The United States is currently at the forefront of an unprecedented drug epidemic, unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Throughout our history, the country has witnessed drug addiction but never at this rate. According to the Drug Abuse Statistics Organization, 700 thousand people have lost their lives because of drug overdose deaths since 2000. It’s hard to wrap your mind around this figure because of the sheer volume. Unfortunately, it’s not something that seems to be getting any better as the previous year was the worst on record. According to the same statistics, the federal government allocates 35 billion dollars each year to fight addiction to drugs like ketamine. However, it doesn’t seem to be enough.
According to a recent release from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), their provisional data found there were an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths in the United States, increasing a staggering 28.5 percent from the 78,056 deaths the year before. This figure is the most in a single year on record, showing the need for more attention toward the topic. Although the vast majority of deaths stemmed from opioids, other drugs like ketamine get less attention. Although ketamine is a safe and effective drug when administered by a medical professional in a clinical setting, it’s often misused for its hallucinogenic properties.
According to the Journal of Psychopharmacology, an estimated 6.72 percent of the global population used ketamine in 2016. In 2018, that number rose to 11.7 percent, a substantial increase. While it’s challenging to determine if some deaths were caused by ketamine, the journal indicates 30 people have died from ketamine use in the past decade. While the number doesn’t jump out, it doesn’t account for the physical damage ketamine causes in a user. Ketamine users were overwhelmingly males at 84.1 percent of all users around the age of 31. Ketamine was most commonly detected with other substances, and the underlying cause of death was accidental poisoning. Ketamine could have also impaired their judgment in other cases, resulting in death.
Drug abuse is prevalent nationwide, and our only option at this point is to get users the treatment they need. There are currently 31.9 million illegal drug users in the United States, with 11.7 percent of Americans over the age of 12 using on a regular basis. Of those millions of users, an estimated 8.1 million of them have a drug use disorder, equating to 25.4 percent. Getting help for using a drug like ketamine is vital as the drug can produce severe side effects on your body. Your last line of defense is to seek help for ketamine addiction.
If you’re struggling with ketamine addiction and believe you’ve exhausted all other resources for help, know that we’re here to catch you when you’re ready to change your life. Below, we’ll discuss ketamine addiction, withdrawal, and what treatment looks like.
What is Ketamine and What’s It Used For?
Ketamine made its debut on the scene in Belgium during the 60s as an anesthesia medication for animals. A decade later, it was FDA-approved as an anesthetic in humans and was immediately used to treat injured soldiers on the battlefields during the Vietnam War. What made this particular drug stand out is that, unlike other anesthetics, it doesn’t depress breathing, meaning the patient doesn’t need a ventilator to receive it, which is ideal for soldiers on the battlefield who need to be patched up quickly.
It’s often used by frontline workers and administered to agitated patients who may have been rescued from a suicide attempt. At this point, doctors realized its potential in treating the effects of depression and suicidal thoughts. Ketamine causes what is known as a dissociative experience, or what drug users would call a “trip,” which is how it became a club drug. It has several nicknames, including Special K, Super K, K, among others. Users can inject it, snort it, put it in their drink, or add it to a cigarette or joint.
Ketamine is a potent drug that produces visual and sensory distortions, feelings of unreality, and temporary unusual thoughts and beliefs. Many users describe falling into a “K-hole” after taking a certain dose. The trip can last around two hours. However, there are obvious risks stemming from use, including dangerously slowed breathing and high blood pressure. It can also cause long-term problems, such as kidney problems, stomach pain, ulcers, pain in the bladder, depression, and poor memory. Ketamine can be fatal for those who abuse alcohol, especially if used when drunk.
Since ketamine is used in the party scene, it’s often mixed with other drugs like LSD, alcohol, or MDMA. For this reason, use can quickly spiral into addiction, meaning you’ll need addiction treatment.
Signs of Ketamine Addiction
Frequent and prolonged ketamine abuse can lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction. Once you develop an addiction and you’re using the drug regularly, it’ll become much easier to spot the signs of addiction since the effects on your mind are intense.
Signs of a ketamine addiction include the following:
- Inability to concentrate
- Frequent state of drowsiness and distraction
- Loss of coordination
- Fatigue and lack of motivation
- Slurred speech
- Redness on the individual’s skin
- Bladder pain
Any form of drug addiction is characterized by cravings and the constant urge to get the drug, even if it means neglecting friends, family, and financial obligations in favor of getting the drug.
There is little evidence that you can become physically dependent on ketamine. However, chronic users can develop a psychological dependence on the substance and will experience cravings when they aren’t using the drug. Ketamine withdrawal has few physical symptoms.
Repeated exposure to the drug can cause your body to stop responding to it the way it once did, known as tolerance. It can contribute to the cycle of ketamine abuse and addiction, pushing the user to seek out the drug despite negative consequences. Tolerance to ketamine will occur rapidly, especially if the user is binge using the drug. Withdrawal from ketamine is similar to other addictive drugs, such as cocaine, and produces strong cravings and high tolerance but doesn’t generally cause physical symptoms.
Ketamine Treatment Options
Despite it not causing severe withdrawal symptoms and not being known for overdose deaths, ketamine addiction is a serious problem. Ketamine is taxing on your body and can cause something known as ketamine bladder syndrome, a severe and irreversible damage to your urinary tract. There are stories of people needing a new bladder because of ketamine abuse. Although overdosing isn’t a concern, what it does to your body is and must be addressed immediately.
Ketamine abuse will also affect how you function in day-to-day life, leading to losing your job and destroying relationships with family members or significant others. For that reason, seeking treatment for your ketamine addiction is a must. Although ketamine withdrawal symptoms are not life-threatening when compared to drugs like alcohol or benzos, they are unpleasant and come with strong cravings. Even worse, ketamine is not a drug you can taper from because of its intense effects on the brain, especially your memory. For that reason, you must come off cold turkey, which is why admitting yourself to medical detox is the best option. Doctors will administer medications to cope with your symptoms. It’ll be rough in the short term but worth it in the long run.
Detox will last anywhere from three days to a week and is the best chance you have for meaningful and long-term change. Once medical staff deems you clear, you’ll move into the next level of care, allowing you to get to the root of your addiction and provide some clarity as to why you began abusing the drug in the first place. Each person is different, so this process will differ from one person to the next. During ketamine addiction treatment, you’ll go through various therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other options the team sees necessary for your recovery.
Addiction is extremely powerful, and many of us won’t even know we’ve become addicted to ketamine. At this point, you’re already in too deep and will benefit greatly. Addiction treatment will open your eyes to the damage you’ve caused and give you a roadmap on how you can fix it.