“Special K,” “Kit Kat,” “Vitamin K,” “Cat Valium,” and “Purple.” These are just some of the street names for the popular recreational drug ketamine.

However, unlike its names suggests, it is neither healthy nor fun because it’s a highly-addictive drug that can cause permanent damage to a person’s brain.

Originally developed to tranquilize animals, ketamine found its way into music clubs illegally in the 1970s. Today, the drug is abused mostly by teenagers and young adults looking to calm social anxieties and escape stress. 

It’s also sometimes known as a “date rape drug” because it’s used by sexual predators to sedate their victims. 

If you or someone you know is taking this drug and you suspect addiction, read on to find out how you can get help and what the withdrawal process is like.

What Causes Ketamine Withdrawal?

Ketamine is a powerful hallucinogenic drug that alters one’s brain. More specifically, it changes the brain’s opioid receptors, which affects mood. When ingested, snorted, or injected, the user will feel a dissociative sensation similar to that of being put on anesthesia.

At high dosage, the drug puts its user in a euphoric state. For some, it will cause a feeling of complete detachment to the environment, which may or may not be a pleasant feeling depending on the person. At low dosage, the drug will sedate a person, making them feel relaxed and calm.

Due to all of these reasons, people under a lot of stress like to use this drug to help them disconnect from their daily problems. As for teenagers, they feel the drug helps them overcome shyness and anxieties related to socializing. It also helps them feel accepted by peers who also take the drug.

Prolonged use of this drug can lead to serious psychological and physical health problems. It can cause the person to become socially withdrawn. They may develop breathing problems, or worse: end up in a coma, or dead.

Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms

Since ketamine works by altering the opioid receptors in the brain, what most people going through withdrawal will experience is a drop in the chemicals that make us feel good. This means they’ll be sad, irritated, annoyed, and depressed. 

Also, since this person will be emotionally unstable, they can become enraged at any time. At its worst, detoxification can also lead to suicidal thoughts. Due to both of these reasons, it’s of utmost importance that this person goes through detox in a safe, isolated, and secure environment.

Withdrawal symptoms typically begin within 24-72 hours of quitting the drug. Here are some of the most common symptoms reported during this process:

  • Agitation
  • Breathing problems
  • Confusion
  • Changes in cardiac rhythm
  • Depression
  • Delusion
  • Fatigue
  • Hallucination
  • Hearing loss
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of cognitive function
  • Loss of motor skill
  • Nausea
  • Rage
  • Shakes

Duration of Ketamine Withdrawal

The detoxification process can last anywhere from 72 hours to several weeks. The exact amount of time will depend on the individual, how long they’ve been using the drug for, and whether they were using other drugs in combination with ketamine as well.

Withdrawal Timeline

Here’s a look at a typical withdrawal timeline. But, keep in mind that it can be different for each person:

Days 1-3

During the first few days, the most acute symptoms will take place. The person might shake uncontrollably and feel tired all the time but cannot sleep. Or, they might become intensely angry, upset, or depressed. 

They might also experience hallucinations, which will cause them to yell, scream, or want to hurt themselves or someone else. Some people might also throw up due to nausea and experience rapid breathing or temporary loss of hearing or vision.

Days 4-14

The same symptoms from the first few days will persist but should be more mild. They’ll continue to lessen as time goes by.

Days 15

Most of the acute detox symptoms should have subsided, although occasional cravings might still appear. In order to avoid relapse, the individual should seek out therapy or counseling. With the help of a psychologist, the person will be able to identify the cause of the addiction in the first place and address it in a healthy way.

Detoxing From Ketamine On Your Own 

Although you might be able to avoid some of the side effects of ketamine withdrawal, quitting this drug cold turkey is not recommended, especially not on your own without medical support.

The process is physical, emotionally, and mentally draining, all of which makes the person vulnerable to relapse. Without professional support, the chances of someone going through this process and reaching out for the drug again is high. 

Also, given the unpredictability of this drug’s withdrawal symptoms, it can cause the person to hurt themselves or someone else.  

Medical Detox for Ketamine 

For successful and safe detoxification, treatment centers that specialize in helping patients with this drug are recommended. Not only will they receive social support every step of the way, but they’ll also have a safe and private environment to go through all their symptoms with medical care involved.

How Medical Detox Works and What to Expect

Patients entering treatment centers are usually offered two options: inpatient and outpatient care.

Inpatient is shorter and more intensive. It will help the patient get through the worst of their symptoms. Outpatient usually takes a little longer but also provides an ongoing treatment plan.

Medications Available for Ketamine Detox

There are no known medications specifically for this drug’s withdrawal process.

Since its symptoms are mostly psychological, what the patient will need the most is medical monitoring. This means putting them in a safe and comfortable environment where they cannot harm themselves or others and will have access to medical professionals, should they need it.

In some cases, doctors may prescribe an antidepressant to combat the feelings of depression.

Leaving Ketamine Behind Is Possible

Although ketamine has the reputation of a fun and casual “party drug,” the reality is that it is anything but that.

A person taking it might feel relief from their problems or may feel socially accepted by their peers temporarily. But, once the drug is gone, they’ll realize all of their problems are still there. This will make the person want to use again. 

The good news is that overcoming addiction is possible and there are healthier ways to deal with these and other problems.

If you or someone you know relies on drugs to feel good, contact us to start a safe and private intervention. We’re here to help you lead a safe, healthy, drug-free life.