April 13, 2023

How Addictive Is Ketamine?

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Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) for inducing anesthesia in humans and animals. Some physicians prescribe ketamine off-label for the management of treatment-resistant depression.

Ketamine is categorized as a Schedule III controlled substance by the DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration). Substances under this schedule have some therapeutic benefits combined with a potential for physical and psychological dependence, especially in the event of ketamine drug abuse.

Many ketamine users have questions like “Is ketamine habit forming?”, “Can you get addicted to ketamine?”, and “How addictive is ketamine?”. 

This guide to Ketamine drug addiction explores these questions and shows you how to connect with evidence-based treatment for ketamine addiction.

Is Ketamine Addictive?

Ketamine, like all Schedule III substances, is associated with low to moderate physical dependence, as well as high psychological dependence.

Those who abuse illicit ketamine experience effects that are euphoric but fleeing, with tolerance to the substance forming following sustained use. As the effects induced by ketamine diminish, you will require more of the drug to achieve the initial effects. Increasing your consumption of ketamine is liable to speed up the development of physical dependence. If you become physically dependent on the drug, aggravating withdrawal symptoms will present if you moderate or discontinue use.

Why is Ketamine Addictive?

Ketamine and addiction are linked in several ways. These include:

  • Tolerance: If you use ketamine regularly, you are likely to develop a tolerance to the effects of the drug. This means that you will need to use higher doses of ketamine to deliver the initial level of euphoria.
  • Physical dependence: Escalating ketamine abuse to counter tolerance will hasten the development of physical dependence on the drug.
  • Withdrawal: If you become physically dependent on a drug like ketamine, you will experience intensely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms in its absence. Symptoms typically include insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Withdrawal and tolerance are both diagnostic criteria for addiction.
  • Psychological dependence: Long-term ketamine use is associated with psychological dependence. This often provokes people to use ketamine to deal with everyday stressors. Psychological dependence often triggers powerful cravings for the drug.
  • Dopamine release: Ketamine causes an increased release of dopamine in the reward pathway of the brain. This dopamine release can induce feelings of pleasure euphoria and pleasure, which can be habit-forming and addictive.
  • Social factors: Social factors like peer pressure may contribute to ketamine addiction.

Ketamine Addiction Risk

Ketamine abuse may lead to the development of both physical and psychological dependence.

Research shows that those who abuse ketamine for nonclinical purposes report two primary reasons for continuing to use ketamine:

  1. The powerful but short-lived euphoria induced by the drug.
  2. Ketamine acts as a means of social interaction.

Is ketamine highly addictive, though?

How Addictive Is Ketamine Compared to Other Drugs?

In terms of its addictive potential, ketamine is generally considered less addictive than drugs like opioids, cocaine, and amphetamines. That said, the dissociative effects of ketamine can make it appealing to many users, and repeated use can lead to addiction in the form of ketamine use disorder.

Addiction is a complex condition that is contingent on multiple factors, including genetics, environment, and individual characteristics. This means it is difficult to make generalizations about the addictive potential of a drug for all users.

DEA reports that Schedule III drugs may lead to either:

  • Low to moderate physical dependence
  • High psychological dependence

Is Ketamine Physically Addictive?

Ketamine can be physically addictive, as repeated use can lead to tolerance and dependence. Tolerance means that the user needs to take increasingly larger doses of the drug to achieve the same effects, while dependence means that the body has become used to the presence of the drug and experiences withdrawal symptoms when it is stopped.

Withdrawal symptoms from ketamine can include cravings, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and cognitive difficulties. These symptoms can make it difficult for individuals to quit using ketamine, and they may continue to use the drug to avoid the discomfort of withdrawal.

Not everyone who uses ketamine will become physically addicted, but it often occurs as a result of sustained use.

Ketamine Dependence vs. Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine dependence refers to a state in which the body has become accustomed to the presence of ketamine and experiences withdrawal symptoms when the drug is stopped. 

Dependence can occur even when the drug is taken as prescribed for medical purposes. Symptoms of ketamine withdrawal can include anxiety, depression, irritability, insomnia, and cravings for the drug.

Ketamine addiction, on the other hand, is a more severe condition that involves compulsive drug-seeking behavior and continued use of ketamine despite negative consequences. Addiction is characterized by a loss of control over drug use, with individuals continuing to use the drug even when it causes problems in their personal or professional lives.

While ketamine dependence can lead to addiction, not all individuals who are dependent on ketamine will develop an addiction. Addiction is a complex condition that depends on multiple factors, including genetics, environment, and individual characteristics.

Ketamine Addiction Symptoms

The symptoms of ketamine addiction are outlined in DSM-5-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition).


  1. Taking more ketamine than intended or using ketamine for longer than planned.
  2. Trying and failing to moderate or discontinue the use of ketamine.
  3. Spending lots of time using ketamine and recovering from its effects.
  4. Experiencing cravings for ketamine.
  5. Ongoing ketamine use causing a failure to meet personal or professional commitments.
  6. Continuing use of ketamine even though it is causing problems in your closest relationships.
  7. Spending less time on hobbies and interests due to ketamine use.
  8. Using ketamine in dangerous situations.
  9. Taking ketamine even though it is causing or inflaming a health condition.
  10. Tolerance to ketamine forming.
  11. Withdrawal symptoms manifesting in the absence of ketamine.

Ketamine Addiction Treatment

Some common treatment options for ketamine addiction include:

  • Detoxification: The first step in treating ketamine addiction is to undergo a supervised detoxification process, which involves removing the drug from the body in a safe and controlled manner. You can then transition into ongoing treatment in an inpatient or outpatient rehab center.
  • Behavioral therapy: Ongoing therapy can help address the underlying psychological and emotional issues that contribute to ketamine addiction. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and motivational therapies are two common types of therapy used to treat substance use disorders like ketamine addiction.
  • Medications: There are currently no FDA-approved medications specifically for ketamine addiction, but some medications are used to treat other substance use disorders – naltrexone and acamprosate, for example.
  • Support groups: Support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and SMART Recovery can provide a supportive environment for individuals in recovery from ketamine addiction.

Special K Drug Addiction

Special K drug addiction refers to a condition in which an individual has become addicted to ketamine and experiences compulsive drug-seeking behavior and continued use of ketamine despite negative consequences. Special K addiction is characterized by a loss of control over drug use, with individuals continuing to use the drug even when it causes problems in their personal or professional lives.

Get Free from Ketamine Addiction at Gratitude Lodge

If you have become addicted to ketamine, we can help you fight back here at Gratitude Lodge in Southern California.

Begin your recovery with a supervised medical detox program at our pet-friendly treatment center to streamline ketamine withdrawal. After addressing the issue of physical dependence, you can transition directly into one of the following drug addiction treatment programs:

  • 30-day inpatient program
  • IOP (intensive outpatient program)
  • Dual diagnosis treatment program

All Gratitude Lodge treatment programs provide individualized therapy that may include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Group therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Holistic therapies
  • Aftercare

Call Gratitude Lodge today at 888-861-1658 and move beyond ketamine addiction.

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Joe Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
Jenni Bussi

Jenni Russe MS, LPCC

Jenni Busse MS, LPSS is the Clinical Director at Gratitude Lodge. Jenni oversees the clinical program and the clinical team at Gratitude Lodge as a whole. Jenni has worked in treatment for almost 14 years. Her background as a licensed therapist and her passion for helping others intersected with addiction recovery when she started working primarily in detox residential treatment.

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