Ketamine addiction is a serious mental health condition that can potentially damage your brain. While much is still being learned about ketamine and exactly how it works, we do know that its impact on the brain is multifaceted, affecting multiple neurochemical systems and areas of the brain. 

In this article, you’ll learn what ketamine is, how it can affect the brain when taken, and specific signs and symptoms that someone might be addicted to it. 

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a medication that belongs to a class of drugs known as dissociative anesthetics. It’s commonly used in medical settings during surgical procedures for sedation. However, the recreational use of ketamine has also become common, as it results in a dream-like state and enables individuals to detach from their current emotional state. 

Also known as Special K or K, it’s an extremely powerful type of anesthesia and is dangerous, especially when used recreationally. Ketamine use causes severe cognitive impairment and psychological distress.  

What is Ketamine Used To Treat?

Ketamine can be used to treat individuals who are struggling with depression, including major depressive disorder, and other mental health disorders. Recently, it’s become a more common potential option for treating depression that has resisted other more traditional forms of treatment such as therapy and various medications. However, when ketamine is used for this type of mental health disorder, it is administered in a controlled clinical setting by a medical professional. It should be noted that the medical community is still learning about ketamine’s antidepressant effects.

Ketamine treatment is sometimes also administered for pain management. Specifically for individuals who have severe chronic pain, ketamine infusion therapy might be given.

As mentioned earlier, ketamine therapy is primarily used as a general anesthetic during various medical procedures and creates a trance-like state.

Ketamine abuse tends to occur when individuals are using it recreationally rather than under the guidance and supervision of a medical professional.

What Ketamine Does To Your Brain

Using ketamine has many effects on the brain, several of which are still being studied. However, what we do know is that ketamine alters brain activity and opioid receptors. Some of these effects and impacts on the brain include the following:

Inhibits Function

The use of ketamine can inhibit the normal function of glutamate, an amino acid that plays an important role in brain function. Glutamate is responsible for things such as memory, learning, and cognition. Ketamine binds to N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors located in the brain, which inhibits glutamate function in some parts of the brain. It also increases glutamate levels in other regions of the brain, which is potentially what contributes to the antidepressant effects ketamine use can sometimes provide. 

Improves Neuroplasticity

Ketamine use potentially improves the neuroplasticity of the brain, making it easier for individuals to make changes in their daily lives. Essentially, ketamine rapidly enhances synaptic connections within the brain and promotes the development of new connections. This could result in improved mood and cognitive function. 

Alters Brain Wave Patterns

Ketamine might also alter brain wave patterns, which could be what causes the hallucinogenic and dissociative effects. 

Alters Neurotransmitter Systems

Ketamine affects the release and receptor interactions of serotonin and dopamine in the brain (as well as other neurotransmitter systems). This can affect mood, cognition, and perception. 

As mentioned, the effects of ketamine on the brain are still being studied. There is a lot we don’t know about the harmful side effects taking ketamine could have on our brains, in both the short-term and long-term. 

Is Ketamine Addictive?

Yes, ketamine can be very addictive and result in drug addiction and dependency. While low doses of ketamine might be used for pain management, higher doses and recreational use of ketamine can result in severe side effects including hallucinations, being in an unconscious state, and serious dissociative effects. 

Ketamine use can also result in similar addictive symptoms as seen in other drugs, including having intense cravings for the drug and wanting to use it on a regular basis. It can also lead to an increased tolerance and needing to take more of the drug for the same effects. 

Withdrawal symptoms can also occur for those who become addicted to ketamine, including significant changes in mood, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, tremors, and hallucinations.

In summary, some potential warning signs of ketamine addiction can include:

  • Avoiding activities that once brought you joy
  • Being unable to fulfill work, school, or family obligations
  • Continuing to use ketamine despite negative consequences
  • Experiencing tolerance with ketamine and using it in larger doses or more often than before
  • Inability to control the urge to use ketamine
  • Change in your mental health

Some people are also at a higher risk of developing an addiction to ketamine due to past trauma and life experiences.

If you or someone you love is struggling with a ketamine addiction, treatment is available. At Gloria Rehab, we accept some public health policies and most major private health insurance policies, including Anthem, Beacon, Cigna, and others. A professional treatment provider can assist you in navigating your insurance coverage to minimize any out-of-pocket expenses.

Get Ketamine Addiction Treatment Today

Ready to start the path to healing and recovering from ketamine addiction? Our team at Gloria Rehab is here to help you live a happy, healthy life. Each of our evidence-based therapies and programs provides patients with a unique and individualized approach to care in a supportive, compassionate environment. We’re also available to answer any questions about our substance abuse treatment programs, mental health services, and health insurance coverage.

Contact us today to begin the addiction treatment process.