Ketamine has the ability to produce many opposite effects depending on the person, the dose, the route of administration, the environment, and other contexts in which it is used. It was introduced as an anesthetic with amnesic properties and is used in both veterinary and human medicine, but, it appeals to illicit abusers for its hallucinogenic properties and ability to cause sensations of floating or detachment from self and reality, euphoria, mood enhancement, numbness, and energy.
In any event, the effects of ketamine can be unpredictable and sometimes, devastating with psychosis of some kind a real possibility. High risk categories include those who are naïve, young, or poly-substance abusers, high or frequent doses, long term abuse, and those with mental health disorders. Unfortunately, it usually takes a medical emergency or some catastrophic occurrence to get a ketamine abuser to seek treatment for ketamine psychosis unless there are significant compromises in their quality of life or they are coerced by others.
The Safety of Illicit Ketamine Abuse
There is a grave misconception regarding the level of abuse safety in using ketamine over other hallucinogenic drugs such as LSD and PCP. Hallucinogens in general, have an effect on natural brain chemicals or neurotransmitters that keep us in balance physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
The main target for hallucinogens is the serotonin transmitters that control perceptions, movement, and emotions. According to a BioMed study, ” The anesthetic effects of KT have been reported to be closely correlated with its antagonistic effects on NMDA receptors, but persistent modifications of other neurons including dopamine (DA), norepinephrine (NE), and serotonin (5-HT) neurons have also been reported to accompany the behavioral effects of KT.”
Ketamine, like other mind altering and pleasure producing drugs, has the ability to change brain and central nervous system functions that can turn out to be significantly adverse and have long term implications in a person’s overall health including dependency and addiction. Neurological impairments are common side effects of ketamine abuse that can lead to seizures, confusion, tremors, psychosis, and other physical and mental health impairments that initiate treatment needs.
What is Ketamine Psychosis?
Ketamine can produce certain effects that take a variety of forms. According to the NIDA “At moderate to high doses, ketamine can cause sedation, immobility, and amnesia. At high doses, ketamine users also report experiencing terrifying feelings of almost complete sensory detachment likened to a near-death experience (called a “K-hole,” similar to a bad LSD trip.”
The tranquilizing effects of ketamine may cause the user to appear like they are in a trance although inside their minds they may be experiencing intense inner drama. Physical distress may be marked by dangerously high blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature, compounded by limitations in abilities to move, stand, or speak elevating the person’s desperation and increasing the symptom levels.
Psychological distress manifests through cognitive distortions, hallucinations, delirium, intense fear, anxiety, paranoia, panic, mania, aggression, violence, and other harmful or suicidal behaviors. Because ketamine has a dramatic effect in neuronal transmissions of the brain and central nervous system affecting motion, cognition, memory, and emotions, the psychosis a person experiences can become highly negative based on internal and external stimuli.
Thoughts and emotions, surroundings, age, poly-substance abuse, historical use of ketamine, and a multitude of other factors can be influential in turning a ketamine trip into a nightmare or worse, lead to long term destabilization of the person’s mental health.
What is Treatment for Ketamine Psychosis?
According to the SAMSA,” In the clinical setting, syndromes of acute intoxication with hallucinations, delusions, agitation, and violence are the most pressing problems.” In these instances, the user and those around them are vulnerable when the person loses touch with reality and the lasting imprints of things gone dramatically wrong is usually what gets enough attention to the need of treatment for ketamine psychosis.
Ketamine trips are typically dose dependent and last around 2 hours, but, repeat administrations, dosage elevations, injection, and the abuse of other substances are common and can dramatically change the course of events during any attempt to detox. Detox safety in a controlled and tranquil environment with limited stimuli to agitate the individual, around the clock professional observations, and access to medical and psychiatric interventions as needed is important.
In extreme cases, the person may need to be restrained or isolated for protection of the user as well as others in their contact with medications such as benzodiazepines, anti-depressants, or anti-psychotic medications to counter the extreme conditions of the ketamine psychosis and stabilize the person physically and psychologically.
Rehabilitation Treatment for Ketamine Psychosis
Long term recovery through abstinence is always a primary goal of substance abuse treatment that requires a comprehensive approach to address the physical, psychological, social, and other unique needs of the individual as well as their substance abuse in order to be successful.
Looking at the direct implications of ketamine psychosis and mental health, cognitive and other psychiatric disorders are not always easily reversed after the acute symptoms subside. For many, feelings of shame, guilt, inadequacy, depression, and anxiety can follow them a long time. In the case of a traumatic event such as a rape, assault, or injury, the disparities can seem insurmountable and may require specialized counseling and psychotherapy services in addition to services for other needs.
Cognitive behavioral therapies are some of the most effective treatments for both mental health and substance abuse disorders. Cognitive-behavioral approaches emphasize learning to recognize and change maladaptive thought patterns and behaviors, improve how feelings and worries are handled, and break the cycle of dysfunctional habitual behaviors. Behavioral therapies used in conjunction with counseling, appropriate medications, and psychosocial services to improve overall health and social functioning promote treatment retentions and provides the backbone of support for ketamine psychosis recovery.