Ketamine, one of a handful of dissociative hallucinogen drugs, produces anesthetic-type effects, which accounts for its legal use as anesthetic. When used for recreational purposes, ketamine can place users in precarious situations as it strips away their ability to interact with the surrounding environment.
According to the University of Maryland, ketamine produces varied effects depending on the dosage amount ingested. When taken on a regular basis, the higher the dose taken, the greater the risk of developing ketamine addiction.
If you suspect a loved one is abusing ketamine, here are five signs of ketamine addiction to watch out for –
1. Withdrawal Effects
Ketamine essentially alters the brain’s chemistry with frequent use. As alterations in brain chemistry worsen, so does the brain’s dependency on ketamine’s effects. Withdrawal effects represent the first sure sign of a growing ketamine addiction.
After a certain point, brain chemical imbalances prevail leaving the brain unable to regulate bodily functions as normal. These changes cause withdrawal effects to develop. Withdrawal effects typically take the form of:e
- Increased heart rates
- Tremors or shakiness
- Body temperature fluctuations
- Stiffness in the muscles
- Noticeable changes in appetite
2. Psychological Dependency
Ketamine most affects the neurotransmitters, glutamate and serotonin. Glutamate regulates electrical activity in the brain while serotonin regulates cognitive processing. Over time, ketamine’s effects scramble brain communications to the point where a person’s thinking processes and belief systems come to view ketamine as a top priority.
With frequent, ongoing abuse, ketamine creates a state of psychological dependency where a person comes to believe the effects of the drug help him or her cope with daily life, according to Bryn Mawr College. In essence, psychological dependency indicates a full-blown ketamine addiction has taken root.
3. Decline in Overall Functioning
Ongoing brain chemical imbalances cause considerable damage to brain cell structures and overall brain function. When used on a regular basis, the continual influx of neurotransmitter chemicals deteriorates brain chemical processes, leaving the brain unable to maintain normal bodily functions.
With ketamine addiction, users experience considerable decline in overall functioning, such as:
- Diminished learning and memory abilities
- Lack of impulse control
- Problems with motor coordination
- Communication difficulties
4. Increasing Tolerance Levels
As with any addictive substance, increasing tolerance levels become the driving force behind a ketamine addiction. Increasing tolerance levels result from ongoing deterioration of the brain cells that secrete neurotransmitter chemicals.
Over time, these cells become overworked, causing structural damage to develop. Damage to cells weakens their responsiveness to ketamine’s effects, so users have to keep taking larger doses of the drug to experience a high effect. In effect, the ketamine addiction cycle can continue on indefinitely as brain cell tolerance levels continue to rise.
5. Lifestyle Indicators
More than anything else, changes in a person’s lifestyle are the most noticeable signs of ketamine addiction. Lifestyle indicators take the form of:
- Decline in work performance and/or job loss
- Legal problems
- Financial difficulties
- Relationship conflicts
- Broken families
In the absence of needed treatment, a person’s life will continue on in a downward spiral as the drug all but destroys vital brain structures and functions.