How Ketamine Addiction Works

Is Ketamine Physically Addictive?

Ketamine does not meet the criteria for physically addictive drugs. In fact, Ketamine’s widespread use in medicine as a mild anesthetic is due in large part to its nonaddictive properties. However, when used recreationally, ketamine users have the potential of developing a psychological addiction to its effects. In fact, ketamine is one of the few hallucinogens that people tend to develop strong psychological addictions to when use prolongs.

What Causes Ketamine Addiction?

As a powerful dissociative and hallucinogen drug, ketamine can create intense trips with euphoric feelings. Depending on the dose, ketamine can also remove physical pain for short periods of time. As a result, the brain’s reward centers become affected by ketamine use. Over time, the brain begins to associate ketamine with positive feelings and bodily sensations, leading to behavioral or psychological addiction. Especially when ketamine is used to escape from emotional pain, ketamine users can develop a psychological dependency on the drug for frequent emotional regulation and escape.

Ketamine addiction is also affected by tolerance levels. Tolerance to ketamine develops very quickly. In fact, an increased dose will be necessary in order to achieve a high if ketamine is reused within three days of the ketamine dependent individual’s previous use. As tolerance develops, people take increasingly large doses of ketamine—heightening the side effects of ketamine, accompanied by a diminished high.

What Are the Signs of Ketamine Addiction?

Ketamine addiction can have lasting mental impacts on habitual users—including identity confusion and amnesia. Long-term use can result memory loss, the inability to pay attention, and decreased learning ability due to ketamine’s effect on glutamate—the brain chemical pivotal in memory formation. The effects of the repeat hallucinatory experience can heighten preexisting mental disorders, incite Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), cause flashbacks, and stimulate night terrors—episodes of sleepwalking, sleep-motion, adrenaline responses while asleep and nightmares. Physical indications of ketamine addiction include an erratic heart rate, poor vision, and recurring rashes.

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