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Understanding the Effects of Ketamine on the Brain

Ketamine, also known as Vitamin K, Special K and Cat Valium, produces dissociative effects comparable to anesthesia, which accounts for its legal use as an anesthetic. Compared to other hallucinogen drugs, ketamine most resembles PCP in terms of the “high” recreational users experience.

The effects of ketamine on the brain account for both its hallucinatory and anesthetizing effects. Ketamine acts on the brain’s chemical system, altering neurotransmitter processes and over time destabilizing the brain’s natural chemical balance.

The effects of ketamine on the brain translate over to the body’s central nervous system functions as reflected by the drug’s anesthetic properties. With frequent and continued use, the effects of ketamine on the brain place users at considerable risk of abusing the drug and eventually becoming addicted.

Ketamine “High” Effects

Ketamine come in liquid, powder and pill forms. While commonly snorted, some users do inject the drug in order to experience a more intense effect.

According to New York University–Steinhardt, ketamine’s “high” effect varies according to dosage amount. Low dosage amounts bring on a numb, dreamy-like, out-of-body experience, while large doses can produce:

Effects of Ketamine

Ketamine has a direct impact on the central nervous system.

  • Unconsciousness
  • Mystical visions
  • Vivid hallucinations
  • Immobility
  • High pain threshold
  • A disconnect from the body

These variations stem from the effects of ketamine on the brain’s chemical system at different dosage levels.

Effects of Ketamine on the Brain’s Chemical Processes

According to Columbia Health, ketamine works through its interactions with glutamate-producing brain cell receptor sites. Glutamate, a vital neurotransmitter chemical, helps regulate information processing and overall communications between the various regions of the brain and body.

In effect, ketamine blocks glutamate production and essentially shuts off communications between the brain and the body. These chemical interactions produce the anesthetizing effects users experience. Once ingested, ketamine effects can take hold within a minute’s time when snorted or injected.

Ketamine Effects on the Central Nervous System

The effects of ketamine on the brain have a direct impact on central nervous system (CNS) functions. The central nervous system regulates:

  • Nerve signal transmissions throughout the body
  • Heart functions
  • Respiratory functions
  • Movement and coordination

Ketamine not only “numbs” the brain, but also slows central nervous system functions, which can pose dangerous consequences when taking large doses of the drug. The numbing effects had on the body free the mind to enter an expanded state of consciousness.

Ketamine Withdrawal Effects & the Risk of Developing Addiction

Tolerance, Abuse & Addiction Potential

While most hallucinogen drugs carry a low risk for abuse and addiction, ketamine produces short-acting effects, which incites users to use the drug more often than other hallucinogen-type drugs. According to Brown University Health Education, the short-acting effects of ketamine on the brain breed increasing tolerance levels, which play a pivotal role in abuse and addiction behaviors. Once users come to crave the “high” effects of the drug, addiction starts to take hold.


With frequent, ongoing use, the effects of ketamine on the brain can create marked imbalances within the brain’s chemical system, and ultimately impair overall brain function. Long-term consequences from ketamine abuse include:

  • Shortened attention spans
  • Memory impairment
  • Learning impairments
  • Psychological disorders (depression, anxiety)
  • Flashbacks

Ultimately, the effects of ketamine on the brain should not be taken lightly as this drug interferes with essential brain and body functions.

In order to overcome the negative effects of ketamine abuse, treatment is often necessary. Call 800-601-3889 (Who Answers?) now for help finding the best program for your needs. 

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