Ketamine Addiction & The Brain: What You Should Know

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Recently, ketamine addiction and abuse have significantly risen. For this reason, being aware of the effects this drug has on the brain is very important. Ketamine has long been employed as a temporary general anesthetic in the medical field. As of late, however, its dissociative effects have caused it to become widely known in other areas, particularly for its potential to treat psychological health issues like depression. Unfortunately, like many drugs, if taken in excess, ketamine can cause a number of long-term negative effects. In this article, we go into more detail on ketamine, the side effects associated with it, and the treatment options available if you or a loved one struggles with ketamine abuse.

Prolonged misuse of ketamine can have permanent psychological effects. Regular ketamine consumption can cause emotional instability, as well as difficulties with recollection and rational thought.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a medication commonly used for anesthesia induction and maintenance. It works by obstructing the functioning of a particular glutamate receptor in the brain, called an NMDA receptor antagonist. Moreover, it serves as an analgesic and has antidepressant properties. In certain cases, it is used outside of its approved indications to manage depression and anxiety. Nevertheless, ketamine is a controlled substance, so it must be taken following the instructions of a healthcare provider, as it can be addictive and lead to adverse reactions such as hallucinations, dizziness, and confusion.

ketamine addiction

What Does The Ketamine High Feel Like?

When taken for recreational purposes, ketamine can generate a variety of effects, such as hallucinations and a sensation of being disconnected from one’s body. People have described the sensations of the drug as dreamy and surreal. At lesser doses, it can generate a feeling of elation, while larger doses can make someone sedated or even unconscious. It is important to remember that the effects of ketamine can differ greatly between individuals, based on the amount taken, the tolerance of the person, and the environment in which it is taken. Additionally, ketamine can have risky physical and mental side effects such as an accelerated heart rate and blood pressure, unease, and hallucinations.

How Addictive is Ketamine?

Ketamine is not classified as a physically addictive substance in the same way as opioids and stimulants, yet it may be psychologically habit-forming. This indicates that people who frequently use the drug may form a psychological dependence on it and could become strongly motivated to keep taking it.

People who use ketamine in a recreational manner or in large quantities could be more susceptible to becoming psychologically addicted to it. When taken regularly, the body can develop a tolerance to it, requiring greater doses to experience its desired effects. This can cause a vicious cycle of progressively escalating use and reliance on the drug.

It is important to point out that ketamine can cause serious physical and mental adverse effects, such as hallucinations, alterations in awareness, and an elevated heart rate and blood pressure. These consequences could be particularly risky when ketamine is used in conjunction with other substances like alcohol or other drugs.

Dangers of Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine is an anesthetic that can induce hallucinations and distorted states of consciousness. In large amounts or when taken recreationally, it has an array of adverse impacts on the brain and body. Some short-term side effects of taking ketamine are:

  • Difficulty in thinking clearly
  • Trouble with memory
  • Decreased power of discernment
  • Sensory distortion
  • Trouble articulating
  • Poor motor skills
  • Muscle tremors
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea

Prolonged use of ketamine can result in some severe issues, such as inflammation of the bladder, harm to the kidneys and liver, and also damage to the brain, leading to memory loss, issues with focus and studying, as well as abnormal development of the brain. Furthermore, ketamine can be habit-forming, and those who use it on a regular basis might need to consume larger amounts to get the same effects, which increases the potential for overdosing and other unwanted outcomes.

How Does Ketamine Affect The Brain?

Ketamine can cause a range of negative effects on the brain, both in the short term and long term. Some of the ways in which ketamine can negatively affect the brain include:


Confusion is one of the most common side effects of ketamine use. It can lead to short-term memory problems, making it difficult for a person to remember important information or recall past events. This can be especially dangerous in certain occupations such as driving or operating heavy machinery, as it can impair judgment and reaction time. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the potential consequences of ketamine use before making the decision to take it.


The use of ketamine can lead to a range of altered perceptions and hallucinations, ranging from vivid colors and sounds to distorted visual effects. These changes in perception are mainly caused by the drug’s ability to alter brain chemistry, causing neural pathways to fire in unusual ways. Such hallucinations may be disorienting and unpredictable, so it is important for those taking ketamine to understand the risks associated with it.

Motor Skill Dysfunction

Ketamine can cause dysfunctional motor skills, making it difficult for individuals to communicate or move in a normal manner. This has implications both in the short-term as well as in the long-term; one may experience difficulty with physical movement and coordination for a period of time post-use. When administered in high dosage, ketamine can cause an individual to lose muscle control and coordination, often leading to physical injury or accidents. It is important to remember that ketamine has the potential to impair one’s ability to think, speak, and move normally.

Alters Brain Structure

Brain alterations caused by chronic ketamine use can be profound and long-lasting. Research has revealed that these effects can include memory loss, impaired learning, attention deficits, and reduced brain development in comparison to individuals who do not use the drug. The implications of these changes are far-reaching and can cause serious psychological and neurological problems.

How Does Ketamine Harm the Body?

In addition to the many negative effects that ketamine ahs on the brain, this drug also causes long-term damage to the physical body. Ingesting or injecting ketamine can have severe effects on the body. Snorting ketamine can result in long-term damage to the nasal passageways and sinus cavities, as well as impairing the sense of smell. Additionally, injecting ketamine can damage veins, muscles, skin, and internal organs. It can also lead to skin infections, infectious diseases, and endocarditis, which is an infection of the heart valves.

Prolonged and excessive use of ketamine has also been linked to kidney and liver damage. Furthermore, it can also cause issues with the urinary tract and bladder. Heart rate acceleration, seizures, hypertension, and breathing problems have been observed in some cases. The effects of ketamine use can be very serious and even life-threatening; it can prevent a person from functioning normally and, in extreme cases, cause organ malfunction and cause a heart attack resulting in death.

Treatment for Ketamine Addiction in Los Angeles

When used recreationally, ketamine can be psychologically addictive, and people who use it regularly may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using it. If you are struggling with ketamine addiction, it is important to seek professional help. The following are common treatments for substance abuse and addiction:


A ketamine detox is an important step for those seeking treatment for ketamine use. It is a medical process in which the body is allowed to rid itself of the drug with the support of medical professionals. Detoxification can take place in a hospital or detox center, where specially trained professionals can monitor the patient and provide necessary medical care. Ultimately, this will be the first step in your recovery journey.


Rehab programs are an essential part of the recovery journey, as they help to address the psychological aspects of ketamine addiction that may have caused the addiction or been exacerbated by it. Rehab programs provide individuals with a supportive environment in which they can work on identifying and managing triggers, improving coping skills, and ultimately, reducing the risks of relapse. Rehab programs may be inpatient or outpatient, depending on the individual’s needs. In either case, the goal is to equip individuals with the knowledge and tools necessary to lead successful lives free from addiction.

Medication-Assisted Treatment

Although there are no medications specifically approved for treating ketamine addiction, medication-assisted treatment can be beneficial in helping to reduce cravings and other symptoms of withdrawal. Medications such as clonidine, buprenorphine, and naltrexone can be used to target the physical symptoms of withdrawal and help individuals on the road to recovery. Additionally, cognitive-behavioral therapy can be an effective complementary treatment to help individuals address the underlying causes of their addiction.

Ketamine Addiction Treatment in Los Angeles, CA

If you or a loved one in Los Angeles is fighting an addiction to ketamine, it is not too soon to get help. At Launch Centers, we are passionate about helping those who have substance abuse problems. Our program is intended to help people reclaim their lives and reach their highest potential. With a combination of educational and career elements, health care, and thorough treatment, our professionals are available to help you succeed in overcoming your addiction and having a fulfilling, sober life.

If you are looking for assistance and want to know more about the many services and treatment options we offer, contact a professional at Launch Centers today. You will find that you are closer to a full recovery than you may have thought.

About Our Founder

Jose Hernandez, for over a decade, has been involved in alcohol and addiction recovery helping people succeed in overcoming substance abuse and regaining control of their lives. He has experience in all aspects of the recovery world, from facilitating entry into treatment as an intervention specialist to counseling and case management at rehabilitation facilities. Jose has worked one-on-one with individuals as a sober companion and with groups as a resident counselor at addiction treatment centers and is certified by the California Association of Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors (CAADAC) to practice as a substance abuse counselor.

Through his professional experiences in crisis intervention, drug and alcohol detoxification, substance abuse counseling, and relapse prevention, Jose has developed a unique plan for case management that bridges the gap between a person’s painful past of substance abuse and a future of sobriety.

At Riviera Recovery, a sober living facility with multiple locations, clients continue their transition from the supportive environment of a treatment center to living well and happily in the “real” world. The program he designed at Riviera Recovery personalizes treatment plans that enable clients, including those with a single or dual-diagnosed mental health disorder, to embrace a satisfying life.

His greatest endeavor has been establishing LAUNCH, a Los Angeles-based life skills intensive outpatient program for young adults. LAUNCH works with recovering men and women to establish personal vocational and educational goals and develop the tools to successfully meet them. His mission is to ensure that no one stands alone in his or her recovery.

Meet Our Clinical Team

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Jess Beck, LCSW

Clinical Director

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Eric Chaghouri, MD


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Chloe Kruskol, LCSW

Family Program Manager

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