Ketamine Abuse Causes, Statistics, Addiction Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic with effects similar to that of PCP, dextromethorphan (DXM), and other dissociatives and hallucinogens. It was created in 1963 to replace PCP, and it is still being used today in hospitals and veterinary medicine as an anesthetic. Ketamine is a legally controlled substance, but its recreational popularity comes as a hallucinogen in the club scene. Ketamine is a popular club drug and most of the drug supply that makes it to the streets is stolen from legal sources such as hospitals, veterinary hospitals, manufactures, etc. although ketamine is popular in the United States, its popularity has spread other parts of the world like Australia, Europe, and Asia. It can lead to Ketamine addiction and abuse.

As a dissociative anesthetic, ketamine causes similar types of reactions to that of PCP. Some of these reactions include euphoria, numbness, out of body experiences, hallucinations, and depression. It can be taken by inhaling or injecting it, but ketamine is more often consumed via liquid and tablet. Like PCP, ketamine is water soluble, but it is colorless and tasteless. Ketamine causes out of body experiences, hallucinations, and detachment from one’s outer world. At high doses, the person is said to experience different worlds and other dimensions that are indescribable. Some experiences are terrifying and result in what is stated as a “near death” experience which is called the “K-hole” experience. When reaching the “K-hole”, the person becomes totally oblivious to their own identities, the real world, and completely loses their perception of time.

Unlike other hallucinogens such as LSD or peyote, the dream-like hallucinations only last for a couple of hours (only an hour if snorted or injected), but after a “trip” (a drug induced experience), the effects of the drug are slow to wear off. The user is slow to come back to reality and sometimes has difficulty remembering their name, where they are, or what they were doing. There are many slang terms for ketamine. Some of them are: “K”, “Blind Squid”, “Special K”, “K2”, “Vitamin K”, “Cat Valium”, “Super K”, “Jet” (Texas), “Kitty”, “Super Acid”, “New Ecstasy”, and “Psychedelic Heroin”. Sometimes cocaine and ketamine are mixed together; the mixture is called “Calvin Klein” or “CK1”.

Ketamine Addiction Treatment

It is a difficult task to stop using any drug, and ketamine is no exception. It does not matter if the person is fighting a physical addiction or a psychological addiction. Someone abusing ketamine needs help to overcome the addiction. Treatment for ketamine addiction is like that of other hallucinogens. People addicted to ketamine may have an altered perception of reality and may be depressed. It is important for someone abusing ketamine to find help. They should seek help from a ketamine treatment center and loved ones. The first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem and asking for help.

Ketamine Addiction and Abuse Statistics

Ketamine is a popular drug and the rise of the club and rave culture have driven its popularity. According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, prevalence rates of ketamine abuse among American secondary school student (grades 8, 10, and 12) have varied between 0.8-2.5% since 1999, with recent rates at the lower end of this range [1]. Other statistics are as follows:

  • The 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports a rate of 0.1% for persons ages 12 or older with the highest rate (0.2%) in those ages 18-25 [2].
  • An estimated 2.3 million persons aged 12 or older used ketamine in their lifetime, and 203,000 were past year users [3].
  • Past-year use of ketamine was reported by 1.0 percent of 8th-graders, 1.3 percent of 10th-graders, and 1.7 percent of 12th-graders in 2009. These percentages also represent significant decreases from peak years: 2000 for 8th-graders (at 1.6 percent) and 2002 for 10th- and 12th-graders (at 2.2 and 2.6 percent, respectively) [4].
  • Statistics from the CRDA show that the number of ketamine users (all ages) in Hong Kong has increased from 1605 (9.8% of total drug users) in 2000 to 5212 (37.6%) in 2009. Increasing trends of ketamine use among illicit drug users under the age of 21 were also reported, rising from 36.9% of young drug users in 2000 to 84.3% in 2009 [5].

Causes of Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine, like most other hallucinogens, has not been determined to produce a physical dependency, but it will create a psychological addiction. One of the reasons ketamine will become psychologically addictive is due to its out of body experiences and vivid psychedelic effects. When inhaled or injected, the reactions to ketamine are felt more quickly, and the drug induced trip lasts for about an hour. When ketamine is taken in liquid or tablet form, the trip can last a couple of hours. With ketamine trips lasting much shorter than other hallucinogens, it can sometimes lead to ketamine binging. Tolerance to ketamine is developed quickly, and for daily users, withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, labored breathing, and schizophrenic-like tendencies can be developed. Co-occurring disorders such as severe depression, anxiety, or eating disorders can exacerbate the effect of the drug and its addictive qualities.

Signs of Ketamine Use, Addiction and Dependence

Developing a physical dependence may not happen, but creating a psychological dependence will most likely occur. The allure to the psychedelic and hallucinogenic nature of ketamine makes it exceedingly easy to become mentally dependent. There are some common signs people show when using ketamine. Some of these signs are:

  • Anxiety
  • Speech difficulty
  • Erythema (redness of the skin)
  • Depression
  • Rapid eye movement
  • Feelings of being invulnerable

Ketamine Effects

There are multiple side effects to abusing ketamine, and they deal with the mental and physical characteristics of the body. The longevity of a ketamine trip is approximately two hours, but the intensity of the trip is based on the dosage consumed. Here are some of the psychological features:

  • Delirium
  • Amnesia
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Euphoria
  • Schizophrenia type behavior
  • Amnesia
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations

Here are some of the physical attributes:

  • Speech impairment
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Bladder problems
  • Immobilization
  • Sensory distortions
  • Analgesia (inability to feel pain)
  • Illogical speech
  • Memory loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Respiratory failure
  • Nausea
  • High blood pressure

With continued abuse of ketamine, some of these unwanted effects can be felt for over a year. Some of the more serious side effects such as memory loss and brain damage may be permanent. Death is also a real possibility when consistently abusing ketamine.

The person abusing ketamine also has to take other areas of their life into consideration. The potential to lose their relationship with loved ones is dramatically increased. The addiction will also negatively affect their professional career as well as their financial stability.

Ketamine Withdrawal

Dealing with the psychological addiction is the main focus when dealing with ketamine abusers. There are some physical withdrawal symptoms like nausea, dizziness and diarrhea occur when someone abruptly stops using ketamine, but the emphasis is on the mental state of the user. Schizophrenia type behavior, depression, and anxiety are some of the psychological withdrawal symptoms that may be experienced.

Other Articles About Ketamine

  • Recently there has been an emerging trend of mental health professionals using new methods of treatment for individuals who are considered to be “treatment-resistant” to the more traditional forms of therapeutic interventions. One example of this new trend in depression treatments is the use of ketamine, which is commonly used as an anesthetic for both humans and animals or abused as a party drug referred to as “Special K.” Learn more about the risks of using ketamine to treat depression here.
  • Ketamine is a very dangerous drug and can cause short- and long-term effects in addition to those previously mentioned. It can also cause increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, numbness, depression, and potentially fatal respiratory problems. On college campuses, Ketamine is known as a “Club Drug” because of its hallucinogenic effects.


[1]: Monitoring the Future Study –

[2]: National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) –

[3]: The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH)

[4]: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) –

[5]: Central Registry of Drug Abuse (CRDA) –

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on August 13, 2013
Published on, Online Addiction Treatment Help