Commonly used by older teenagers and young adults, ketamine has become a popular drug within the party scene. Its hallucinogenic effects work to enhance the party experience in strange and unusual ways.
Hallucinogen drugs in general tend to carry a low abuse/addiction potential. Likewise, most hallucinogens do not produce withdrawal effects. Ketamine, a dissociative-based hallucinogen proves the exception to the rule.
When used on a frequent, ongoing basis, ketamine withdrawal effects start to interfere with a person’s day-to-day existence in ways that may not be readily apparent to the casual observer. In effect, ketamine withdrawal develops out of the drug’s ability to disrupt normal brain functioning.
A ketamine “high” produces altered states of consciousness made up of hallucinations and a feeling of overall detachment from one’s body. Users enter into a dissociative state as the drug’s effects essentially shut down all incoming information from the body to the brain. These effects leave the cognitive and emotion-based centers to create their own reality, which takes the form of hallucinations.
According to Texas A & M University, ketamine’s effects within the brain’s chemical system most affect glutamate and dopamine neurotransmitter levels. Glutamate regulates brain electrical activity, whereas dopamine levels regulate pain and pleasure sensations as well as perception. For the most part, these interactions lay the foundation for ketamine withdrawal symptoms to develop.
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Ketamine increases dopamine levels, creating enhanced sensory perceptions while at the same time decreasing glutamate outputs, which slows brain electrical activity. Dopamine also plays an active role in regulating the brain’s reward system functions, an area that ultimately dictates what’s most important in a person’s life. In effect, each time ketamine causes a surge in dopamine levels, the reward system assigns more importance to anything having to do with getting or using the drug.
Unlike the withdrawal symptoms that result from opiate or stimulant drugs, ketamine withdrawal develops out of the drug’s effects on the brain’s cognitive and emotion-based centers, according to Karl Jansen M.D., Ph.D., author of “Ketamine: Dreams and Realities.” Whereas opiate- and stimulant-based withdrawal symptoms tend to be more so physical in nature, ketamine withdrawal most affects a person’s thinking, emotions and ultimately his or her behaviors.
Once this drug starts to interfere with brain reward system functions, the makings of addiction are at work. At this point, a person’s thinking patterns and overall emotional well-being depends on ketamine’s effects. Instead of physical symptoms, ketamine withdrawal typically takes the form of:
- Depression symptoms
- Feeling anxious
- Problems concentrating
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities and pursuits
Granted, the absence of full-blown physical withdrawal symptoms makes ketamine less addictive than other types of drug, but the emotional attachment that forms can be just as powerful. Also, this emotional attachment can be easy to miss once a person starts to “live” inside it. Without needed treatment help, it becomes increasingly difficult to stop using ketamine as the addiction grows in severity.
If you suspect you or someone you know may be struggling with ketamine withdrawal symptoms and have more questions, please feel free to call our toll-free helpline at 800-601-3889 to speak with one of our addictions specialists.