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What Is Ketamine Addiction?

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  • Written By: B. Chisholm
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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Ketamine addiction refers to the abuse of and dependence on the drug ketamine, which is normally used therapeutically for analgesia and general anesthesia. While ketamine addiction is not physical, psychological addiction may occur quickly. Ketamine causes hallucinations and a perception of being dissociated from the body. Addicts generally require in-patient treatment when withdrawing from the drug.

Initially used as a veterinary and human anesthetic, ketamine abuse has become more common worldwide, and with it, ketamine addiction. Addicts may inject it, snort it or eat it. Ketamine is an N-Methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist. It blocks pain and produces anesthesia and dissociation. Due to the loss of pain sensation, people taking ketamine may indulge in risky behavior and damage themselves without realizing it and without seeking necessary medical attention in the case of injury.

While drugs such as heroin and alcohol cause a physical addiction, ketamine addiction is psychological. People become hooked on the psychedelic hallucinations and out-of-body experience. Tolerance for ketamine may develop with regular use, necessitating increasing doses to achieve the same effect. Ketamine is scheduled in most countries and is given only by prescription, as it should only be used in hospitals under controlled conditions.

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Ketamine may have side effects, especially when used frequently and at high doses. Besides the central nervous system (CNS) effects of excitation and hallucinations, it may cause paranoia, panic attacks, and in higher doses, unconsciousness. It may also stimulate the cardiac system, causing increased blood pressure and heart rate, or tachycardia. Uncommonly, it may have the opposite effect of lowering blood pressure and causing hypotension and decreased heart rate. Vomiting may occur, which can be extremely dangerous as there is a chance of choking on vomit while sedated.

There is often a multi-drug component to ketamine addiction, with addicts using not only ketamine. Multi-drug administration increases the risks associated with addiction, causing additive adverse effects and strain on the organs of the body. For example, using ketamine in combination with amphetamines may cause extremely high blood pressure. There may also be interactions between ketamine and other drugs being used for clinical conditions by an addict.

Addiction to any drug, including ketamine, requires specialist attention. Withdrawal, while not physical in the case of ketamine addiction, is a very hard process, and psychological and physical support is essential to ensure that the addiction is beaten. Help should be sought from a trained medical professional and may require an in-patient stay at a drug rehabilitation facility.

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