Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic drug with hallucinogenic effects, similar to PCP, and can be addictive with repeated use 1. The withdrawal syndrome has not been well studied, but some users of ketamine report experiencing psychological withdrawal symptoms 2,3,4,5. Despite the lack of extensively studied physical withdrawal symptoms, individuals who are suffering from ketamine addiction may still benefit from attending detoxification and addiction treatment. Formal ketamine abuse treatment can help people addicted to ketamine obtain and maintain sobriety in the long-run.
This article will discuss the following topics related to ketamine:
- Ketamine withdrawal syndrome.
- The length of withdrawal.
- Treatment for ketamine withdrawal.
- Detox medications.
- Aftercare planning.
- How to find detox and treatment.
Ketamine Withdrawal Syndrome
Over time, ketamine abuse – which often involves binges – can lead to the rapid development of tolerance to the drug. This means that, as the brain becomes desensitized to the drug, the individual has to use ever-increasing amounts to achieve the desired effect. Furthermore, as body and brain become used to the presence of ketamine and adapt to it, they essentially grow to “need” the drug to function optimally. This phenomenon is called dependence. When someone is dependent on ketamine and abruptly discontinues use, withdrawal symptoms may appear 4.
Due to various patterns of use and other unique factors that contribute to addiction development, ketamine withdrawal is different for each person that experiences it. Both the severity of and duration that withdrawal symptoms are experienced are strongly influenced by various elements, including the length of ketamine addiction, the amount of ketamine used on a consistent basis, if other drugs are being used concurrently, as well as the physiological nature of each individual.
Although a physical ketamine withdrawal syndrome has not been firmly established or comprehensively described, personal accounts would indicate that some possible withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting ketamine include: 2,3,5,6
- Excessive yawning.
- Feelings of anger.
- Flashbacks, or re-experiences of events associated with ketamine intoxication.
- Hostile or aggressive behavior.
- Strong cravings for ketamine.
If you or a loved one needs assistance with quitting ketamine, please call our helpline at 1-888-241-8971. Rehab support specialists are available to help you learn more about detox and substance abuse treatment options.
How Long Does Withdrawal Last?
As the acute withdrawal syndrome encountered during ketamine detox has not been studied thoroughly, and there is limited information about the total length of the withdrawal process for ketamine and similar drugs in the same class, such as PCP 2,3,4,5. Flashbacks can persist for several weeks after discontinuation of ketamine abuse, while symptoms such as anxiety or depression have been reported to resolve within a month 3,7,8. More research needs to be conducted to verify the typical length of ketamine withdrawal symptoms.
Treatment for Ketamine Withdrawal
It can be extremely difficult to quit using ketamine on your own, despite the absence of a documented withdrawal syndrome. Strong cravings, flashbacks, and mood disturbances can make it challenging to stop using ketamine without formal treatment and the proper support. Fortunately, there are various options for treating ketamine withdrawal. Drug detox programs exist to help individuals manage the withdrawal symptoms and medical or psychiatric complications associated with ketamine detox. Once the detoxification process is complete, further addiction treatment can help individuals remain abstinent from ketamine and develop effective relapse prevention skills to ensure long-term sobriety.
Drug detox is a short-term program that facilitates the detoxification process. The overall goal of any detox, including ketamine detox, is to rid the body of the substance while ensuring the comfort and safety of the individual. Detox programs generally provide medical and psychiatric support and monitoring, and can administer medications to ease the symptoms of withdrawal, if necessary. Detox alone is not considered a sufficient treatment for drug abuse, and following up with further treatment, such as inpatient or outpatient treatment, can help to ensure a better outcome and ongoing sobriety.
Once detox is completed, most individuals opt to transition into a drug abuse treatment program to strengthen their sobriety. Continued treatment is provided through a combination of individual counseling, group therapy, relapse prevention groups, and ongoing care from medical and psychiatric professionals to help patients remain abstinent. Treatment options can include:
- Inpatient treatment: Inpatient recovery programs operate in residential facilities where the patient lives throughout the course of treatment. Patients will receive individual and group counseling sessions, as well as around-the-clock supervision by medical staff and other treatment professionals.
- Partial hospitalization programs (PHP)/Intensive outpatient programs (IOP): These are relatively intensive outpatient programs that provide patients with the opportunity to return home at the end of each day’s focused recovery sessions.
- 12-step programs: Fellowship programs, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) help to promote sobriety with peer support. Attending meetings or support group sessions, obtaining a sponsor, and actively working through the 12 steps can help to promote long-term sobriety.
- Luxury treatment: Luxury rehabilitation takes place in exclusive, private settings where patients reside for the duration of treatment. Upscale amenities are offered for enhanced comfort during recovery. Examples include gourmet meals, private rooms, spa treatment, and massage therapy.
- Executive treatment: Executive programs cater to business executives who wish to continue working while receiving ketamine addiction treatment. While receiving top-notch treatment for ketamine addiction, patients also have access to telephones and computers to manage work responsibilities. Many of these facilities also provide luxurious amenities designed to make the patient feel more comfortable.
- Holistic treatment programs: Programs that adhere to a more holistic treatment philosophy view addiction from a whole person perspective and tailor treatments to focus on the mind, body, and spirit. Treatment interventions used in this type of facility can include acupuncture, biofeedback, exercise, art therapy, music therapy, meditation, nutrition, and yoga.
- Population-specific treatment: Some programs offer specialized treatment that caters to groups with specific needs, such as teenagers, veterans, LGBT clients, men-only, and female-only. This can allow individuals in these groups to utilize the appropriate supports and focus on issues that are specific to that group, such as trauma, emotional issues, or peer pressure.
For more information on addiction treatment information, please call our helpline at 1-888-241-8971. Addiction support specialists can provide you with information on how to detox and recover from a ketamine addiction.
Medications Used in Detox
At the present time, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat ketamine withdrawal 10. However, this does not mean that medication cannot be utilized. Supportive medications may be provided during the detoxification process to manage any complications or troublesome symptoms associated with ketamine withdrawal, such as anxiety or depression.
Towards the end of your treatment program, the staff will collaborate to create an aftercare plan in order to increase the likelihood of recovery and prevent relapse. Relapse rates for substance use disorders range from 40-60%, so it is especially important to have ongoing support and follow an aftercare plan once treatment is completed 11.
Aftercare options can include:
- Sober living homes: Where an individual lives in a substance-free residence, is regularly monitored, and is required to participate in activities, such as treatment, 12-step programs, support groups, or work.
- 12-step programs: Provide a high level of social support and allow members to share stories and learn from one another.
- Non-12-step programs: Also provide a high level of sober support and relapse prevention skills. These alternative programs utilize evidence-based approaches and focus on fostering self-empowerment.
- Individual therapy: An individual can continue to see their counselor from treatment on a less frequent basis, or the individual can choose to follow treatment with private therapy.
- Group therapy: Attending ongoing group therapy can help individuals build a sober support network, while learning and practicing relapse prevention techniques and overcoming challenges of early sobriety.
Get Help Today
Please call our helpline today at 1-888-241-8971 to be connected to recovery resources. Addiction support specialists are available to discuss addiction treatment programs that can help facilitate your recovery from ketamine abuse.
1. Drug Enforcement Administration. Drug fact sheet: Ketamine.
2. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Ketamine.
3. Lin, P.C., Lane, H.Y., & Lin, C.H. (2016). Spontaneous remission of ketamine withdrawal-related depression. Clinical Neuropharmacology, 39(1), 51-52.
4. Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Ketamine.
5. World Health Organization. (2006). Critical review of ketamine.
6. Li, J.H., Vicknasingam, L., Cheung, Y.W., Zhou, W., Nurhidayat, A.W., Des Jarlais, D.C, & Schottenfeld, R. (2011). To use or not to use: An update on licit and illicit ketamine use.
7. Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2006). Phencyclidine (PCP).
8. American Family Physician. (2004). Club drugs: MDMA, Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), Rohypnol, and ketamine.
9. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2012). Principles of drug addiction treatment: A research-based guide (3rd edition).
10. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). Commonly abused drugs charts.
11. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Drugs, brains, and behavior: The science of addiction.