What Is Ketamine Withdrawal?

Excessive Ketamine abuse can quickly lead to a psychological dependence on the drug. As tolerance to Ketamine increases, larger doses and more frequent use culminate in addiction. When an addicted person stops using the drug, withdrawal symptoms set in.

Withdrawal symptoms occur because the Ketamine has altered Opioid receptors in the brain. Psychological withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous. Perhaps the most dangerous is intense depression, which can lead to an increased suicide risk.

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Symptoms Of Withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms from Ketamine are primarily psychological in nature. Some chronic users have reported experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms, but these have not been scientifically proven. The most common Ketamine withdrawal symptoms are:

  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Psychosis, including delusion and hallucination
  • Loss of motor skills
  • Rage
  • Nausea
  • Decrease in respiratory and cardiac functions
  • Insomnia
  • Shakes
  • Hearing loss
  • Fatigue
  • Cognitive impairment

During the withdrawal process, the user will become more emotionally unstable and may need to be isolated in order to protect others. Professional supervision for Ketamine withdrawal is recommended for a safer, more controlled withdrawal and detox process.

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Do whatever is asked or suggested [during treatment]. You may not understand why at the time, but down the road it will make sense.

- Jessie, recovering Ketamine addict

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Duration Of Withdrawal

Withdrawal from Ketamine can last from 72 hours to several weeks. Although it is not generally life-threatening, it can be quite uncomfortable. Symptoms typically set in between 24 to 72 hours after the last dose of Ketamine. How long it lasts is determined by the amount of drugs in the addict’s body, their tolerance level, how long they had been using the drug, and if they also used other drugs.

Ketamine Withdrawal Timeline

Days 1-3

Acute withdrawal symptoms typically begin within 24 hours of discontinuing Ketamine use. These symptoms include shakes, fatigue, insomnia, rage, depression, hallucinations, delusions, tremors, double vision, nausea, rapid breathing, and hearing loss.

Days 4-14

Withdrawal symptoms may persist for 2 weeks, but begin to taper off toward the 2-week mark.

Days 15+

Most withdrawal symptoms have stabilized. However, the nerve cell damage in the brain may be permanent and certain psychological issues may persist.

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Ketamine Detox

Detoxification is the first step in the process of recovery, as the drug is being purged from the user’s system. Because Ketamine addiction is best stopped “cold turkey,” the detox process can be very difficult to endure. Intense cravings can occur as the user goes through the psychological discomforts experienced in detox.

Some medications are available to help minimize Ketamine withdrawal symptoms.

Typically, the user’s respiratory function and heart rate will be monitored closely during the early days of Ketamine detox. This is to ensure the safety of the person in recovery.

Treatment For Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine addiction is difficult to overcome. Many times, a co-occurring disorder or multiple drug dependencies are present, requiring a high level of care. Many inpatient rehabs offer treatment programs for Ketamine addiction that can range from 28 days to several months. Outpatient programs may also be available in your area.

Because Ketamine dependence is a psychological addiction, various modes of behavioral therapies should be integrated into the treatment plan. Some of these include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which addresses thinking patterns that affect behaviors.
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which introduces mindful awareness and stress management.
  • Acceptance And Commitment Therapy (ACT), which combines mindfulness and acceptance therapies with commitment and behavior-change strategies.

Getting professional treatment is the best way to ensure a successful recovery, but this requires the user to be totally committed to stopping use of Ketamine.

Ketamine is a difficult drug to detox from due to the highly unpredictable psychotic behaviors that can present during withdrawal and detoxification and the intense cravings. Careful monitoring by an expert clinical staff is key to a successful recovery.

After treatment it is important to have a support system in place to provide a sense of community and accountability. This may include family and non-using friends, or a recovery-based support group such as Narcotics Anonymous or SMART Recovery™.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with a Ketamine addiction, there is support available. Contact a treatment provider today.

Published:

Author

Jeffrey Juergens

Photo of Jeffrey Juergens
  • Jeffrey Juergens earned his Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor from the University of Florida. Jeffrey’s desire to help others led him to focus on economic and social development and policy making. After graduation, he decided to pursue his passion of writing and editing. Jeffrey’s mission is to educate and inform the public on addiction issues and help those in need of treatment find the best option for them.

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Reviewed by Certified Addiction Professional:

David Hampton

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  • David embarked on his journey into sobriety in June of 2005, which led him to his current career path as a Certified Professional Addiction Recovery Coach in private practice in Greater Nashville. David is also a public speaker and the author of two books. David is cohost of the weekly Positive Sobriety Podcast, as well as being a frequent contributor to various articles and recovery based materials. As a member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors (NAADAC), David works closely with area treatment centers, recovery orientated nonprofit organizations, as well as being a keynote speaker for various recovery-focused events.

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Sources

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Chapters Capistrano

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URP – California Behavioral Health

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