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Ketamine and Alcohol
Author: Phil Kosanovich
Published: March 31, 2022

Mixing ketamine and alcohol comes with serious, sometimes life-threatening consequences. Individuals who mix ketamine and alcohol increase their chances of urinary tract infections, memory problems, slowed breathing, reduced heart rate, coma, and in some cases, death.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine, also known as Special K, was initially designed as an anesthetic for individuals recovering from surgery in the 1960s. Professionals found that ketamine relieved severe pain in medical settings and gave clients a calming or out-of-body sensation with hallucinatory side effects.

A dissociative anesthetic, ketamine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for pain management and as a last resort for depression treatment. Following this, safer alternatives were developed, and ketamine became more widely used in veterinary medicine. However, by this time, ketamine was already being used as a ‘club drug’ among recreational users, as a form of self-medication for other users, and as a common date rape drug.

Like other drugs, ketamine has a high potential for abuse among those who frequently use it, leading to physical and psychological dependence.

Understanding Substance Abuse

Substance abuse occurs when individuals compulsively seek out a drug and use it despite negative impacts on their emotional and physical health. Substance abuse ranges from the use of illegal drugs, such as heroin, or prescription drugs, such as those that relieve pain.

All addictions are unique and have varying symptoms. However, psychological addictions are associated with similar behaviors, regardless of the type of drug abused. For example, drug abuse causes physical changes to the brain. When somebody becomes addicted to a substance, brain function alters and leads to strong urges – or cravings.

Although drug addiction often begins in social settings, it can rapidly progress to a destructive problem. Over time, individuals who use drugs develop a tolerance, meaning they need increased quantities to experience the same ‘high’ they previously did. They may even require the drug to feel good or to function.

Unfortunately, substance abuse can give way to distressing withdrawal symptoms, especially if a person attempts to stop using drugs alone.

Alcohol Abuse

Alcohol is widely accepted in many societies today – the majority of American adults drink alcohol at least once in their life. Among those individuals, 6.7% develop an alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol abuse can take many forms. Some individuals, for example, will drink continuously but won’t get drunk. Meanwhile, others will experience cycles where they abstain from alcohol for some time before binge drinking at dangerous levels. Other individuals might mix alcohol with additional substances, leading to co-occurring addictions and disorders.

If you find it difficult to function without alcohol, this could suggest you have an alcohol use disorder. If this resonates with you, you must seek support from a medically certified treatment provider.

Ketamine Abuse

The rise of ketamine use outside of its initial medical purpose began in the late 1970s. It became a commonly used substance in club scenes throughout the following decade due to its ability to enhance the effects of other euphoria-inducing substances, such as MDMA.

Whether used with other depressant drugs such as alcohol or cannabis or stimulants such as speed, mixing ketamine with other substances is commonplace and extremely risky. In addition to recreational ketamine use, many individuals use ketamine to self-medicate undiagnosed mental illnesses. In this instance, the rate at which individuals may use the drug creates a high risk of developing an addiction.

Due to its strength, ketamine can have severe brain-altering effects, leading to chemical imbalances in the brain. Prolonged ketamine use can have such an impact on the brain that recovering without completing a medically supervised detox and comprehensive mental health care is impossible.

Get help: Rehab in Orange County

In addition to its brain-altering effects, ketamine abuse can lead to a host of long-term health problems, including ketamine bladder syndrome and nerve cell damage.

Effects of Ketamine Abuse

Ketamine can be administered intravenously via injection. It can also be smoked or snorted. The effects of ketamine can be felt almost immediately depending on which method of ingestion is used.

After abusing ketamine, it is common for users to report feeling calm or happy. Many people also experience distorted senses and, in some cases, visual and auditory hallucinations. When a significant amount of ketamine is used, an additional associated effect known as the ‘K-hole’ causes users to feel detached from their bodies.

Other common side effects of ketamine use include:

  • Amnesia
  • Anxiety
  • Increased body temperature
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Slurred speech
  • Respiratory problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Disorientation

Research has found that ketamine can alter brain neurochemistry, with regular users experiencing psychotic episodes, including hallucinations, even after the high has subsided. This disconnection can be highly distressing for the individual and those around them.

As we can see, the behavioral and psychological effects of ketamine are severe. Not only does ketamine inhibit an individual’s judgment, attention span, and cognition, but it can also trigger underlying mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Sadly, research shows that people who regularly use ketamine are more likely to be living with depression than those who use it occasionally.

Acute and Chronic Toxicity

Ketamine toxicity rates have risen in recent years, with hospital admissions also increasing. Typically the effects are short-lived but can include severe symptoms such as impaired consciousness, agitation, hallucinations, sedation, and dissociative effects.

Ketamine Bladder Syndrome

Ketamine bladder syndrome impacts individuals by increasing their urge to urinate. It occurs due to bladder damage – ketamine can inflict structural damage to cells in this part of the body, resulting in reduced bladder capacity.

With effective and early treatment, this condition can be treated. However, it is common for individuals to live with the condition in silence. If left untreated, the permanency of the damage increases.

Symptoms of ketamine bladder syndrome include:

  • Urgent and regular needs to urinate
  • Blood in the urine
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Pressure in the bladder area
  • Incontinence
  • Pelvic pain

Mixing Ketamine With Other Drugs

Combining ketamine with other substances comes hand-in-hand with severe side effects. However, the risks are most significant when ketamine is mixed with other depressant drugs such as alcohol, opioids, or tranquilizers. These substances slow down the central nervous system, which can result in confusion, slowed breathing, memory loss, irregular heartbeat, coma, and, in some cases, death.

The Dangers of Mixing Alcohol With Ketamine

As previously noted, mixing ketamine and alcohol is associated with extreme risks. Ketamine and alcohol affect different systems within the body and brain. However, some of the physiological reactions are similar. Therefore, taking them together can increase the intensity of the effects.

Combining ketamine with central nervous system depressant drugs such as alcohol leads to greater risks of becoming intoxicated to a level where many people cannot regulate their bodies and actions. In this scenario, those under the influence of ketamine and alcohol may fall unconscious, putting them at risk of an overdose or asphyxiation. Additionally, they also become more vulnerable to sexual assault.

Research suggests that ketamine could contribute to urinary tract problems, including long-term damage to the urinary tract. It has been found that mixing ketamine and alcohol results in further problems, including increased urinary frequency, pain urinating, lower abdomen pain, slurred speech, and bloody urine.

An alcohol and ketamine overdose is very dangerous, so medical treatment should be sought immediately if any of the following symptoms transpire:

  • Inability to communicate properly
  • Unconsciousness
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Clammy skin

The Takeaway?

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic used in medical settings, predominantly veterinary medicine. It is sometimes also used to treat pain in humans. If used without medical supervision, ketamine can create long-term, sometimes fatal, damage.

If you are experiencing a ketamine addiction or struggling with polysubstance abuse, help is available, and recovery is possible.

Uncover Your Treatment Options Today

Ketamine addiction is a complex and debilitating disease, so recovery requires comprehensive medical care and support.

At Tulip Hill, we know that every client is different and at the root of every addiction is a unique story. As a result, we work with our clients to address underlying mental health issues and treat any co-occurring disorders.

Addiction treatment at Tulip Hill is tailored to each person’s specific needs, meaning we put you at the center of everything we do. If you have any questions about the treatment process at Tulip Hill, please get in touch with us today at 877-845-8192.