As a group, hallucinogen drugs produce effects unlike other drug types, such as opiate or stimulants. Hallucinogens also carry a considerably lower risk of abuse and addiction compared to other drugs. On the other hand, ketamine, one of the more aggressive acting hallucinogen substances, does produce certain effects that other hallucinogens don’t, most notably ketamine dependence.
Commonly used as an anesthetic (for medicinal purposes), recreational ketamine use leaves users open to the more harmful effects of the drug. With frequent and ongoing use, users not only flirt with ketamine dependence risks, but may also develop an addiction to the drug.
As a synthetically made drug, ketamine exists in pill or powder form, both of which are capable of delivering powerful effects in small dosage amounts. According to Pennsylvania State University, doses as small as 10 milligrams can bring on hallucinatory experiences. Once dosage levels reach anywhere from 50 to 100 milligrams, a person can easily slip into a comatose-like state making him or her completely vulnerable to the surrounding environment. This condition, commonly referred to as the K-hole, accounts for ketamine’s designation as a “date rape” drug.
Ketamine’s Mechanism of Action
Ketamine effects develop out of its interactions within the brain’s glutamate-based functions. Once ketamine enters the brain, it blocks off glutamate receptor sites preventing them from accepting available glutamate supplies, according to New York University at Steinhardt.
As one of the brain’s essential neurotransmitter substances, glutamate regulates electrical activity throughout the brain and essentially coordinates incoming information from the rest of the body. Ketamine effects shut off the brain from the rest of the body, which accounts for the comatose-like state users experience. In effect, the lack of electrical activity leaves the brain to create its own version of reality in the form of hallucinatory experiences.
How Ketamine Dependence Develops
Ketamine’s unusually high potency takes a toll on the brain’s glutamate receptor sites and causes gradual structural damage over time. Consequently, the risk of developing ketamine dependence runs considerably high the longer a person uses the drug.
When cell damage develops, cells become less responsive to the drug’s effects prompting users to take larger doses in order to experience the desired effects. Ketamine also produces short-term effects so users are more likely to keep ingesting the drug in order to sustain the “high.” These conditions combined contribute to the likelihood of developing ketamine dependence.
Signs of Ketamine Dependence
Rather than affect the brain and body on a physical level, ketamine dependence affects the mind in terms of changing how a person thinks. In essence, ketamine dependence operates along the same lines as a psychological dependence, which is essentially addiction.
According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, signs of ketamine dependence show up within a person’s thinking, emotions and behaviors. Signs to watch out for include:
- Neglecting important areas of one’s life for the sake of getting and using ketamine
- Continuous cravings for the drug
- Problems sleeping
- Anxiety episodes
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed pursuits
The Need for Treatment
When left untreated, ketamine dependence can take over a person’s life in the same way any other form of drug addiction does. Add to this the ongoing damage done to the brain and a person’s overall quality of life and health will likely see ongoing decline.
If you or someone you know struggles with ketamine dependence and have questions about available treatment options, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-609-2774 (Who Answers?) to speak with one of our addictions specialists.