Ketamine Signs, Symptoms, & Side Effects

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Ketamine is a class III drug in the U.S., approved only for use in medical settings and hospitals to induce sleep or as a form of anesthesia. Ketamine is a generic name, and the brand name of the drug most often available is called Ketalar. When someone uses ketamine, they enter into something like a trance. Ketamine also provides pain relief and memory loss in addition to sedation. Ketamine can be used to treat chronic pain in certain situations, and it’s used in patients who are in intensive care as a form of sedation. Ketamine was often used during the Vietnam War as a surgical anesthetic, and it is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. Despite the fact that ketamine is intended for use only in medical and clinical settings, it is diverted from medical use and misused recreationally.

Ketamine is favored in certain instances as a sedative because the side effects of ketamine include less respiratory sedation than other anesthetics. However, it’s not usually a primary anesthetic because it can cause hallucinations. Unlike most other anesthetics, ketamine doesn’t depress the circulatory system. Instead, it can stimulate it. Low doses of ketamine are sometimes given to manage pain following surgery. For example, ketamine may be used as a way to reduce doses of morphine used on patients and to help with nausea and vomiting following surgery.

Ketamine is considered to be a low-risk drug when it’s administered by medical professionals. In a medical setting, there are possible side effects, however. Some side effects of ketamine can include changes in heart rhythm or blood pressure, gastrointestinal side effects like nausea or vomiting, and changes in vision such as double vision or involuntary eye movements. When it’s used as an anesthetic, ketamine can cause hallucinations and delirium when patients wake up. In some ways, ketamine is similar to the drug PCP, which is a club and party drug. Most of the dangerous side effects of taking ketamine are related to recreational misuse.

Ketamine Signs, Symptoms, & Side Effects

Negative side effects of ketamine are possible when medical professionals administer it, but these risks tend to be less dangerous and easier to manage. When ketamine is misused, the risks become much more significant. Ketamine is very powerful. When it’s not administered by a trained professional, it’s easy to overdose. The desirable effects of ketamine people chase include euphoria, relaxation or the feeling of floating outside of one’s body. Some people say they experience a complete detachment from their body. Other people who use ketamine feel like they have a near-death experience, which can be extremely frightening. Negative side effects of ketamine can also include increased heart rate and blood pressure, as well as confusion and disorientation. People who use large doses of ketamine may experience very unpleasant hallucinations.  Other negative side effects of ketamine can include:

  • Agitation
  • Slurred speech
  • Involuntary muscle movements
  • Memory loss
  • Changes in behavior
  • Pressure in the eyes and brain
  • Vomiting
  • Psychosis
  • Impaired motor function
  • Respiratory problems
  • Seizures

Ketamine long-term side effects can include addiction and dependence on the drug. Research has also shown long-term side effects of ketamine can lead to problems in cognition and psychological well-being. Short-term memory and visual memory have been shown to decline in people who take ketamine often. Long-term side effects of ketamine can also include bladder and kidney problems and the risk of developing depression. Ketamine can eventually lead to serious mental disorders, and ketamine can cause bladder complications such as ulcerative cystitis. If someone becomes dependent on ketamine and they stop using it suddenly, they will go through withdrawal. Ketamine withdrawal side effects can include anxiety, depression, insomnia and flashbacks.

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Ketamine Signs, Symptoms, & Side Effects
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