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Ketamine: Understanding the Side Effects and Risks


Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT

Ketamine, a drug initially developed for surgical anesthesia and widely recognized as a “dissociative anesthetic,” has found varied use from the emergency department to psychiatric therapy. As a potent general anesthetic, ketamine hydrochloride is often administered in hospital settings to provide profound sedation. Yet, its reputation extends beyond these medical applications into more controversial territories as a “club drug” known for its hallucinogenic properties. In this blog, we delve into understanding the side effects and risks of ketamine, particularly when the drug is consumed by young adults and others outside of a strictly controlled medical context. We’ll explore how ketamine affects the central nervous system (CNS), interacts with other drugs, and the implications of drug abuse, especially when mixed with substances like oral antidepressants or used in ways that enhance sensory perception but lead to impaired vision or dangerously slowed breathing.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a medication primarily used for starting and maintaining anesthesia. It induces a trance-like state while providing pain relief, sedation, and memory loss. Beyond its use in anesthesia, ketamine has other notable applications, particularly in psychiatry. It has been found to be effective in treating depression, especially in cases where other treatments have failed, due to its rapid antidepressant effects. Additionally, it’s sometimes used in the management of acute pain and in emergency settings.

Ketamine is known for its distinctive dissociative properties, which can include sensations of detachment from one’s body and the surrounding environment. Due to these effects, it’s also been used recreationally and is considered a controlled substance in many areas. Its medical use is generally safe under professional supervision, but it needs to be administered carefully due to its potential for abuse and side effects.


Ketamine Types and Dosages

Ketamine comes in various forms and is used at different dosages depending on the purpose and setting. Here’s a breakdown of its common types and dosages:

  1. Types of Ketamine
  • Racemic Ketamine: This is the most common form used in medical settings. It’s a mixture of two mirror image molecules (enantiomers), and it is typically used for anesthesia.
  • Esketamine (S-enantiomer): This is a newer, FDA-approved nasal spray form, marketed under the name Spravato, used specifically for treatment-resistant depression. It’s a more potent form than racemic ketamine.

Ketamine hydrochloride is another form, widely used as a general anesthetic, pre-anesthetic, and for enhancing the effects of low-potency substances. It is also utilized in pain management, treatment-resistant depression, managing suicidal ideation, treatment of refractory status epilepticus, and has potential applications in psychiatry and chronic pain.

  1. Dosages

The dosage of ketamine varies based on its use:

  • Anesthesia:
    • Adults: For general anesthesia induction, the typical intravenous (IV) dose is 1 to 2 mg/kg. For maintenance of anesthesia, smaller doses are administered as needed.
    • Children: The dose might be slightly higher, around 1 to 3 mg/kg, depending on age and other factors.
  • Pain Management:
    • Subanesthetic doses (lower doses) are used, typically around 0.1 to 0.5 mg/kg, administered IV over a period to manage pain without causing a full anesthetic effect.
  • Psychiatric Use:
    • Depression: Intravenous infusions are commonly used in a clinical setting, often starting at 0.5 mg/kg over 40 minutes. Adjustments are based on patient response and tolerance.
    • Esketamine Nasal Spray: The typical starting dose is 56 mg, followed by doses ranging from 56 mg to 84 mg twice a week for the first month, then reduced frequency based on response.

The severity of ketamine’s effects can vary significantly depending on the dosage and the amount of drug consumed. Mixing ketamine with other substances can lead to unpredictable and potentially dangerous effects.

  1. Route of Administration
  • Intravenous (IV): Most common in hospital settings for anesthesia and pain management.
  • Intramuscular (IM): Used in some emergency settings for rapid onset.
  • Nasal Spray: Specifically for esketamine in the treatment of depression.
  • Oral: Less common due to poor bioavailability and variable absorption.
  1. Monitoring and Safety

Due to the potential for abuse and serious side effects, such as dissociation and sedation, ketamine administration is closely monitored in medical settings. In psychiatric applications, patients must remain at the clinic under supervision for a period after administration to ensure safety.

It is crucial to monitor the central nervous system (CNS) when ketamine is used with other CNS depressants, such as alcohol. Personalized dose adjustments and careful monitoring are recommended to avoid adverse interactions.


Ketamine Dosage Guidelines

Ketamine dosage guidelines vary depending on the intended use—whether for anesthesia, pain management, or psychiatric treatment. Here are more detailed guidelines for each use case:

  1. Anesthesia
  • Induction of Anesthesia:
    • Adults: Typically, 1 to 2 mg/kg IV over 60 seconds. If administered intramuscularly (IM), the dose may increase to 4 to 10 mg/kg.
    • Children: Doses can range from 1 to 3 mg/kg IV, or 3 to 8 mg/kg IM, depending on factors such as age and premedication.
  • Maintenance of Anesthesia:
    • Smaller, incremental doses of 0.5 to 1.5 mg/kg IV as needed, or continuous infusion techniques can be employed.
  1. Pain Management

Acute Pain: Subanesthetic doses such as 0.1 to 0.5 mg/kg IV are commonly used, sometimes administered as a slow infusion over 10 to 30 minutes. It is important to note that when ketamine is abused via insufflation (‘snorting’), it can lead to side effects such as high blood pressure, fast heart rate, hallucinations, and impaired consciousness.

Chronic Pain: Repeat infusions may be used, often starting with a series of infusions (e.g., 0.5 mg/kg over 2 to 3 hours, repeated several times over a few weeks).

  1. Psychiatric Use

Treatment-Resistant Depression:

  • IV Infusion: The dose typically starts at 0.5 mg/kg infused over 40 minutes. Some protocols adjust the infusion rate and duration based on patient tolerance and response.
  • Esketamine Nasal Spray: Dosage starts at 56 mg, followed by an 84 mg dose, depending on the patient’s reaction and administered under medical supervision. After the first month of twice-weekly doses, it may be given once a week, and eventually reduced to every two weeks based on efficacy and tolerability. Esketamine is often used in conjunction with another oral antidepressant for managing treatment-resistant depression.
  1. Route of Administration and Special Considerations
  • IV and IM routes are common for anesthesia and some forms of pain management.
  • Nasal Spray (Esketamine) is specifically used for depression and is administered in a healthcare setting with patient monitoring.
  • Oral routes are less effective due to ketamine’s poor bioavailability when taken by mouth.
  1. Safety and Monitoring

Due to its dissociative effects and potential for misuse, ketamine treatments are usually performed in controlled environments. It is crucial to be aware of the risks associated with mixing ketamine with other drugs, such as amphetamine-like stimulants, alcohol, or other central nervous system depressants, as these combinations can lead to severe adverse effects and increase the risk of overdose and fatalities.

For psychiatric applications, patients are monitored for at least 2 hours after administration due to potential side effects like sedation and dissociation.


Ketamine Efficacy

Ketamine’s efficacy varies depending on the condition being treated, and it is particularly noted for its rapid effects in certain areas where traditional treatments may not be as effective.

  1. Anesthesia

Ketamine is highly effective as an anesthetic agent, especially in settings where resources are limited or where patients have conditions that make other anesthetics risky. It provides both sedation and pain relief and is valued for maintaining breathing and circulatory stability during procedures, making it a preferred choice in emergency medicine and battlefield medicine.

  1. Pain Management

Ketamine has proven effective in treating acute, chronic, and neuropathic pain. Its ability to block NMDA receptors helps modulate pain and can reduce opioid consumption in postoperative settings. For chronic pain, especially where there is an element of neuropathic pain, ketamine can interrupt pain signaling pathways, offering relief where other medications may fail.

  1. Treatment-Resistant Depression

One of the most significant breakthroughs in ketamine’s use is in the treatment of treatment-resistant depression. Studies show that ketamine can produce rapid antidepressant effects, often within hours or days, compared to weeks typically required for traditional antidepressants. This rapid action can be lifesaving in instances of severe depression and suicidal ideation.

  1. Psychiatric Conditions Beyond Depression

Research into ketamine’s effects on other psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and acute suicidality has shown promising results. The rapid reduction in symptoms, particularly of acute suicidality and depressive episodes in bipolar disorder, marks it as a potentially invaluable treatment option.

Clinical Considerations

  • Rapid Onset: Ketamine’s effects for depression can begin within hours, a significant advantage over traditional antidepressants.
  • Duration of Effect: The antidepressant effects can be transient; thus, repeated doses may be necessary. This has led to the development of protocols for maintenance therapy to sustain benefits.
  • Side Effects: The dissociative effects, potential for abuse, and neurocognitive side effects are significant considerations that require it to be administered under strict medical supervision.

Limitations and Risks

While ketamine is effective, it’s not suitable for everyone. The potential for dissociative effects and dependency, along with its abuse potential, requires careful patient selection, monitoring, and follow-up. It’s also not a first-line treatment but rather reserved for cases where other treatments have failed or aren’t suitable.


Ketamine Uses

Ketamine has multiple applications in medicine, ranging from its original use as an anesthetic to more recent applications in pain management and psychiatric treatment. Here are the key areas where ketamine is commonly used:

  1. Anesthesia

Ketamine is primarily used for inducing and maintaining anesthesia. It is especially beneficial in situations where mechanical ventilation is not available, as it does not depress breathing or blood pressure. This makes it ideal for use in emergency settings, field operations, and in developing regions where medical resources are limited.

  1. Pain Management

Ketamine is effective for acute pain management in emergency care and for chronic pain, particularly neuropathic pain. It works by blocking NMDA receptors, which are involved in the pain transmission pathway, thereby reducing the perception of pain. This mechanism is also helpful in preventing the development of opioid tolerance and dependence when used alongside opioid medications.

  1. Psychiatric Treatment
  • Treatment-Resistant Depression: Ketamine has gained significant attention for its rapid antidepressant effects, often providing relief within hours or days, which is considerably faster than most conventional antidepressants that may take weeks to become effective. Additionally, ketamine is known as a club drug, popular among teenagers and young adults at raves or parties, indicating its use as a recreational drug in social settings.
  • Acute Suicidality: Due to its rapid action, ketamine can be life-saving in acute situations where there is a risk of suicide, providing rapid stabilization of mood.
  • Other Mood Disorders: Research is exploring ketamine’s potential benefits for a range of other mood disorders, including bipolar depression and anxiety disorders.
  1. Sedation in Critical Care

Ketamine is also used for sedation in intensive care units, particularly for patients undergoing mechanical ventilation or those who are suffering from treatment-resistant agitation.

  1. Emergency Medicine

In addition to its analgesic and anesthetic properties, ketamine is valuable in emergency medicine for its safety profile, especially in patients with traumatic injuries or in shock, as it does not significantly depress respiratory or circulatory systems.

  1. Veterinary Medicine

Ketamine is commonly used in veterinary medicine for anesthetic and analgesic purposes, particularly in cats, small mammals, and in exotic animals, where it is valued for its rapid onset and safety.

  1. Research Applications

Ketamine is being investigated for its potential uses in a variety of other conditions, including chronic refractory cough, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), among others.

Ketamine’s versatility and unique mode of action make it a valuable drug across various medical fields. Its use is particularly notable where traditional treatments are ineffective or where rapid intervention is necessary.


How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?

Ketamine’s duration in the body and its detectability can vary based on several factors, including the dosage, method of administration, and individual metabolic differences. Here are key details regarding how long ketamine typically remains detectable in the system:


The half-life of ketamine, which is the time it takes for half of the drug to be eliminated from the body, is typically about 2 to 3 hours. This rapid clearance rate means that ketamine leaves the system relatively quickly compared to many other substances.


  • Blood: Ketamine can be detected in the blood for up to 24 hours after use.
  • Urine: Ketamine is detectable in urine for about 2 to 4 days. Urine tests are more sensitive and can detect drug residues longer than blood tests.
  • Hair: Hair follicle tests can detect ketamine for up to 90 days, as drug residues deposit in the hair shaft and remain there as the hair grows.

Factors Affecting Clearance

Several factors can influence how quickly ketamine is metabolized and cleared from the body:

  • Metabolic Rate: Individuals with a faster metabolism will generally clear ketamine more quickly.
  • Liver Function: The liver metabolizes ketamine, so liver function can significantly affect how long the drug stays in the system.
  • Dosage and Frequency of Use: Higher doses or frequent use can increase the time ketamine stays in the body and is detectable.

Clinical Implications

Due to its rapid onset and short duration of action, ketamine is often used in settings where quick recovery is important, such as in anesthesia for short surgical procedures. However, the effects of the drug on perception and cognition may last longer than the detectable levels in blood or urine, especially in the context of repeated use or higher doses.

If you are undergoing medical treatment, operating heavy machinery, or have other safety-sensitive responsibilities, it’s important to consider these factors and ensure that ketaminе is completely cleared from your system to avoid impairment.


Ketamine Onset and Duration

Onset of Effects

  • Intravenous (IV): The effects of ketamine when administered intravenously can begin almost immediately, typically within 1 to 5 minutes.
  • Intramuscular (IM): When injected into a muscle, the onset is slightly slower, generally occurring within 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Intranasal: Using ketamine as a nasal spray, such as in the treatment of depression, can lead to effects within 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Oral: Oral consumption has the slowest onset, typically around 15 to 30 minutes, but it is less commonly used due to low bioavailability.

Duration of Effects

  • IV and IM: The primary effects of ketamine last about 30 to 60 minutes when administered intravenously or intramuscularly, although residual effects can last for several hours as the drug is metabolized.
  • Intranasal: Effects from nasal spray can last similarly about 30 to 90 minutes.
  • Oral: The duration of effects when taken orally can be more prolonged but less intense, lasting up to several hours depending on the dose.

These timings can be influenced by various factors such as the individual’s metabolism, the dosage, and frequency of use. Clinically, the rapid onset and relatively short duration of active effects make ketamine a useful anesthetic and analgesic in settings where quick recovery or short-term sedation is desired.


Ketamine Storage and Disposal

Ketamine needs to be stored and disposed of carefully due to its potential for abuse and its status as a controlled substance in many jurisdictions. Here are the general guidelines for proper storage and disposal of ketamine:


  • Temperature: Ketamine should be stored at room temperature, typically between 20°C to 25°C (68°F to 77°F), away from direct light and moisture.
  • Security: Due to its potential for misuse, ketamine should be kept in a secure location, preferably in a locked cabinet that is inaccessible to unauthorized individuals, including children and pets.
  • Container: Keep ketamine in its original container with the label intact, ensuring that the cap is tightly closed to prevent contamination or spillage.


  • Follow Regulations: Disposal methods for ketamine should comply with local regulations regarding controlled substances. This often means it should not be disposed of via household trash or sewage systems unless specifically allowed.
  • Take-Back Programs: The best way to dispose of ketamine is through a drug take-back program. These programs are offered by certain pharmacies, healthcare providers, or local government authorities.
  • No Flushing: Unless specifically directed by healthcare professionals, do not flush ketamine down the toilet, as this can contribute to contamination of water supplies.

How Does Ketamine Work in the Brain and Body?

 Ketamine primarily affects the brain and body by blocking NMDA receptors, which are involved in pain perception and neuronal plasticity. This action disrupts the normal activity of glutamate, a major excitatory neurotransmitter, leading to:

  1. Analgesic Effects: Ketamine provides pain relief by altering the central perception of pain.
  2. Antidepressant Effects: It promotes rapid antidepressant effects, potentially by increasing synaptic connectivity and stimulating the growth of new synapses, particularly in brain regions associated with mood regulation.
  3. Dissociative Effects: By interfering with NMDA receptors, ketamine produces dissociative anesthesia, creating a sense of detachment from one’s environment and self, which is useful in both medical anesthesia and acute psychiatric interventions.
  4. Anti-inflammatory Actions: Ketamine may have secondary effects on reducing inflammation within the brain, which could contribute to its therapeutic effects in depression and other mood disorders.

Overall, ketamine’s rapid action and broad impact on brain function make it valuable for a range of medical and psychiatric applications.


Effects of Ketamine on the Body

Ketamine affects the body in various ways, primarily due to its action as an NMDA receptor antagonist. Here are some key effects:

  1. Cardiovascular System

Ketamine typically stimulates the cardiovascular system, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, which is a unique feature compared to other anesthetics that usually depress heart function.

  1. Respiratory System

It generally preserves respiratory function and airway reflexes, making it safe for procedures where respiratory support is limited.

  1. Central Nervous System

Ketamine can induce a dissociative state, characterized by a feeling of detachment from the environment and oneself, along with possible hallucinations and altered perception.

  1. Gastrointestinal System

Use of ketamine may cause nausea and vomiting, particularly at higher doses.

  1. Muscular System

It can increase muscle tone, sometimes resulting in involuntary movements or rigidity.

  1. Urinary System

Chronic use of ketamine has been linked to urinary tract issues, such as ketamine-induced cystitis, which involves severe bladder inflammation and discomfort.

These effects highlight ketamine’s complex impact on the body, which can vary significantly depending on the dose and the user’s health.


Ketamine Side Effects and Risks

Ketamine, while useful for its medical and therapeutic benefits, also has a range of side effects and potential risks, especially when used improperly or in non-medical contexts. Here are the common side effects and risks associated with ketamine use:

Common Side Effects

  • Dissociative effects: These can include feelings of detachment from one’s body and environment, hallucinations, and altered perception of time and space.
  • Psychological effects: Anxiety, confusion, and agitation may occur, especially in non-medical settings or among individuals who are not closely monitored.
  • Physical effects: Increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, and dizziness are common. Muscle rigidity and involuntary movements can also occur.
  • Sedation: While ketamine is a sedative, the level of sedation can vary and might lead to unexpected levels of consciousness or responsiveness.

Serious Risks

  • Cognitive impairment: Chronic use can lead to memory loss, difficulties with executive functioning, and other cognitive deficits.
  • Urinary tract damage: Long-term use, particularly at high doses, is associated with ketamine-induced cystitis, which can cause severe bladder pain, urinary urgency, and potential long-term damage to the bladder.
  • Addiction and abuse: Ketamine has potential for abuse, leading to psychological dependency. Its recreational use is associated with an increased risk of addiction.
  • Mental health issues: Frequent use can exacerbate or lead to mental health problems, including severe depression and psychotic disorders.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Symptoms can include sweating, shaking, palpitations, and anxiety when the drug use is reduced or stopped.

Risk Reduction

  • Medical supervision: Use of ketamine for medical or therapeutic purposes should always be under the supervision of a healthcare professional.
  • Controlled settings: Administration in a controlled environment reduces risks associated with accidental injury due to the drug’s dissociative effects.
  • Dosage control: Adhering to prescribed dosages minimizes the risk of negative side effects and development of dependency.


What mechanisms make ketamine effective as an antidepressant?

Ketamine’s effectiveness in treating depression is primarily due to its action as an NMDA receptor antagonist, which helps increase the levels of glutamate between neurons, facilitating improved synaptic connections and boosting mood-regulating circuits quickly.


Can ketamine cause long-term damage to the brain?

Chronic use of ketamine can lead to cognitive impairments, such as memory loss and reduced cognitive function. Research is ongoing to fully understand the long-term impacts of medicinal versus recreational use.


How does ketamine therapy differ from traditional antidepressants in treating depression?

Ketamine provides rapid relief from depression symptoms, often within hours, compared to traditional antidepressants that may take weeks to become effective. This makes it particularly valuable for treating acute episodes of severe depression and suicidality.


What are the risks of developing tolerance or dependency with ketamine therapy?

Regular use of ketamine can lead to tolerance, meaning higher doses are needed to achieve the same effect, and potentially lead to psychological dependency due to its euphoric effects.


What specific factors should be considered before starting ketamine treatment for mental health issues?

Patients should consider their medical history, potential for abuse, current medications, and overall mental health. A thorough evaluation by a healthcare provider is necessary to determine suitability.


Is Ketamine Addictive?

Yes, ketamine can be addictive. It has a potential for abuse and dependency, particularly when used outside of a controlled medical setting. Here’s a closer look at its addictive properties:

Mechanisms of Addiction

Ketamine affects several neurotransmitter systems in the brain, including glutamate and dopamine. The alteration in dopamine activity, which is commonly associated with the brain’s reward pathways, can contribute to the development of addictive behaviors. Individuals may seek out the dissociative experiences or euphoria ketamine can induce.

Risk Factors for Addiction

  • Recreational Use: Individuals using ketamine recreationally are at a higher risk of developing an addiction. Recreational doses are often higher than those used medically, increasing the risk.
  • Frequency of Use: Frequent use can lead to tolerance, meaning higher and more frequent doses are needed to achieve the same effects, which can further lead to dependence.
  • Method of Use: The method of intake (snorting, injecting, etc.) can influence addiction potential, with faster onset of effects generally increasing addictive potential.

Signs of Ketamine Addiction

  • Cravings and compulsive use: Strong desire to use ketamine, even in the face of negative consequences.
  • Increased tolerance: Needing more of the drug to achieve the same effects.
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Experiencing physical or psychological symptoms when not using the drug, such as shaking, sweating, and anxiety.
  • Neglect of responsibilities: Failing to meet work, school, or family obligations because of drug use.
  • Continued use despite harm: Using ketamine even when it causes physical or psychological problems.

Management of Ketamine Addiction

Treating ketamine addiction involves a comprehensive approach, including:

  • Detoxification: Safely managing withdrawal symptoms under medical supervision.
  • Behavioral therapies: Cognitive-behavioral therapy and other psychotherapies can help modify behaviors and thought patterns related to drug use.
  • Support groups: Peer support can be beneficial as part of an ongoing recovery process.

Ketamine’s status as a controlled substance in many countries reflects its potential for abuse and dependency. Medical use of ketamine is carefully managed to minimize these risks, but illicit use presents significant concerns.


Can You Overdose on Ketamine?

Yes, it is possible to overdose on ketamine. An overdose can occur when someone takes a higher dose than their body can safely handle, and it can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening consequences.

Symptoms of Ketamine Overdose

Symptoms of a ketamine overdose can vary but may include:

  • Severe respiratory depression: Reduced breathing rate which can become life-threatening.
  • Cardiovascular complications: Abnormal heart rhythms, drastically high or low blood pressure.
  • Extreme sedation: Inability to wake or respond; in severe cases, this can progress to coma.
  • Psychological effects: Severe confusion, agitation, paranoia, and hallucinations.
  • Motor control loss: Impaired coordination and muscle rigidity, making any movement difficult or involuntary.

Risks Associated with Overdose

The risk of overdose increases when ketamine is used recreationally, especially when taken in combination with other depressants like alcohol or opioids, which can amplify its effects on the respiratory and central nervous systems.

Emergency Response

A ketamine overdose is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Interventions might include:

  • Supportive care: Ensuring that the airway is open and that breathing and circulation are adequate.
  • Medical monitoring: Continuous monitoring of vital signs and cardiac function.
  • Activated charcoal: Administered in some cases if the overdose is recognized early and the patient is conscious and able to swallow, to absorb the remaining drug in the stomach.
  • Sedation management: In cases of severe agitation or psychosis.

Prevalence of Ketamine Side Effects

The prevalence of ketamine side effects varies based on the dosage, route of administration, and the individual characteristics of users. Here are some common side effects and their typical prevalence:

  1. Dissociative Effects: These occur very commonly, almost universally with higher doses, including altered perception, hallucinations, and a feeling of detachment from the body and environment.
  2. Psychological Effects: Anxiety, confusion, and mood swings are common, especially in non-medical use.
  3. Physical Effects: Increased heart rate and blood pressure are frequently observed, especially shortly after administration. Nausea and vomiting are also common, particularly at anesthetic doses.
  4. Cognitive Impairments: With repeated use, particularly in non-medical contexts, cognitive difficulties can become prevalent, affecting memory and attention.
  5. Urinary Tract Issues: Chronic use can lead to ketamine-induced cystitis, a serious condition, especially prevalent among frequent users.

How Does Ketamine Affect Weight Loss?

Ketamine can potentially influence weight, though it is not directly used for weight loss. Here’s a brief overview of how it might affect body weight:

  1. Appetite Suppression: Some users report decreased appetite following ketamine use, which could lead to weight loss if sustained over time.
  2. Metabolic Effects: While not extensively studied, it’s possible that ketamine’s action on various neurotransmitters could impact metabolic rates, potentially influencing weight.
  3. Behavioral Changes: Improvements in mood and energy following ketamine treatment, particularly in depression, might increase activity levels or lead to healthier lifestyle choices, indirectly affecting weight.

These effects are highly individual and not guaranteed. Significant weight changes related to ketamine use should be discussed with a healthcare professional to ensure they are managed safely.


Ketamine and Cognitive Impairment

Ketamine can lead to both acute and long-term cognitive impairments. In the short term, users may experience disruptions in working memory, attention, and executive function. These effects are generally transient and resolve after the drug wears off. However, with long-term or heavy use, especially in non-medical settings, more persistent cognitive deficits can occur, affecting memory, attention, and decision-making skills.


How Does Ketamine Affect Your Mood?

Ketamine can have rapid and profound effects on mood, which is why it’s being used as an alternative treatment for depression, particularly in individuals who haven’t responded to traditional antidepressants. It can produce a noticeable lift in mood within hours of administration, which is attributed to its action on glutamate pathways and the enhancement of synaptic connectivity in the brain. This can help break cycles of negative thought patterns and offer a “reset” in mood regulation processes. However, the mood-enhancing effects can vary widely among individuals and some may experience negative mood swings or dysphoria.


Can Ketamine Affect Your Pregnancy?

The effects of ketamine on pregnancy are not fully understood, but it is generally advised to avoid unnecessary medications during pregnancy unless prescribed by a healthcare provider. The concerns include:

  • Developmental Effects: Animal studies have shown potential risks to fetuses exposed to ketamine, such as developmental delays and neurobehavioral alterations, but clear conclusions for humans are lacking.
  • Use During Labor: Ketamine crosses the placental barrier. While it has been used for analgesic purposes during labor, it should only be administered under direct medical supervision due to potential impacts on the newborn.


Alcohol Use and Ketamine

Mixing ketamine with alcohol is highly dangerous and strongly discouraged due to the following risks:

  • Increased Sedation: Both substances can depress the central nervous system, leading to excessive sedation, difficulty breathing, and potentially coma.
  • Enhanced Toxicity: Alcohol can increase the side effects of ketamine, such as nausea and vomiting, and heighten its impairing effects, increasing the risk of physical harm.
  • Unpredictable Reactions: The combination can lead to severe disorientation, blackouts, and unpredictable behavior, posing significant dangers to oneself and others.


Ketamine Interaction with Other Medications

Ketamine can interact with a variety of medications, which might enhance its effects or lead to adverse reactions:

  • CNS Depressants: Other central nervous system depressants, like benzodiazepines, opioids, and barbiturates, can exacerbate the respiratory depression effects of ketamine.
  • Stimulants: Combining ketamine with stimulants (e.g., amphetamines, cocaine) can put excessive strain on the cardiovascular system, leading to heart problems.
  • Antidepressants: There can be interactions, especially with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and SSRIs, potentially leading to serotonin syndrome, a serious and sometimes fatal condition.

Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Addiction and Mental Health Treatment Options

  1. Inpatient Rehabilitation:
    • Inpatient rehabilitation, also known as residential treatment, involves individuals residing within a treatment facility for a specified duration. This structured environment provides intensive care and support.
  2. Outpatient Programs:
    • Outpatient programs offer flexibility, allowing individuals to receive treatment while continuing their daily lives. They attend therapy sessions, counseling, and other interventions on a scheduled basis.
  3. Detoxification (Detox):
    • Detox is the initial phase of treatment, focusing on safely and systematically removing substances from the body. It is often conducted under medical supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms.
  4. Therapy and Counseling:
    • Various therapeutic modalities, including individual counseling, group therapy, and family therapy, are crucial components of addiction and mental health treatment. These sessions help individuals explore and address underlying issues.
  5. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT):
    • MAT involves the use of medications, in conjunction with counseling and behavioral therapies, to address substance use disorders. It is particularly effective for opioid and alcohol addictions.
  6. Dual Diagnosis Treatment:
    • Dual Diagnosis Treatment addresses co-occurring mental health disorders alongside substance use disorders. It involves integrated interventions to holistically address both aspects of an individual’s well-being.
  7. Holistic Therapies:
    • Holistic approaches incorporate alternative therapies such as yoga, meditation, art therapy, and mindfulness. These practices aim to promote overall well-being and support recovery.
  8. Support Groups:
    • Support groups, like those following the 12-step model (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous), provide a community for individuals to share experiences, seek guidance, and foster mutual support.
  9. Sober Living Homes:
    • Sober living homes offer a transitional and supportive environment for individuals in recovery. They provide a structured living arrangement to reinforce sobriety.
  10. Mental Health Treatment:
    • Mental health treatment specifically addresses psychiatric conditions. It may involve therapy, medication management, and other interventions to enhance emotional well-being.
  11. Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT):
    • CBT is a goal-oriented therapeutic approach that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It is effective for both addiction and mental health concerns.
  12. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT):
    • DBT combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with concepts of acceptance and mindfulness. It is particularly beneficial for individuals with emotional dysregulation.
  13. Motivational Interviewing (MI):
    • MI is a client-centered counseling style aimed at eliciting behavior change by helping individuals explore and resolve ambivalence. It is effective in the early stages of recovery.
  14. Residential Treatment Centers:
    • Residential facilities provide immersive and structured treatment experiences for individuals requiring a more extended and intensive intervention.
  15. Community-Based Programs:
    • Programs within the community offer accessible and community-centered support for individuals with mental health concerns.
  16. Inpatient Mental Health Treatment:
    • Inpatient mental health treatment involves individuals residing within a treatment facility designed to provide a controlled and supportive environment for managing mental health conditions.

Does Insurance Cover Addiction and Mental Health Treatment?

Typically, yes. The coverage of addiction treatment by insurance can vary depending on the type of insurance plan, specific policy details, and the individual’s needs and circumstances. Here are key points to consider regarding insurance coverage for addiction treatment:

  1. Type of Insurance Plan:
    • Different types of insurance plans, such as private insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare, may have varying levels of coverage for addiction treatment.
  2. In-Network vs. Out-of-Network Providers:
    • Insurance plans often have a network of preferred providers. In-network addiction treatment facilities are generally covered at a higher rate than out-of-network providers. Checking if the facility is in-network can impact coverage.
  3. Verification of Benefits:
    • It is crucial to contact the insurance provider and verify the specific terms of coverage for addiction treatment. This includes checking details such as copayments, deductibles, and any out-of-pocket expenses.
  4. Medical Necessity and Preauthorization:
    • Insurance coverage for addiction treatment may be contingent on a determination of medical necessity. Preauthorization or approval from the insurance company may be required before entering a treatment program.
  5. Level of Care:
    • Different levels of addiction treatment, such as inpatient, outpatient, or intensive outpatient programs, may have different coverage considerations. Some insurance plans may cover certain levels of care more comprehensively.
  6. Length of Treatment:
    • Insurance coverage may be influenced by the length of the treatment program. Some plans may have limitations on the number of days covered, while others may provide more extensive coverage for longer durations.
  7. Parity Laws:
    • Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) in the United States requires insurance plans to offer coverage for addiction services at levels comparable to medical and surgical coverage.
  8. Crisis or Emergency Situations:
    • In cases of immediate need or crisis, insurance plans may cover addiction treatment as part of emergency services. However, it is essential to follow up with the insurance provider for ongoing coverage considerations.
  9. Appeals Process:
    • If an insurance claim for addiction treatment is denied, individuals have the right to appeal the decision. The appeals process allows for a review of the denial, and successful appeals can result in coverage being granted.
  10. Out-of-Pocket Expenses:
    • Even with insurance coverage, individuals may still have out-of-pocket expenses, such as copayments or coinsurance. Understanding these costs is essential for financial planning.

Common Insurance Plans Used for Addiction and Mental Health Treatment

Common types of insurance plans used for addiction and mental health treatment include:

  1. Preferred Provider Organization (PPO):
    • PPO plans offer flexibility in choosing healthcare providers, allowing individuals to visit both in-network and out-of-network providers without a referral. PPO plans typically cover a portion of the cost for addiction and mental health rehab services, but out-of-pocket expenses may be higher when using out-of-network providers.
  2. Health Maintenance Organization (HMO):
    • HMO plans require individuals to choose a primary care physician (PCP) who coordinates their care and provides referrals to specialists, including addiction and mental health treatment providers. HMO plans often have lower out-of-pocket costs but may limit coverage to in-network providers, except in emergencies.
  3. Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO):
    • EPO plans combine aspects of both PPO and HMO plans, offering a network of preferred providers for individuals to choose from. While EPO plans do not require a PCP or referrals for specialists, coverage is typically limited to in-network providers, except in emergencies.
  4. Point of Service (POS):
    • POS plans offer individuals the option to receive care from both in-network and out-of-network providers. However, using out-of-network providers may result in higher out-of-pocket costs, and individuals may need a referral from their PCP to see specialists, including addiction and mental health treatment providers.

These insurance plans may vary in terms of coverage, network providers, cost-sharing requirements (e.g., copayments, coinsurance, deductibles), and authorization requirements for addiction and mental health rehab services. It’s essential for individuals to review their insurance plan documents, understand their coverage details, and verify network providers before seeking treatment. Additionally, individuals may need to obtain preauthorization or prior approval for certain rehab services to ensure coverage and minimize out-of-pocket expenses.



Ketamine’s role as both a lifesaver and a subject of misuse underscores the critical balance needed in understanding the side effects and risks associated with this powerful substance. Whether used in controlling symptoms of severe pain or as an alternative to traditional oral antidepressants for acute suicidal ideation, ketamine requires careful management to mitigate risks such as increased blood pressure, allergic reactions, or even psychotic symptoms. For those taking ketamine, especially in low doses for conditions like refractory status epilepticus or in powder form as a recreational drug, the potential for dissociative drug cravings, drug interactions, and adverse effects is real. Guidance from the National Institute of Health emphasizes the importance of monitoring and controlling drug use to prevent outcomes like ketamine misuse or acute effects that could lead to emergency interventions. As we recommend ketamine cautiously, it is vital to recognize its dual capacity as a therapeutic and potentially dangerous substance, making informed decisions critical to ensuring safety and efficacy in its use.


Seeking Treatment? We Can Help!

At California Prime Recovery, as an in-network provider we work with most insurance plans, such as:

If you or a loved one are struggling with mental health challenges or substance abuse, reach out to California Prime Recovery today. Our team of compassionate professionals is here to support your journey towards lasting well-being. Give us a call at 866-208-2390

Also, check out our blogs posted weekly on Medium.


Ketamine is primarily used as an anesthetic in surgeries and medical procedures. It’s also prescribed off-label for treating severe depression, especially in cases that haven’t responded to conventional treatments, and for chronic pain management.
Ketamine works as an NMDA receptor antagonist, blocking these receptors which are involved in pain transmission and mood regulation. This action helps disrupt pain signals and has rapid antidepressant effects.
Common side effects include dissociation, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, euphoria, and hallucinations. It can also cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
Yes, ketamine has potential for addiction and abuse. It can lead to psychological dependence and, with frequent use, can result in tolerance and withdrawal symptoms.
While ketamine can rapidly alleviate symptoms of depression and PTSD, it may also cause psychiatric symptoms such as anxiety, paranoia, and psychosis, especially when used inappropriately.

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