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Treating Ketamine (Ketalar) Overdose

Can You Overdose on Ketamine?

Ketamine (Special K, Kit Kat, Cat Valium) is a dissociative anesthetic drug that is primarily used by veterinarians but is also abused recreationally. 1 It produces a feeling of detachment from one’s surroundings, changes in perception, numbness, and hallucinations. 2, 3

Users who take high doses of ketamine can overdose and can even die if ketamine is combined with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants. 3, 4

Signs and Symptoms That Someone Has Overdosed on Ketamine

  • Memory loss.
  • Changes in blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and body temperature.
  • Panic and anxiety.
  • Paranoia.
  • Hallucinations.
  • Delirium.
  • Feelings of invulnerability and strength.
  • Aggression.
  • Seizures.
  • Convulsions.
  • Coma.

If you believe you or someone you know has overdosed on ketamine, call 911 immediately.

Have the following information ready for the dispatcher, if possible:

  • The person’s age, weight, and condition.
  • When the person ingested ketamine, and how much.
  • Whether the person took other drugs with ketamine.

Ketamine Overdose Treatment

Treatment for a ketamine overdose usually includes removing sensory stimulation and putting the person in a quiet, calm environment. A medical professional may administer benzodiazepines for aggression and agitation and monitor cardiac and respiratory symptoms. 1, 5

Most people who overdose on ketamine alone improve quickly and do not require hospitalization. 5

Can You Die From a Ketamine Overdose?

Death from overdosing on ketamine alone is rare. But severe overdoses can lead to death from respiratory arrest. 6

Most deaths involve the co-ingestion of other substances such as alcohol, opioids, amphetamines, and cocaine.

In the United Kingdom, only 4 of 23 deaths involving ketamine between 1993 and 2006 were due to ketamine alone. In New York City, 12 of the 15 non-hospital deaths that involved ketamine between 1997 and 1999 were multi-substance overdoses and 2 died from trauma. 5

Physical Injury

A major risk with ketamine overdose is physical harm. Users often have reduced awareness of their surroundings, increased aggression, impaired coordination, and altered perception of their own strength, pain, and abilities. Therefore, they may do things, such as jumping off buildings, without realizing the risk of serious injury. 5

Recovering From an Overdose

Users who suffer a ketamine overdose should seek some form of substance abuse treatment to prevent future overdoses and other consequences of abuse. Ketamine addiction can lead to serious long-term effects, including: 5

  • Impaired working memory.
  • Schizophrenia-type symptoms.
  • Psychological dependence.
  • Lower urinary tract problems.
  • Abdominal pain.

In addition, many ketamine users struggle with polydrug abuse or other addictions and may have mental health disorders that can benefit from therapy and medication.

Many facilities provide classes on addiction education and relapse prevention.

Options for recovering from ketamine overdose and addiction include:

Treatment may include:

  • Detox: After you or your loved one has been admitted to the facility, it may be necessary to go through a detoxification process. Detoxification helps to control cravings and address any medical complications to arise during withdrawal.
  • Relapse prevention: One of the goals of attending a recovery center is to develop the skills to stay sober and clean once you leave the program. Services can help you cope with the temptation to use again. For instance, you may learn how to develop activities and hobbies that will foster abstinence.
  • Treating underlying conditions: Addiction can be a very personal issue. For this reason, it is important to seek out a facility that will work with you or your loved one to uncover the reasons that may have led to ketamine addiction. This may include attending counseling or therapy sessions.
  • Addiction education: Many recovery facilities provide educational classes that teach patients how addictions develop and what they can do to avoid addiction in the future. This can be accomplished in both one-on-one and group settings.

American Addiction Centers maintains a strong partnership with a large group of insurance companies at our addiction treatment facilities. Start the journey to recovery and find out instantly if your insurance provider may be able to cover all or part of the cost of rehab and associated therapies.

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