Why Ketamine Can Be a Dangerous Form of Medication

Substance use disorder (SUD) is complex as it can develop from a wide variety of factors. We often think of SUD as it relates to the use of alcohol and illegal substances like cocaine or heroin. However, SUD can develop from the misuse of prescription medication such as pain medications like opioids. Over four billion prescription medications are given to Americans every year. While these prescriptions are legal and often necessary, they can come with the risk of dependency. Ketamine is a unique drug as it falls in an interesting intersection between legal prescription and illegal manufacturing. 

What Is Ketamine?

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), ketamine is a “dissociative anesthetic that has some hallucinogenic effects.” It can make individuals feel disconnected from their bodies.

Traditionally, ketamine has been used as a legal drug by veterinary clinics and hospitals for sedation and anesthesia. In recent years, drug-regulating organizations have approved ketamine for limited use as a treatment option for treatment-resistant depression. As an illegal substance, ketamine most often appears in the club or party scene under street names like Special K. 

Ketamine’s Popularity as a Party Drug

Ketamine may make individuals feel disconnected from their bodies as they experience visual and auditory hallucinations. Taking substances like ketamine may feel like an escape from life or negative thoughts and feelings. This makes the drug popular for use in communal, party-like atmospheres like clubs, raves, and concerts.

Unfortunately, the sense of relief individuals who use it feel is often short-lived. Those short-term feelings may leave individuals with the need to grab onto that sense of detachment from themselves and the world more and more.

How Ketamine Impacts the Brain

Using ketamine can lead to multiple psychological symptoms during and after use. These are detrimental to individuals’ well-being. Listed below are some of the short- and long-term effects ketamine use and intoxication can have on one’s brain:

  • Cognitive changes
    • Confusion
    • Disorientation
    • Paranoia
    • Memory Loss
    • Slurred speech
    • Dizziness
    • Difficulties thinking and concentrating
    • Hallucinogen persisting perception disorder (HPPD)
  • Mood changes
    • Anxiety 
    • Depression
    • Agitation

Like most substances, there is always a downside to the assumed short-term positive effects those who partake in it may experience. Whether individuals seek out ketamine as an escape from themselves or their lives, its effects only serve to increase the feelings of distress and sadness present before use. Ketamine clouds people’s judgment and makes it more difficult to think and process information accurately. Not only this, but it also harms the body.

How Ketamine Impacts the Body

There are long-lasting psychological consequences for ketamine misuse as well as physical symptoms. Physical symptoms of ketamine use and intoxication can have life-threatening consequences, including:

  • Sedation
    • Unconsciousness
    • Unresponsiveness to stimuli
  • Bodily functions
    • Excessive salivation and tear production
    • Nausaua 
    • Vomiting
  • Chest pain
  • Hypertension
  • Respiratory depression
  • Involuntarily rapid eye movement
  • Dilated pupils
  • Stiff muscles
  • Stomach pain
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Diminished perception of pain
  • Seizures
  • Coma

People often detach themselves from difficult-to-process situations and events. For example, it is often difficult for people to imagine being robbed, experiencing a traumatic injury, or receiving a serious medical diagnosis until it is happening to them. The same sense of detachment can be found in SUD as well.

It is easy to think the psychological and physical consequences of ketamine won’t apply to oneself. Many times, is easier to ignore what scares one than to face it, especially when the immediate effects are so appealing. However, SUD, when left untreated, is incredibly detrimental to one’s wellness. Ketamine use comes with serious complications and one of the highest mortality ratings. 

The Value of Recovery

Recovery is a lifelong process. As noted in an article from the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, a study found that 65% of participants felt more motivated to stay abstinent in their recovery after understanding the negative consequences of SUD. The harm that SUD can cause spans several areas of life. SUD affects every aspect, from mental and emotional health to physical and social well-being. 

Ketamine use complicates people’s lives more than any momentary relief it may seem to offer. Looking back on an individual’s experiences, they may notice a correlation between their substance use and other areas of concern in life, such as lost work opportunities and legal issues, that hurt and lead to a distance from loved ones.

Moreover, the benefits of seeking support can be life-changing. With help, individuals can start to learn how to rewire those harmful cognitive and behavioral patterns that tell them the only thing “good” in their life is found in substances. 

When individuals are committed to building a foundation for a healthier life, recovery can be an invaluable path forward. It points people toward long-term recovery and a more fulfilling life. One of the best indicators for long-term recovery is support. Building healthy support networks with peers, family, and friends can act as a buffer for stress and a conduit for hope. 

At 12 South Recovery, we believe building those networks of care and support is a fundamental part of the recovery process. With a wide variety of evidence-based treatment modalities and a commitment to providing programs that can be customized to each client’s needs, 12 South Recovery can support long-term recovery. We believe in working with clients to build a plan of care that makes recovery work for them and their needs. Everyone deserves the chance to develop tools for a healthier life.

Ketamine can be harmful to your long-term mental, emotional, and physical well-being. However, with support, you can learn how to implement healthy coping skills to support you on your long-term journey to recovery. At 12 South Recovery, we believe in providing client-centered care to support you on your recovery journey. With our evidence-based treatment plans, we can work together to build a plan of care that makes sense for you and your specific needs. Recovery does not happen overnight, but a commitment to working together and putting in the work can help you build a foundation for a healthier you. Call today at 866-839-6876 to start your recovery journey. 

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