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Sometimes referred to as ‘the horse tranquilliser’, ketamine is commonly used as an anaesthetic by vets and doctors, and is an easy drug to abuse.
In 2019, a leading UK broadsheet reported that fears were growing about the rise of ketamine use by young people. Seizures of the drug had increased by 30% during the previous year, while a 2017-18 crime survey for England and Wales showed a marked increase in the number of people using the drug from the previous year.
In a separate article a ketamine user talks about ketamine delivering ‘…a drunk-like feeling’ that could block out anxiety and depression, whilst recognising dangers such long-term use leading to complications with the bladder and kidneys.
Ketamine misuse can cause tolerance, dependence and addiction, with users needing ever-increasing amounts of the drug to achieve the desired high.
When abused ketamine can be fatal, its effects are very unpredictable outside of a medical environment.
If you or a loved one need professional ketamine addiction help call our Delamere experts for free and confidential advice.
Ketamine is classified as a Class B controlled drug in the UK and has powerful hallucinogenic dissociative, sedative and analgesic properties.
Ketamine has been widely used in the UK as a pharmaceutical drug for over twenty years, mainly in hospital environments due to its potency and the dangers associated with misuse of this drug. (1)
Ketamine was initially introduced as a medical anaesthesia drug for humans and animals over 50 years ago. It wasn’t until the 1970s that ketamine became available on the streets of Los Angeles and its abuse potential was fully realised.
Labelled a ‘designer party drug’, Ketamine grew in popularity in the UK within the party and clubbing scene. It’s main users being the younger generation. Over the last decade it has also grown in popularity with the UK’s chemsex scene. (2)
Today ketamine is still favoured as an anaesthetic in hospital environments for quick but painful operative procedures due to its advantages over other commonly used anaesthetics.
Whilst under its influence, patients are unable to recall events due to ketamine’s powerful dissociative and amnesic effects. Unlike other anaesthetics, ketamine does not collapse the airways and so is considered a safer option for medical procedures such as resetting bones and putting dislocated joints back into their sockets (2)
Ketamine’s effects can be unpredictable outside of a hospital environment. Hence, Ketamine is only prescribed in instances where patients who suffer from extreme and chronic pain have stopped responding to other painkillers. Even then, the patient will be carefully monitored by the prescriber and started on a low dosage to evaluate how they respond to the drug.
Pharmaceutical ketamine is available in a clear solution that can be administered intravenously and orally.
Ketamine is also available in tablet form on prescription.
On the streets, ketamine usually comes as a white/grainy powder sold in wraps. Street ketamine can be snorted or swallowed. Snorting ketamine is the most common form of abusing the drug (3)
Ketamines effects can be felt almost instantly when snorted or injected.
Ketamine can stay in a person’s system for up to 24 hours before most traces of the drug are eliminated.
Slang terms, street names and code words can be useful in identifying if someone you know is using ketamine illicitly.
Slang terms and street names for illicit ketamine in the UK include:
Black hole, Cat valium, Donkey Dust, Jet, Kay, Ket, Kit Kat, K, Ket, Kay Hold, Special K, Super C, Wonk, (4)
Studies have shown that addiction to ketamine is not physical but purely psychological. It is most often used to alleviate feelings of anxiety or depression. It induces a trance-like state whilst providing sedation and pain relief. When injected, effects usually take hold within five minutes and last up to half an hour.
When abused, ketamine causes a dream-like state of distorted perceptions of sight and sound, whilst inducing euphoria, sedation and pain relief.
In large doses, ketamine can cause users to enter what is commonly referred to as a ‘K-hole’. A ‘K-hole is an extreme dissociative state, where the user is often sedated to the point that they feel paralysed. Whilst in this chemically induced state the user will often experience visual and auditory hallucinations.
A K-hole can be an extremely terrifying, not to mention dangerous, experience. Some users liken a K-hole to a near death experience.
Contrary to the belief that ketamine does not cause a physical dependence, when used frequently, users will develop a tolerance to the drug. This causes those who frequently use ketamine to require larger doses in order to feel ketamines desired effects.
Ketamine, when abused, can cause tolerance and dependence to develop. On stopping ketamine where a dependence has occurred, a user will develop both psychological and physiological withdrawal symptoms.
Due to ketamines unique dissociative properties, the signs and symptoms of intoxication are not that difficult to spot.
Ketamine can be very dangerous when abused, so if you do spot the signs and symptoms of ketamine abuse in someone you know or care for it is important to urge them to seek professional ketamine help.
Someone who has an addiction to ketamine will regularly abuse the drug and be frequently intoxicated. This is why it is helpful to know the signs of ketamine intoxication.
Signs and symptoms of ketamine intoxication and abuse include:
Signs and symptoms of ketamine addiction include:
Addiction to ketamine is a life-threatening condition that requires urgent intervention and professional treatment in order to overcome
The most noticeable effects of taking ketamine include tachycardia, where the heart rate exceeds the normal resting rate. Other effects of ketamine include:
In some heavy users ketamine can cause the bladder to shrink, producing cloudy or bloody urine and pain when going to the toilet. In the worst cases of ketamine abuse, the damage can be irreversible requiring a colostomy bag to be surgically placed to bypass the bladder.
When mixed with other substances ketamine becomes even more hazardous. Its anaesthetic and sedative properties make it dangerous to mix with alcohol or opiates in particular.
Mixing ketamine with alcohol or other depressant drugs increases the chances of the fainting, experiencing breathing difficulties, suffering seizures, overdose and death.
Mixing ketamine with a stimulant or hallucinogenic drug increases the chances of the user suffering a heart attack, respiratory arrest, suffering injury through accident, overheating, psychosis, and death
Addiction is a medically recognised chronic and progressive brain disorder that is considered life threatening.
As with all addictions, ketamine addiction will be characterised by tolerance, progression, increased risk taking, loss of control, continuation despite negative/harmful consequences and relapse.
Ketamine addiction help comes in the form of medical and therapeutic intervention.
Firstly the addicted individual will require medical help in stopping ketamine safely, a full medical detox being the most successful way.
The underlying causes and issues that underpin the addiction to ketamine must then be comprehensively addressed and healed using evidence based treatments delivered by qualified therapists.
In order to avoid relapse, the addicted individual will then need to learn and implement healthier ways of managing their emotions, adopt strategies to cope with triggers and make drastic changes to their social life and interpersonal relationships.
Maintaining recovery from ketamine addiction will require ongoing work, growth and support from professionals and like minded others.
The best treatment for ketamine addiction comes in the form of a supervised and medically managed detox and a comprehensive rehabilitation programme.
At Delamere we can help you or a loved one to overcome ketamine addiction once and for all. All of our treatments are delivered within our state of the art, purpose built rehab facility, located in the secluded and enchanting countryside of Cheshire.
Our bespoke ketamine addiction treatment programmes consist of a combination of traditional evidence based treatments combined with the latest in comprehensively researched innovative addiction treatments.
At Delamere we take a holistic, person centred approach to healing addiction. This means that we treat all aspects of the individual as opposed to just removing the drug that the person came to us for help with.
A typical ketamine addiction treatment programme at Delamere will consist of:
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