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.
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:
- Psychosis, including delusion and hallucination
- Loss of motor skills
- Decrease in respiratory and cardiac functions
- Hearing loss
- 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.
“Do whatever is asked or suggested [during treatment]. You may not understand why at the time, but down the road it will make sense.”
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.
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Ketamine Withdrawal Timeline
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.
Withdrawal symptoms may persist for two weeks, but begin to taper off toward the two-week mark.
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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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 and are ready to overcome it, get in touch with a treatment specialist to find treatment.
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