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What Is Ketamine Withdrawal?
Ketamine withdrawal occurs once you stop taking ketamine after building up a dependence on it or forming a ketamine drug addiction.
Ketamine withdrawal symptoms can begin as soon as 24 hours after the last dose of ketamine was taken and can linger for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
How Does Ketamine Lead to Withdrawal?
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that has several medical uses. The drug was originally created as an anesthetic.
Since its creation, additional healthcare uses for ketamine have been discovered, including treating seizures and certain mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
Due to its hallucinogenic properties, ketamine is also used and abused recreationally, particularly as a “party drug.”
Ketamine drug abuse may cause a person to form a dependence. Over time, a person’s brain may no longer make these chemicals without ketamine.
What Causes Ketamine Withdrawal?
Ketamine primarily acts on the NMDA receptor in the brain. It also has an inhibitory effect on several reuptake neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine.
The effects of ketamine on these parts of the brain lead to the hallucinogenic and euphoric feelings that people seek when taking ketamine.
When you take ketamine for an extended period, the brain becomes dependent on continued ketamine use to reach its desired effects. When the brain no longer gets ketamine, it begins to rebel in the form of mental and physical withdrawal symptoms.
Common Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms
Ketamine withdrawal can lead to both physical symptoms and psychological symptoms.
One of the most dangerous and severe symptoms of ketamine withdrawal is excitotoxicity.
Excitotoxicity is the breakdown and damage of nerve cells due to increased exposure to neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). Though rare, this type of nerve cell damage can be permanent.
Other acute withdrawal symptoms for ketamine include:
- Double vision
- Intense cravings
- Increased heart rate (tachycardia)
- Rapid breathing (tachypnea)
- Increased blood pressure
- Problems with motor skills or coordination (cognitive impairment)
- Hearing loss
- Suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide)
The Ketamine Withdrawal Timeline
The way a person’s body and brain react to withdrawing from ketamine is mainly dependent on the severity of their addiction and how much ketamine they regularly take.
Factors That Affect Ketamine Withdrawal
Taking larger doses of ketamine for an extended period can result in a more severe substance use disorder, potentially causing a longer ketamine withdrawal timeline.
How Long Does Ketamine Withdrawal Last?
Ketamine withdrawal symptoms can begin as early as 24-72 hours after the last dose.
These symptoms can last from a few days to weeks, particularly the psychological symptoms of excitotoxicity.
Spotting Ketamine Withdrawal
Ketamine withdrawal differs from withdrawal from other drugs of abuse, like opioids. However, there are still signs to watch for if you believe you or a loved one may be going through ketamine withdrawal.
Here are some questions to ask if you suspect ketamine withdrawal or addiction:
- Do you have cravings if you don’t use ketamine?
- Do you feel anxious or depressed without the use of ketamine?
- Are you seeking other drug use when you can’t get ketamine?
- Have you used ketamine in ways other than prescribed?
- Are you taking larger doses of ketamine to increase its effects?
- Have you taken someone else’s ketamine?
If you or a family member are undergoing ketamine withdrawal, don’t worry—help is available. You can safely withdraw from ketamine and seek follow-up care for ketamine addiction.
How Is Ketamine Withdrawal Diagnosed?
To diagnose ketamine withdrawal syndrome, healthcare providers may assess a person for the acute withdrawal symptoms associated with ketamine. They may ask you or your loved one questions about your ketamine use habits, such as how long you have been using it, when you took your last dose, and if you have been taking larger doses than prescribed.
Doctors may also rule out withdrawal from other, more potent substances, such as opioids like heroin.
To treat ketamine withdrawal, your healthcare professional may suggest a ketamine detox program and aftercare to address addiction or dependency issues.
Safely Withdrawing From Ketamine
The safest way for ketamine users to withdraw from ketamine is via a medical detox program .
Medically supervised detox allows you to detox under the care and supervision of licensed and trained medical professionals.
A medically supervised detox program can be found at a medical treatment facility, a dedicated detox center, or a treatment center offering detox services.
While it is possible to detox on your own, it is not recommended.
Ketamine withdrawal is not known to be life-threatening. However, you may experience complications if you withdraw from other substances simultaneously or have other medical conditions, such as mental health disorders.
During detox, you may be prescribed medications to help alleviate some of the withdrawal symptoms and make the detox process more comfortable.
Medications that may help during ketamine withdrawal include:
- Medications to help regulate blood pressure
- Medications to help regulate breathing levels
- Antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications
- Antinausea medications
Follow-Up Care for Ketamine Withdrawal
Detox treats ketamine withdrawal, but withdrawal is typically one of the side effects of a larger problem: ketamine dependence and addiction.
Because of this, follow-up ketamine addiction treatment may be necessary in the form of an inpatient or outpatient treatment program.
Inpatient Rehab Programs
The most intensive form of addiction treatment is inpatient treatment. In an inpatient program, you remain at the treatment facility for the duration of treatment.
Inpatient treatment could be a period of 30, 60, 90 days, or more, depending on the severity of your substance abuse and any co-occurring disorders you may have.
Inpatient drug rehab integrates behavioral therapy, counseling, support groups, relapse prevention, mental health treatment, healthcare, and more.
Outpatient Rehab Programs
If you don’t have a severe or long-term ketamine addiction, you may benefit most from an outpatient treatment program.
During outpatient treatment, you may participate in behavioral therapy, group therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and other treatments but return home after.
Some outpatient rehab programs include partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment, and telehealth services.
Addiction recovery is not a one-time treatment; it usually involves long-term care over several years. Aftercare can help you quit using ketamine long-term by providing recovery resources to help you remain sober.
Some treatment options for lasting recovery include 12-step support groups, individual counseling sessions, or continued therapy.
Get Help for Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms
If not addressed and treated properly, ketamine addiction can lead to severe psychological issues, including permanent nerve cell damage.
Yet many treatment options are available for you or your loved one if you’re facing ketamine drug addiction, from medical detox programs to long-term outpatient services.
Call the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-662-4357 or visit their online program locator to find ketamine addiction treatment options in your area.
Ketamine Withdrawal FAQs
What is ketamine withdrawal?
Ketamine withdrawal is the body’s and the brain’s reaction to no longer getting ketamine after it has grown a dependency on or addiction to the substance.
This reaction results in many ketamine withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms can begin as soon as 24 hours after the last dose of ketamine.
What causes ketamine withdrawal?
Ketamine acts on the brain’s NMDA receptors and several reuptake neurotransmitters.
Once the brain has become dependent on the effects produced by ketamine, it will rebel if it does not get ketamine, leading to withdrawal symptoms.
What are the symptoms of ketamine withdrawal?
The most severe and potentially dangerous symptom of ketamine withdrawal is excitotoxicity, the breakdown and damage of nerve cells.
Other symptoms include cravings, anxiety, depression, fatigue, nausea, double vision, and hearing loss.
Is ketamine withdrawal treatable?
Ketamine withdrawal is treatable. The safest and most effective way to treat ketamine withdrawal symptoms is through medical detox.
Self-detox should not be attempted before consulting a physician or addiction treatment professional.
Can ketamine withdrawal be fatal?
No, ketamine withdrawal is rarely life-threatening. The risk associated with ketamine withdrawal is highest when mixed with other abused substances.
Mixing ketamine with alcohol or other drugs creates unpredictable outcomes. The drugs may counteract the effects of the other or increase dangerous symptoms (like increased breathing and heart rates) to life-threatening levels.
Therefore, you should always seek proper medical care for withdrawal symptoms.