Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline & Detox Treatment

Ketamine Withdrawal: Find Relief and Recovery

Comprehensive Treatment for Ketamine Withdrawal at Ireland’s Leading Rehab Center

Ketamine belongs to a class of drugs known as dissociative anaesthetics. When taken in small doses, it can manage pain that hasn’t responded to standard treatment. However, it isn’t commonly used and will only be prescribed following advice from a specialist. More often, it is used as a tranquilliser in veterinary settings.

Because of its hallucinogenic and psychedelic nature, ketamine is also abused. When used recreationally, it can cause people to feel calm, and euphoric and even enter into a trance-like state. Ketamine is an addictive substance and both those who use it recreationally, as well as those who have been prescribed it, are at risk of addiction. In this article, we’ll take a look at how people can break the cycle of ketamine addiction. 

First, we’ll look at why ketamine use leads to withdrawal and how long the withdrawal period lasts. Next, we’ll explore some of the main physical and psychological symptoms of ketamine withdrawal and look at whether a medically supervised detox is necessary and if so, what that looks like. We’ll touch on the risks of undergoing ketamine withdrawal alone and medicines that can support the detox process and wrap up by looking at how you can get help for ketamine addiction. 

How Does Ketamine Use Lead to Withdrawal?

Abusing ketamine can result in psychological dependence on the drug. This is because as your body gets used to the drug, its tolerance to ketamine increases which means you’ll need to take bigger doses or more frequently and this can quickly lead to addiction. At this stage, you will likely experience withdrawal when you try to stop using ketamine. 

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How Long Does Ketamine Withdrawal Last?

The length of withdrawal will depend on several factors, such as how long you have been abusing ketamine and in what quantities. Generally speaking, the withdrawal process can last from about three days to several weeks. 

In cases of protracted withdrawal, symptoms can last between several months and a couple of years, depending on the severity of drug abuse.

Ketamine Withdrawal Timeline

There is no set time frame when it comes to ketamine withdrawal and everyone’s experience will vary to some degree. However, the timeline below provides a rough idea of what you can expect. 

Days 1-3

You can expect the onset of withdrawal symptoms to kick in around 1 – 3 days after you last use ketamine. This is known as the acute withdrawal phase and you may experience a range of symptoms from fatigue, depression and double vision to hallucinations, tremors and hearing loss. 

Days 4-14

Depending on the severity of your addiction, you may continue to experience these withdrawal symptoms for up to two weeks. In most cases, they reduce in intensity and clear up after around two weeks. 

Days 15+

By this point, most people experience less withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the amount of ketamine taken, and the time frame it was taken over, you may have some ongoing damage in the brain that makes it take longer to heal. 

Research has found frequent use is associated with neurocognitive impairment, most commonly causing problems with both working and episodic memory. You may also notice you have ongoing psychological symptoms, which you will need to seek further treatment for. 

Common Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms

Research looking at ketamine users who received inpatient treatment for ketamine withdrawal found one of the most common withdrawal symptoms was depression. The report stated: “Fifty-nine (59%) and 38 (38.7%) of our patients reported moderate-to-severe depression and anxiety symptoms, respectively. Patients with greater cravings reported spending more days on ketamine in the preceding month and displayed severe depressive symptoms than those with lower cravings. 

The withdrawal symptoms you experience may vary depending on other factors, such as gender. Research has found a sex-based difference in the type of symptoms experienced. For example, female ketamine users presented significantly more discontinuation symptoms such as anxiety, dysphoria, and tremors compared with male users. Additionally, the same research found female ketamine users reported significantly greater levels of severity in cognitive impairment and urinary discomforts compared with male users.

Physical Symptoms of Ketamine Withdrawal

Interestingly, most withdrawal symptoms you’ll experience on a ketamine detox are psychological.  Research found that withdrawing from ketamine is similar to detoxing from many other drugs and that while you will likely experience strong cravings, you do not often experience physical symptoms.

However, some of the physical symptoms of withdrawal reported include:

  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Sweating 
  • Heart palpitations
  • Hotter body temperature
  • Hearing loss 

Psychological Symptoms of Ketamine Withdrawal

Psychological symptoms are much more common and can include:

  • Cravings
  • Mood swings 
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia 
  • Depression
  • Anxiety 
  • Agitation
  • Rage
  • Loss of motor skills 
  • Cognitive impairment 
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Psychosis 
ketamine withdrawal

Is Medical Supervision Necessary for Ketamine Detox?

If you are battling a ketamine addiction, the first step to breaking free is to go through a detox period. During this time the drug is removed from your body, allowing your body and brain to repair and learn how to work without it. 

Because ketamine withdrawal doesn’t typically include physical symptoms, you can sometimes stop taking it ‘cold turkey’. This isn’t appropriate in every case, especially if acute withdrawal symptoms occur. However, it may be necessary where stopping quickly is a priority, as might be the case in a chronic user with damage to the urinary tract. 

Going down this route is not for the faint-hearted, as stopping abruptly can be highly uncomfortable and result in intense cravings. Because of this, you should ideally carry out this detox alongside medical professionals who can keep you safe and prescribe medication to make the process more tolerable. 

Most chronic ketamine users experience intense psychological withdrawal symptoms. In this case, it’s a tapered approach to detox is advised. This detox method allows your body to gradually adjust to functioning without ketamine. 

It is worth discussing both options with a healthcare professional before beginning detox.

What to Expect During Medically Supervised Ketamine Detox

The exact process will likely vary from rehab to rehab, but here at Smarmore Castle detox is a medically managed process and the first line of treatment when it comes to ketamine addiction treatment. 

Our medically managed detoxes are supervised by our specialist medical team, who have years of experience helping patients through ketamine withdrawal. The clinical team provide around-the-clock care to help you feel more comfortable, maintain dignity and provide support and encouragement throughout the process. 

We can also help you to ease your cravings by prescribing medication. These won’t entirely erase the cravings, but they will make them a bit easier to bear. Alongside medical management, you will also have access to your therapy programme as soon as you feel stable enough for it. 

What Are the Risks of Ketamine Withdrawal?

Withdrawing from ketamine alone might be unpleasant, but it is rarely fatal. You may suffer a range of physical withdrawal symptoms ranging from nausea to seizure-like activity. You could also experience mental health issues, especially anxiety and depression, but also hallucinations and delusions. 

What Causes Ketamine Withdrawal?

But why does stopping ketamine cause withdrawal symptoms? Using ketamine changes the way certain receptors work in the brain and can impact neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and glutamate, which are linked with mood, euphoria and feelings of intoxication. The brain gets used to this and when it suddenly stops, it can cause intense withdrawal symptoms as it struggles to adjust. 

Medicines That Can Support Ketamine Detox

In most cases, you will be able to come off of ketamine instantly, otherwise known as going cold turkey. While there isn’t a specific medication for ketamine withdrawal, there is a range of medications suitable for targeting individual symptoms. For example, changes in blood pressure or anxiety can be treated with meditation and dehydration could be treated with intravenous fluids. 

Inpatient Rehab Programmes

Inpatient rehab is a holistic approach to ketamine addiction. During this time period, you will move onsite and spend time in an environment that is not only free from triggers and responsibilities but has been purposefully designed with recovery in mind. 

Under the experienced care of professionals, you will be able to access all the treatments you need, from the initial medically managed detox to various forms of therapy along with support groups and alternative complementary therapies

Inpatient treatment will vary in length. At Smarmore Castle, our treatment programmes start at four weeks but are flexible in length allowing you to extend this for a longer period if you feel you need it. 

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Getting Help for Ketamine Addiction

The first step in getting help for ketamine addiction is admitting you have a problem. But once you are ready to take that first step, the journey has begun! While it is normal to feel overwhelmed in the beginning, the good news is there is plenty of support available. You could speak with a local healthcare professional, such as your GP, who will be able to signpost you to relevant local services. You could also access a peer support group, such as Narcotics Anonymous. This is often a less overwhelming first step, and such continued support has been proven to help minimise the risk of relapse.

FAQs

Will Coming off Ketamine Kill Me?

Detoxing from ketamine is rarely lethal, but withdrawal can be deeply unpleasant and is best managed with the help of professionals. 

How Do I Cope With Triggers?

You will likely have several different triggers for ketamine use. The first step in overcoming them is to identify them, which therapy can play a useful role in, as well as a mindfulness practice. The second step is to develop healthier coping strategies. For example, instead of giving in to a trigger and seeking out ketamine you might journal, call a friend or do some exercise. 

What Is the Point of Kicking Ketamine if I’m Still Addicted to Alcohol?

Battling two addictions at once can prove too challenging. Breaking down your problems into manageable chunks can increase your chances of success. With the right treatment, you may find some of the tools you develop to help you beat your ketamine addiction will help you eventually beat your alcohol addiction too.

How Can I Help Someone Who Is Addicted to Ketamine?

You can support them but refuse to engage in behaviour that enables their addiction. This could include signposting them to available support. 

  • How to Access Rehab With Health Insurance

    For those experiencing existing mental health conditions in Ireland, there are private medical insurers who can help you cover treatment. As addiction experts, we know that receiving the appropriate care and support when you have a mental health disorder is pivotal to attaining long-lasting recovery. Below, we will go through the various health insurance options to help you understand your options when it comes to seeking private residential care for substance abuse. Please note that there is no guarantee that you can be covered for all addiction problems as policies are always assessed on a case-by-case basis. Find Out More

  • My Loved One Doesn’t Want Help, What Do I Do?

    You can’t force someone to go to rehab. A person must be ready to commit to treatment if they want to get the most out of the programme. However, there are ways in which you can encourage someone to enter rehab, one of these ways is via an intervention with a trained interventionist, who facilitates an honest discussion between family members and the individual. This is something Smarmore Castle can arrange – contact us today.

  • Which Drugs Does Smarmore Castle Detox From?

    We offer detox from any drug, whether they are illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin, ketamine; or prescription drugs such as benzodiazepines or zopiclone, oxycodone, zolpidem, klonopin, methadone, cannabis; and legal drugs such as alcohol.

  • How Long Is the Treatment Programme?

    Our treatment programme starts at 4 weeks and is flexible in length, giving you the opportunity to extend for a longer period if you need it.

  • Do You Treat Dual Diagnosis?

    Yes. All patients are reviewed by a consultant psychiatrist in the first week and we can diagnose and provide treatment for a number of co-occurring mental health conditions.

  • Do I Need to Be Abstinent Before Admission?

    Our medically managed detoxification with 24/7 medical cover means that we can perform complete and complex detoxes at Smarmore Castle. You don’t need to be abstinent before arrival.

  • How Do I Get To Rehab Safely?

    Smarmore Castle is one hour north of Dublin international airport, please speak to our advisors if you require collection from an airport.

    We can also arrange a ‘sober transport’ service with a trusted driver, from anywhere in Ireland or Northern Ireland, at an additional cost.

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