare this to a bad LSD trip.

The K-hole experience may cause people to behave recklessly and get into dangerous situations. You can suffer from accidents, overdose, or hurt other people during this time.

Phone, Video, or Live-Chat Support

BetterHelp provides therapy in a way that works for YOU. Fill out the questionnaire, get matched, begin therapy.

Get Started

Answer a few questions to get started

Woman drinking coffee on couch


Ketamine is a powerful dissociative drug that can have severe side effects, both short and long-term. It can lead to addiction and dependence if you use it frequently.

Additionally, abusing ketamine can lead to an overdose. This can increase the risk of dangerous side effects like respiratory depression and seizures.

Luckily, several treatment options can help you or your loved one recover from ketamine addiction. If you or someone you know is addicted to ketamine, contact professional medical help.

Get matched with an affordable mental health counselor

Find a Therapist

Answer a few questions to get started

Updated on March 20, 2024

Related Pages