Recent scientific studies have shown the potential for the use of Ketamine in medical settings. This drug contains a chemical that has several effects on the mental state of the user. Harvard Health Publishing even reports that evidence suggests Ketamine may be a potential therapeutic agent for patients with major depression disorder1.
While it may hold some medicinal properties in clinical settings, a major concern has been raised regarding its potential for abuse. Due to the dangers of Ketamine, the drug was classified as a schedule III substance in 1999. Since this move from the US government, a decline in abuse of the drug has not been noted – but rather, an opposite effect was observed.
Ketamine can cause serious side-effects, especially when taken in high doses. Understanding the addictive potential of Ketamine is important. Individuals should also be able to recognize dependency and understand what happens when they stop using the substance.
What is Ketamine?
Ketamine is one of the more versatile substances that are used today. It has important uses in several medical settings2, with an increasing number of studies being conducted on the drug. On the other hand, Ketamine also holds the potential to create dependency, especially with continuous use over a long period of time.
The drug was first synthesized in the year 1962 by a chemist known as Calvin Stevens3. The chemist conducted numerous clinical trials on the substance following its initial synthesis. In 1970, the drug was approved for certain medical uses by the FDA. The FDA approved Ketamine for the use of patients who need to undergo surgery. Its primary purpose at this time was to be used as an anesthetic. The drug was effective at providing a state of anesthesia in patients who did not respond well to more traditional compounds used for this purpose.
Ketamine is primarily classified as a dissociative anesthetic. The primary action of the drug is to create a sedative effect on the patient. This, however, is not the only effect reported by people who have used Ketamine in the past.
The additional effects that Ketamine tends to have in the body is a primary reason why addiction and substance abuse have become serious concerns.
What Does Ketamine Do?
To understand why Ketamine may be addictive and why this should be considered a serious concern, we need to look at how the drug works in the body.
Ketamine is a type of antagonist that interacts to a specific type of receptor in the body. The N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor is the target of the chemicals found in Ketamine.
While further investigation is still being conducted, one study4 does suggest that Ketamine ultimately causes an increase in the release of dopamine. This is due to an inhibitory effect on the gamma-aminobutyric acid neurons in the patient’s body. These are also known as GABA neurons. The specific neurons that interact with the Ketamine are found in the thalamic reticular nucleus.
The anesthetic effects of Ketamine are the primary reason why it is sometimes used as part of the surgery. Apart from this effect, people often report an out of body feel when they use the drug. This is most often the experience reported by people who misuse the drug, especially since these cases result in larger doses being used.
Many people explain that it felt like they were detached from their own body while they were under the influence of Ketamine. Perceptions of both sound and sight can be altered in this state. There are also reports of feeling like a near-death experience among people who use Ketamine.
Ketamine in Medical Settings
There are times where Ketamine is used as a medicinal option in medical settings. It has become less commonly used in modern times, especially with rising concerns about dependence and side-effects associated with the drug. Still, there are times where doctors turn to this drug.
It is sometimes used among children when they need to go for surgery. Some children experience serious side-effects when conventional anesthetic drugs are used on them. This makes it hard for surgeons to perform the surgery. Ketamine has been shown to provide an alternative option among these kids.
The same accounts for adults who need to undergo surgery. Some adults are also unable to use standard anesthetics. This can cause problems with surgical procedures. Ketamine may be considered as an option to assist.
There are also more recent studies and publications that focus on other uses of Ketamine. Recently, an increased interest in the use of Ketamine as an antidepressant agent has been observed. One publication5 explains that recent studies found Ketamine to be a potential treatment for patients with severe depression levels. Right now, Ketamine is not considered an option when patients are treated for depression.
Further studies are still required to help drive a final decision on whether or not Ketamine should be considered a drug for depression.
Used under medical supervision, this drug might also help in treating pain among patients. It has been found that low doses of Ketamine produce an alleviation of pain symptoms. This can be useful in hospital settings where a patient had surgery. It would ultimately reduce the need for high doses of morphine to assist in pain management.
Ketamine and Substance Abuse
Ketamine possesses the ability to be used in a medical setting, but this is not where the drug’s concerns come into mind.
Due to the effects that people report after using Ketamine, there is a high risk of abuse related to the drug. According to the World Health Organization, it is estimated that about 0.4% of the population currently abuses Ketamine. The prevalence of Ketamine misuse remains highest among the youth. An estimated 0.8% of younger adults are found to abuse this substance6.
According to one scientific publication, researchers have found that Ketamine is used in various ways when abused. Many addicts tend to experiment with different administration methods to see which gives them the drug’s effects in less time.
Ketamine is commonly used in the form of a powder or liquid. It is smoked, often alongside Marijuana. Some people ingest the liquid directly, while others snort it. The liquid is sometimes injected into the body.
The lifetime prevalence of Ketamine use, as reported in 2015, is estimated at 1.1%. This data relates to individuals aged 12 and older7.
Withdrawal Symptoms of Ketamine Cessation
When Ketamine use is halted, there are adverse effects to be expected – usually only for a short period of time. These side-effects happen because the individual’s body has become addicted to the effects that Ketamine has on their body.
During the initial stages of treatment, the patient goes through a process known as “detoxification.” This is generally when withdrawal starts. The process is often done in a clinical setting, with help and support provided to the patient.
There are some symptoms that may develop during the Ketamine withdrawal stage. The symptoms may continue to remain present for up to about six days. They won’t start immediately. Most patients start to develop withdrawal symptoms within three days of cessation.
Some of the symptoms that have been associated with withdrawal from Ketamine include:
- Depressive feelings
- A rapid heartbeat
- Heartbeat may also be irregular
- Chills have been reported
- Fatigue is relatively common
Some patients also experience a loss of their appetite. This can cause sudden weight loss during those first few days in rehabilitation. Nightmares have been reported as well, which can interfere with the patient’s ability to sleep normally.
With all these symptoms in mind, depression is generally the one that medical staff looks out for. Severe depression can develop in a patient while they are undergoing detox therapy for their Ketamine addiction. The depression can become severe to the point where the patient may experience suicidal thoughts.
Treatment Options for Ketamine Addiction
Current treatment options often depend on a per-person system. A patient needs to be analyzed by a professional, such as an intake counselor, at a drug and alcohol treatment facility, like Stonegate Center located just west of Fort Worth, Texas. This allows them to get a better idea of the patient’s addiction. Understanding the potential causes behind the addiction can also be helpful – this allows for a counseling or therapy program to be developed and more targeted for the patient’s specific condition.
At the moment, it is reported that there are no medicated treatments approved by the FDA7. This can make it harder to help the patient get off the drug. Some medications have shown potential in patients with a substance abuse disorder – reducing the effects of withdrawal.
In some facilities, certain medications are used off-label to help with the initial recovery of the addict.
Medical detox for Ketamine addiction in North Texas may consist of counseling, group therapy sessions, and behavioral therapies. These are currently the standard treatments. Initially, the patient is required to go through a detox at a licensed facility. The detoxification period will generally last only a short while.
This helps with the process of getting the chemicals out of the patient’s body. Following this process, either a residential or outpatient treatment plan will be compiled for the patient once they discharge. The specific treatment depends on how severe their addiction was and whether there is a critical need for consistent medical supervision.
Treatment needs to address the underlying causes of the addiction that the patient developed.
Cognitive behavioral therapy helps to adjust the patient’s way of thinking. This can assist in altering the patient’s behavior, ultimately reducing the risk of a ketamine relapse. Dialectical behavioral therapy is another option sometimes used. Here, the patient is introduced to methods that help with stress management. Mindfulness methods are also provided. This ensures the patient is equipped with skills to increase their awareness – not only of themselves but also of the environments they live and work in.
Another therapeutic strategy that is often utilized is called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or simply ACT for short. It creates a singular treatment program that involves strategies for both cognitive and dialectical behavioral therapies.
How Patients Can Get Help
It is crucial for patients to recognize addiction and dependence on a drug like Ketamine. There are several potential adverse effects that can happen when a person abuses this drug. Long-term abuse can lead to a higher risk of overdosing and could worsen withdrawal symptoms when a person stops using Ketamine.
Seeking out a Ketamine addiction rehab center in Dallas-Fort Worth, like Stonegate Center Creekside for men, is a good option that patients should consider. These centers are equipped with skilled staff members who are able to monitor patients, administer medicine if needed, and direct them to the appropriate channels for counseling and other mental support programs.
1 Harvard Health Publishing. (2019) Ketamine for major depression: New tool, new questions. [online] Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketamine-for-major-depression-new-tool-new-questions-2019052216673
2 Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. (2016) Ketamine: 50 Years Of Modulating The Mind. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5126726/
3 +StatPearls. (2020) Ketamine Toxicity. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541087/
4 Brain Research Bulletin. (2016) Ketamine abuse potential and use disorder. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27261367/
6 World Health Organization. (2016) Fact File on Ketamine. [online] Available at: https://www.who.int/medicines/news/20160309_FactFile_Ketamine.pdf
7 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2016) Ketamine. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK424847/table/appd.t6/