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How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?

Ketamine is a popular recreational drug with psychedelic properties. Read on to learn more about its symptoms and treatment options.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine belongs to a class of drugs known as dissociative anesthetics. Other familiar drugs that fall into the same category include PCP (Phencyclidine), nitrous oxide (laughing gas), and DXM (dextromethorphan). Dissociative drugs work within your system to disrupt the chemical glutamine, which plays a vital role in cognition, pain perception, and emotion.

Scope of Ketamine Use

Ketamine can be found in different forms, including liquid and powder. The powdered form of ketamine is mixed in drinks or snorted, while liquid ketamine is used for intravenous injection. Data from a 2016 study indicates up to 96% of ketamine abuse occurs by snorting powdered ketamine.1

Also, according to data from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the highest rate of ketamine use and abuse occurs in adults between the ages of 18 and 25. Statistics from the same report suggest ketamine users are primarily male.2

How Is It Used?

In medical settings, ketamine is used as a tranquilizer or anesthetic. Ketamine is frequently used as a “club drug” due to its hallucinogenic effects. Powdered ketamine is also used as a drug in the commission of sexual assault crimes.

Recently, rates of ketamine abuse have increased nationwide and globally. It is also mixed with other drugs, such as valium and ecstasy, to achieve a more powerful high. This practice is quite dangerous and can result in death.

Is Ketamine Addictive?

Ketamine is used in many medical environments to induce or maintain general anesthesia before, during, or after a surgical procedure. Ketamine for this purpose is considered safe because, unlike similar medications or opioids, ketamine does not cause a notable drop in blood pressure or respiratory rate. However, ketamine abuse can lead to severe reactions and, under some circumstances, death.

When used with other drugs such as alcohol or opioids, ketamine is very dangerous. Ketamine use increases sedation. When combined with other substances that produce similar sedative effects, the impacts of both substances are increased, which can potentially lead to overdose, coma, and death.

Drug Class and Schedule

The United States Drug Enforcement Agency classifies ketamine as a Schedule III drug, meaning it has a moderate to low potential for dependence. This does not mean that ketamine addiction cannot occur if the drug is abused or misused, especially if it is used illicitly.

Ketamine for Depression

Recently, providers have started using specific types of ketamine for depression treatment. There are two main types of ketamine for depression treatment, racemic ketamine, and esketamine (Spravato):3

  • Racemic Ketamine (Ketamine Infusion): Sometimes called IV or intravenous ketamine, this type is given as a ketamine infusion directly into the bloodstream. It is a combination of two ketamine molecules. Racemic ketamine is an off-label treatment for depression.
  • Esketmine (Spravato): Another ketamine for depression treatment is Eskatmine, also called Spravato. Esketmine is a nasal spray that uses only one ketamine molecule. It received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in March of 2019.

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?

How long ketamine stays in your system depends on several factors, many of which are specific to the individual using the drug. In general, tests for ketamine can detect traces of the drug between twenty-four hours and three months after the last use, depending on the type of test.

Saliva and blood tests can generally detect ketamine up to a day after use, while urine tests have a longer detection window of three days. Hair tests, while they have the longest possible detection period, are less commonly used. However, tests for ketamine in hair samples can generally detect the drug for up to three months.5

Ketamine Half-Life Determining Factors

Ketamine has a half-life of between one and two hours, meaning it is a short-acting drug. Because the liver is primarily responsible for breaking down ketamine, the health of the liver and associated systems is important in determining how long ketamine remains in your system. Other factors include:6

  • Body mass/body fat
  • Genetics
  • Metabolism
  • Urinary pH
  • If there are other drugs in your system
  • Age
  • Overall health
  • Dosage and duration of ketamine addiction

Ketamine Side Effects

As mentioned above, ketamine is a dissociative drug that makes the user feel “not in control” of certain body functions. Ketamine effects produce minor hallucinogenic effects such as distortions in sound and sight. It also induces sedation, which can make the user feel calm and relaxed. The sedative effects of ketamine help with pain relief.

However, its sedative qualities also have dangerous effects. Ketamine can lead to amnesia or memory loss. When one uses ketamine, they usually have no memory of events that occur while under the drug’s influence. This is why ketamine is unfortunately and frequently linked to incidents of sexual assault.

Additional Impacts

In addition to calming and hallucinogenic symptoms, ketamine effects also include dilated pupils, stiffening of the muscles, nausea, salivation, and rapid eye movements. Users of ketamine will feel its effects within minutes. Ketamine effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure will decrease over a period of ten to twenty minutes after use. The overall effects of ketamine last between thirty and sixty minutes.4

Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms

Although ketamine is classified as a drug with a low to moderate risk for dependence, it does not mean ketamine addiction does not or cannot occur. Even treatments that use ketamine for depression treatment can lead to psychological dependence. Once addiction occurs and the person tries to stop using ketamine, withdrawal symptoms will occur.

Ketamine addiction does not generally produce intense physical withdrawal symptoms, but instead produces psychological symptoms. The most common examples of ketamine withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Psychosis
  • Memory problems
  • Intense confusion
  • Mood swings including rage and agitation
  • Thoughts of suicide

Some physical withdrawal symptoms that might occur include fatigue, nausea, and decreased cardiac and respiratory functions.

Treatment for Ketamine Addiction

The best way to overcome an addiction to ketamine is to seek help at a professional treatment program like San Diego Detox. Although the physical symptoms of ketamine detox are generally moderate and can be managed with minimal medical intervention, the psychological impact of quitting ketamine can be overwhelming. Trying to quit ketamine cold turkey or without treatment and support can lead to relapse.

The first step in ketamine addiction recovery is detox. Skilled medical and mental health professionals at a medically supported detox program will closely monitor your vital signs to ensure your safety.

Therapy Options

Once detox is complete, transitioning to a comprehensive therapy program that addresses the factors that lead to substance use is a crucial next step. Most inpatient rehab programs for ketamine addiction last a minimum of four weeks, but some can last longer to meet your unique treatment needs and goals.

Commonly used therapy models for ketamine addiction include cognitive-behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy. After treatment, it is essential to transition to an aftercare program with ongoing support and guidance to help you maintain your recovery.

Treatment Opportunities at San Diego Detox

The safest and most effective way to ensure recovery from ketamine addiction is to seek professional help at a luxury treatment program like San Diego Detox. Our unique, privately located treatment program offers private rooms, individually designed treatment programs, around-the-clock nursing staff, and a range of amenities not found in other southern California treatment programs.

Our caring and compassionate team understands the challenges you face as you take your first steps towards recovery, as many of us have walked the same path. Contact a member of our admissions team today to learn more about rehab at San Diego Detox.