Ketamine addiction symptoms

Highlighting the psychological, behavioural and physical symptoms you might experience if you're addicted to ketamine.

On this page: Symptoms Causes
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Page clinically reviewed by Dee Johnson (Mbacp, MNCS), Addiction Therapist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford in January 2023.

What are the signs and symptoms of ketamine addiction?

The symptoms of ketamine addiction can vary from person to person, and also depend upon the environment that it's taken in, as well as the dose of ketamine that's been consumed. As ketamine leaves the body, the craving for the drug becomes more intense. This means that people need to take more in order to achieve the desired effects (physically and psychologically); this is when the signs of addiction become more clear. Also, ketamine misuse is a common cross-addiction from or to other psychoactive drugs, which adds to the risks of regular use.

At Priory, our specialist addiction treatment teams can deliver expert ketamine addiction treatment and therapy, enabling you to overcome your symptoms and cravings, and take steps towards the healthy, fulfilling and drug-free life that you deserve.

Symptoms of ketamine addiction

As well as consuming ketamine on a regular basis, the following are also signs that you, or someone that you know, may be struggling with an addiction to ketamine.

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Fear and paranoia
  • Confusion and memory loss
  • Auditory or visual hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t real)
  • Feeling of floating or being able to fly
  • Distorted perception of space, time and reality, causing you to take risks
  • Entering a trance-like state and experiencing euphoria
  • Inability to focus or concentrate at work, home, or in any other areas of your life
  • Feeling detached from your body and surroundings, leading to an ‘out of body’ experience or causing you to believe that you have died
  • Using ketamine on a regular basis in your day-to-day life
  • Mixing ketamine with other drugs in order to experience a better and longer high
  • Feeling as though you're unable to stop taking ketamine, even though you want to
  • Feeling as though ketamine has taken over your life
  • Being defensive, dishonest and secretive about your ketamine use
  • Avoiding contact with loved ones, leading to social isolation
  • Finding that you only tend to socialise with people who take ketamine or other drugs
  • Stealing money or selling valuables in order to pay for ketamine
  • Unable to stop thinking about when, where and how you will get your next fix
  • Taking ketamine becomes more important than previously enjoyed hobbies and spending time with family and friends

As your ketamine addiction gets worse, other areas of your life can be affected. It's likely that you'll experience negative consequences as a result of your ketamine abuse, including relationship breakdowns, poor performance at work and money problems. Your loved ones will also notice a dramatic change in your behaviour and appearance, often resulting in strained family relationships.

  • Tiredness
  • Inability to feel pain
  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of motor control and paralysis
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Finding that you've built a tolerance to ketamine
  • Experiencing a range of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking ketamine
  • Fatal overdose – certain doses of ketamine are used by vets to euthanise horses, which means that fatal ketamine overdose in humans is a very real possibility

Over time, it’s possible that ketamine abuse can result in a series of long-term health problems, including:

  • Liver damage
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Heart attack
  • Flashbacks
  • Permanent brain damage
  • Severe abdominal cramps known as ‘K cramps’
  • Damage to the veins from injecting ketamine, resulting in abscesses
  • Mental health problems such as schizophrenia, drug-induced psychosis and aggression
  • Serious long-term bladder and urinary tract problems, sometimes resulting in your bladder needing to be surgically removed

Read more about the long-term effects of ketamine abuse here.

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We recognise that reaching out for help can be daunting. That’s why we offer a free assessment with a Priory expert at your nearest Priory hospital if you are struggling with the symptoms of addiction. Call our dedicated team today to arrange a free, confidential assessment.

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What causes a ketamine addiction to develop?

Addictions develop as a result of a psychological process known as ‘positive reinforcement’. Positive reinforcement encourages a pattern of behaviour to form by offering a reward for that behaviour. In the context of ketamine addiction, this drug causes people to experience ‘positive’ outcomes such as pleasure, euphoria, and a sense of tranquillity, which increase the likelihood that they'll seek out these feelings again once ketamine has left the body. This continuous cycle of abuse can result in the development of a dangerous ketamine addiction as opposed to ‘one-off’ behaviour.

As well as the impact of positive reinforcement, research suggests that drug addictions may also develop due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

  • Genetics – if you have a close relative who struggles with substance misuse, this may mean that you’re at greater risk for developing a similar problem. Also, early exposure to drug or alcohol abuse in the home might put you at increased risk too
  • Environment – environmental factors such as being surrounded by peers who engage in addictive behaviours may increase the chances of you becoming addicted to substances such as ketamine. Also, experiencing stressful life events such as bereavement, or a traumatic event, have also been linked to the development of addictions

In addition to the above, some research suggests that you may have an increased susceptibility to developing an addiction to ketamine if you're already struggling with an underlying mental health problem such as depression, anxiety or stress. This is because people might try to self-medicate with ketamine in an attempt to control their symptoms, which can have a detrimental impact on their health and wellbeing over time.

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