Ketamine, a Schedule III controlled substance, belongs to the dissociative class of hallucinogen drugs. As with most all dissociative drugs, ketamine produces anesthetic-type effects that give way to hallucinations and “out-of-body” experiences. The long-term use of this drug can bring about more than few unfavorable ketamine long term effects. Ultimately, long-term ketamine use can cause widespread brain damage over time.
Ketamine Effects on the Brain
Ketamine exerts its greatest effects on dopamine and glutamate chemical production in the brain. Both dopamine and glutamate exist as two essential neurotransmitter chemicals responsible for regulating brain and central nervous system functions. Ketamine long term effects begin and end with these two neurotransmitter processes.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, ketamine blocks the brain’s ability to recycle excess dopamine amounts, which in turn increases dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine plays a pivotal role in regulating pain and pleasure sensations, emotions and cognitive functions.
As far as glutamate processes go, ketamine blocks production, reducing glutamate levels in the brain. Glutamate works to coordinate information processing between the brain and body.
In effect, ketamine disconnects brain-body communications, leaving the brain or mind to create its own sense of reality. Ketamine long term effects stem from the drug’s ongoing interference in the brain’s natural chemical system.
Ketamine Long Term Effects
Increasing Tolerance Levels
Ketamine produces short-acting effects, lasting no longer than 30 to 45 minutes at a time. Considering the intensity of a ketamine “high,” the brain undergoes marked chemical changes during this time period.
Brain tolerance level increases take shape as chemical-producing brain cells become less responsive to the drug’s effects. According to Brown University Health Education, ketamine’s short-acting effects drive users to engage in bingeing behaviors in order to prolong the effects of the drug, much like cocaine and amphetamine users do.
Under these conditions, tolerance levels increase at a rapid pace. In effect, increasing tolerance levels drive continued drug use and ultimately play a central role in creating ketamine long term effects.
With ongoing ketamine use, the damage done to brain cell structures creates a physical dependence on the drug’s effects. Over time, cells become unable to secrete needed neurotransmitter supplies without ketamine’s effects.
Consequently, physical dependency becomes yet another ketamine long term effect. Once physical dependence sets in, users start to experience withdrawal symptoms in response to increasing tolerance levels and weakening brain cell functions.
Withdrawal symptoms reflect the state of chemical imbalance present in the brain. In effect, the greater the chemical imbalance the more severe withdrawal symptoms will be. As withdrawal effects play an active role in the abuse-addiction cycle, they also contribute to the development of other ketamine long term effects.
Withdrawal symptoms to watch out for include:
- Depression symptoms
- Bouts of anxiety
- Sleep disturbances
Ketamine’s effects on the brain’s overall chemical system can cause increasing damage within its cognitive centers. As dopamine and glutamate levels both influence cognitive functioning, the ongoing rise and fall in chemical levels inevitably affects a person’s cognitive abilities over time.
Ketamine long term effects in cognitive function may take the form of:
- Decline in pattern recognition memory functions
- Decline in spatial-based memory functions
- Poor judgment and decision-making abilities
- Shortened attention spans
Ketamine long term effects on cognitive ability can reach a point where users start to display dissociative-type symptoms in terms of isolating from others. Delusional characteristics may also develop.
Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder
Chronic ketamine abuse leaves the brain in a diseased state in terms of the increasing decline in overall brain function. These conditions greatly increase the risk of developing a ketamine long term effect known as hallucinogen persisting perception disorder.
According to the U. S. National Library of Medicine, hallucinogen persisting perception disorder entails recurrent flashback episodes of past drug “highs.” Flashback episodes can happen at any given time, regardless of whether a person is under the influence of ketamine or not.
This ketamine long term effect covers a range of symptoms, including:
- Seeing geometric shapes in space
- Seeing random objects in one’s peripheral visual field
- After images or “echo” images
- Trailing lines behind moving objects
- Enhanced color spectrum
Symptoms of hallucinogen perception disorder can persist for years after a person stops using ketamine. This duration potential reflects the degree of brain damage caused by long-term ketamine use.
Urinary Tract Problems
Chronic or frequent ketamine use carries a risk of developing serious bladder problems. In effect, urinary tract irritations develop over time and grow increasingly worse with continued drug use. As a result, a condition known as ketamine-induced ulcerative cystitis becomes yet another ketamine long term effect.
Symptoms of ketamine-induced ulcerative-induced ulcerative cystitis include:
- Decreases in bladder capacity
- Overactive bladder muscle contractions
- Blood in the urine
In severe cases, some people must undergo surgery to stretch the bladder back to normal proportions in order to reduce symptom severity.
Ketamine long term effects can take the form of amnesia episodes when short- and long-term memory functions suffer considerable impairment. This ketamine long term effect ties in with the drug’s dissociative properties.
Over time, users start to “dissociate” or feel disconnected from their surrounding environment. This sense of dissociation is a residual effect that remains, even when a person is not under the influence of the drug.
Long-time ketamine users eventually find themselves relying on the drug’s effects to cope with everyday life. As a ketamine long-term effect, addiction can destroy a person’s life.
Someone addicted to ketamine has essentially developed a whole new mindset that revolves around getting and using the drug. Signs of ketamine addiction may include:
- Problems at work
- Job loss
- Relationship problems
- Problems with law
- Financial difficulties
- Decline in physical health
- Mental health problems
Ketamine long term effects can a pose serious risk to a person’s physical and psychological well-being. These effects only worsen in severity with continued drug use. For this reason, it’s especially important to get needed treatment help when ketamine long term effects start to develop.