As one of a handful of “date rape” drugs, ketamine produces hallucinatory effects that leave users physically incapacitated. Commonly used as an anesthetic agent in veterinary practice, ketamine abuse practices started as far back as the 1980s, according to Brown University.
Most popular among today’s teenagers and young adults, regular ongoing ketamine use can impair a person’s ability to manage the affairs of daily life. Ketamine dependence becomes an issue once the brain comes to rely on the drug’s effects to function normally.
More than anything else, ketamine dependence impairs a person’s psychological well-being. After so many months of regular use, the need for drug treatment becomes increasingly apparent as drug-using practices start to disrupt major areas in a person’s daily life.
Ketamine works by decreasing glutamate production levels in the brain. For the most part, glutamate regulates brain electrical activity, which enables neurons to process incoming information. Consequently, ketamine’s ability to suppress glutamate output produces a range of contradictory effects allowing the drug to produce stimulant, sedative and hallucinogenic effects at different dosage levels.
According to New York University at Steinhardt, high doses of ketamine produces what’s known as the K-Hole effect where the body shuts down while the brain remains conscious and alert. It’s these conditions that give rise to hallucinations. Ketamine dependence develops as brain chemical activity starts to change in response to the drug’s effects.
Much like the hallucinations that characterize psychosis, a one-time dose of ketamine can produce psychosis-like effects, according to Reuters Health. When used on a repeated basis, these effects inevitably alter critical brain processes, including:
- How the brain processes sensory information
- Cognitive processing
- Limbic system functions or emotion-based processing
- Logic and reasoning functions
Ketamine belongs to the dissociative class of hallucinogen drugs, most characterized by the overall disconnect that occurs between the body and brain. This “disconnect” leaves the brain free to create a reality of its own.
Over time, ketamine dependence will diminish the brain’s overall functional capacity leaving users with impaired short-term memory functions, shortened attention spans and delusional thinking.
Symptoms of Ketamine Dependence
Symptoms of ketamine dependence become increasingly hard to miss as users start to show signs of compromised brain functioning. Frequency of drug use and dosage levels used determines how severe symptoms will be.
Symptoms of ketamine dependence may take the form of:
- A growing preoccupation with getting and using the drug
- Spending money designated for bills to buy ketamine
- Decline in work and/or school performance
- Inability to feel happy without the drug’s effects
The Need for Treatment
With frequent ketamine use, the brain comes to require more of the drug to produce the desired “high” effect. The brain’s tolerance for ketamine will continue to increase for as long as a person keeps using it.
As ketamine’s overall effect creates a sense of detachment and dissociation from one’s everyday world, regular users tend to grow more detached from the people and activities that most characterize who they are as individuals. Ultimately, the sooner a person gets help for ketamine dependence the better his or her chances of a full, successful recovery.
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