By Anna Raab, M.A. Counseling, BCN

Ketamine, like any other drug of abuse, has the potential to be addictive, and long-term usage can lead to addiction and other severe consequences. Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic medication that has been used in medicine to treat anesthesia, pain, and depression. Due to its euphoric and hallucinatory properties, it is also often used recreationally as a party or club drug. 

Ketamine is growing more popular among America’s young people, with 1.3% of students taking it recreationally in 2020. It is well-known for its medical benefits but has also been classified as an illicit seduction drug alongside GHB and Rohypnol. 

While Ketamine isn’t the most dangerous chemical when taken alone, establishing an addiction to it can significantly impact one’s quality of life. There are several methods for identifying a person’s potential ketamine addiction and risk factors for establishing a dependence or addiction. 

How Ketamine works 

Ketamine is a medication used in medical operations to provide anesthesia and sedation. It is also used off-label for various pain management settings and to treat depression and suicidal ideation. Illegally misused intoxicants have comparable effects to PCP, including distorted visuals and sounds and feelings of separation, relaxation, and loss. 

Ketamine operates in the brain by inhibiting the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, which regulates pain perception, emotions, and memory. Ketamine induces a dissociative experience in which the user feels separated from reality by blocking this receptor. 

Its hallucinatory and dissociative properties make it a popular recreational drug, and sex criminals occasionally mix it with alcohol to conduct sexual crimes. Although the medicine may be commercially made, most of the illicit supply is taken from veterinary clinics for distribution and illegal usage. It is often supplied as a white powder, ready-to-use liquid, or liquid and can be evaporated to a powdered form.

How Addictive is the Ketamine

While Ketamine is not as addictive as heroin or cocaine, it can become habit-forming when taken recreationally or in large quantities. Ketamine addiction is more common in people who take the substance often or for lengthy periods. According to some research, up to 30% of Ketamine users may develop dependency or addiction.

Contrary to popular misconception, Ketamine does not produce physical dependency; instead, users will acquire a tolerance to the substance if they take it repeatedly. As a result, persons who use Ketamine typically require higher dosages to achieve the intended results.

When Ketamine is misused, tolerance and dependency can develop. When people stop using Ketamine after developing a habit, they experience psychological and physiological withdrawal symptoms.

Psychological Addiction 

Ketamine users are more likely to develop psychological addiction than physical addiction because the dissociative state induced by the substance creates an exhilarating sensation for the user, which must be mediated to remove the improper use or abuse of the medication.

Neurological Addiction 

Neurological addiction develops when the brain depends on an external source (often a drug) for particular neurotransmitters. (dopamine, serotonin, etc.). Ketamine users, on the other hand, are not at threat of neurological addiction. Ketamine does not function this way and cannot produce a brain addiction. Unlike oxycontin, morphine, and comparable medicines, it is feasible to discontinue Ketamine quickly without experiencing harmful physical side effects.

Symptoms of Ketamine Addiction 

The symptoms of ketamine addiction can vary depending on the individual, but some common signs include the following:

  • Increased tolerance
  • Insomnia 
  • Neglecting responsibilities 
  • Sedation
  • Incapacity to move
  • Forgetting of occurrences when under the influence
  • Inability to concentrate or relate to the actual world
  • Hallucinations, either aural or visual (seeing and hearing things that are not there)
  • Having the appearance of being in a trance
  • Disconnection from their body or reality
  • Having changed color or sound senses
  • Withdrawal symptoms 
  • Allergy or redness on the skin
  • Sloppy speech
  • Breathing problems

Why is Ketamine Addictive 

Ketamine can cause extreme euphoria, dissociation, and separation from reality, which some people find pleasant. These impacts may also result in a desire to repeat the experience, contributing to addictive behavior. 

Furthermore, continuous ketamine usage can develop tolerance, requiring higher dosages to obtain the same results. This increases the chance of developing an addiction because individuals may seek greater dosages to get the desired effects, resulting in a cycle of dependence.

While Ketamine can be addictive, it also has potential therapeutic applications, particularly for people suffering from treatment-resistant depression or chronic pain. However, these therapeutic applications should only be used under the supervision of a medical practitioner.

Treatment of Ketamine Addiction 

Ketamine addiction is often treated with behavioral therapy, medication-assisted treatment, and support from friends and family. Here are a few therapy options:

Behavioral Treatment: 

Behavioral treatment can assist with the psychological issues that lead to ketamine addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular strategy that helps people identify negative thought patterns and develop coping skills to deal with triggers and urges.

Medication-assisted Therapy:

Although there are no FDA-approved drugs mainly for treating ketamine addiction, several medications may aid with withdrawal symptoms and desire reduction. Antidepressants such as bupropion and naltrexone, for example, may be used to treat cravings and sadness associated with ketamine withdrawal.

Support Organizations: 

Support groups, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and SMART Recovery, can give a feeling of community and support to people in ketamine addiction recovery.

Inpatient Therapy: 

Individuals with severe ketamine addiction may require inpatient treatment in some situations. A stay in a residential treatment center, where clients get rigorous behavioral therapy, medication management, and assistance from a team of healthcare specialists, may be required.


While Ketamine may not be as addictive as other drugs, it can still lead to addiction and damaging consequences when used recreationally or in high doses. It is essential to seek professional help if individual struggles with ketamine addiction. Individual requirements vary; therefore, working with a healthcare expert to find the most appropriate treatment approach for ketamine addiction is critical. With the proper treatment and support, recovery is possible. 


Is Ketamine a Benzo?

Ketamine is not a benzodiazepine (Benzo). A dissociative anesthetic blocks NMDA receptors in the brain, resulting in a dissociative state and pain alleviation. 

Is Ketamine an Opioid? 

No, ketamine is not an Opioid. Opioids are a medication class that includes prescription painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone and banned substances like heroin. Ketamine functions in a different way than opioids.

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