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Ketamine Overdose: Signs and Symptoms

Ketamine overdose occurs when someone takes an excessive amount of this drug, leading to harmful effects on the body. Ketamine, often used as an anesthetic or for recreational purposes for its hallucinogenic effects, can cause severe health consequences when taken in high doses.

Overdosing on ketamine manifests in the form of various symptoms. This article will delve into these symptoms, explaining how they affect the body and mind and the potential risks associated with each. Recognizing these signs is crucial for prompt intervention and medical assistance.

Key Takeaways

Ketamine overdose occurs when someone ingests more of the drug than their body can handle. Here is what this article covers:

  • Symptoms of ketamine overdose can be physical and psychological, varying in severity among individuals.
  • Overdosing on ketamine can result in short-term and long-term risks, affecting both body and mind.
  • Responding to a suspected ketamine overdose involves a series of steps, starting with calling 911.

The Haven Detox-Little Rock offers various treatment options for substance use disorders (SUDs). Contact us at (501) 271-3342 today for more information.

An overdose of ketamine can lead to severe complications, including hallucinations, respiratory distress, and, in severe cases, death.

What Is Ketamine Overdose

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic drug approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use as an anesthetic in a medical setting. However, it also has other legitimate medical uses. It is often used off-label for pain relief, treatment-resistant depression (TRD), and many other mental health conditions.

In recent years, it has gained attention as a recreational drug due to its hallucinogenic effects and dissociative properties. However, misuse of ketamine can result in severe health risks, including the potential for overdose.

An overdose of ketamine occurs when someone takes a higher amount than the body can metabolize. This can happen due to several factors:

Dosing: Taking too much ketamine at once overwhelms the body’s ability to process it, leading to an overdose.

Purity: In illicit forms, the drug’s purity is uncertain, leading to a greater risk of overdose as it might be more concentrated than expected.

Tolerance: Regular use of ketamine can lead to tolerance, where high doses of the drug are needed to achieve the desired effects, increasing the overdose risk.

Mixing with Other Substances: Combining ketamine with other depressants like alcohol or opioids intensifies its effects, raising the chance of overdose.

Ketamine overdose isn’t something to take lightly because it can have adverse consequences for a person’s health. Whether someone accidentally takes too much or uses it recreationally, recognizing the signs of overdose and getting help quickly is crucial to prevent severe harm.

Identifying Ketamine Overdose: Signs and Symptoms

Ketamine, a prescription medication, can lead to an overdose with various physical and psychological symptoms when taken in excessive amounts. Here are some common signs of a ketamine overdose:

Physical Symptoms

When someone experiences a ketamine overdose, various physical signs can manifest:

  • Respiratory Depression: Ketamine misuse can lead to shallow or difficult breathing. It is the most common sign of ketamine overdose.
  • Increased Heart Rate: Ketamine can cause an elevated heart rate or irregular heart rhythm.
  • High Blood Pressure: Ketamine may increase blood pressure levels.
  • Nausea and Vomiting: Overdosing on ketamine can result in gastrointestinal distress, including nausea and vomiting.
  • Muscle Rigidity or Spasms: Ketamine can cause muscle stiffness or spasms.
  • Loss Of Coordination: Individuals may need help coordinating movements.

Psychological Symptoms

Ketamine overdose can also profoundly impact an individual’s mental state, leading to the following symptoms:

  • Confusion: Ketamine can lead to confusion or disorientation.
  • Hallucinations: Overdosing on ketamine may cause intense and disturbing hallucinations (known as “k-hole”).
  • Paranoia: Some individuals may become paranoid, or experience heightened anxiety.
  • Dissociation: Ketamine is known for its dissociative effects, and an overdose may intensify these feelings of being detached from reality.
  • Severe Anxiety or Panic: Overdosing on ketamine can lead to extreme anxiety or panic attacks.
  • Impaired Judgment: Individuals may exhibit poor decision-making abilities.

An overdose of ketamine can be severe and requires immediate medical attention. If you suspect someone has overdosed on ketamine, call emergency services right away.

The Toll of Ketamine Overdose: Health Consequences

Ketamine use can lead to various short-term and long-term health implications, especially when taken in higher doses than prescribed or for non-medical purposes. Here is the breakdown of associated risks:

Short-Term Health Implications

In the short term, a ketamine overdose can trigger severe health issues. Physically, it can lead to breathing problems, causing slow or shallow breaths, and might even cause someone to stop breathing altogether. Heart rate irregularities are common, ranging from rapid beats to high blood pressure, posing immediate risks. 

In addition, muscle stiffness, coordination difficulties, and nausea often accompany an overdose. Psychologically, someone experiencing a ketamine overdose may face hallucinations, feeling disconnected from reality, and confusion, which can be distressing and disorienting.

Long-Term Health Implications

Chronic ketamine misuse can lead to long-term health complications. Chronic use might cause damage to the urinary system, leading to inflammation of the bladder or even kidney issues. Psychological ramifications can surface, including persistent memory problems or cognitive impairments. 

Long-term ketamine use might also contribute to mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety. Continued misuse leads to a higher risk of developing a tolerance, requiring a larger dose of ketamine for the same effect, which amplifies the likelihood of developing dependency and addiction.

Managing Ketamine Overdose: Steps to Take

Ketamine overdose is a severe medical emergency that requires prompt and appropriate action. Follow these steps to manage a ketamine overdose effectively.

Call Emergency Services

In the event of a suspected ketamine overdose, the immediate step is to call emergency services by dialing 911. Promptly seeking professional medical care is crucial to ensure timely and appropriate care for the affected individual.

Monitor Vital Signs

While waiting for emergency services, stay calm and assess the situation. Keep a close eye on the individual’s vital signs, including heart rate, breathing, and consciousness level. If trained, perform basic life support measures such as CPR if necessary.


Lay the affected individual on their side (recovery position) to maintain an open airway and prevent aspiration in case of vomiting. This position helps ensure proper breathing and reduces the risk of complications.

Do Not Leave Alone

Never leave the individual alone, especially if they are unconscious or experiencing severe symptoms. Continuous monitoring is essential to respond promptly to any changes in their condition.

Do Not Give Food or Drink

Refrain from offering food or drink to the person, as this could lead to choking. Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of ketamine overdose, and giving them anything to ingest may exacerbate the situation.

Provide Information

When emergency services arrive, please provide them with accurate and detailed information about the individual’s condition, the quantity and timing of ketamine ingestion, and any other relevant medical history.

Follow Medical Advice

Cooperate with the medical professionals and follow their advice. Be prepared to provide additional information or history that may assist in the appropriate ketamine overdose treatment.

By following these steps, individuals can contribute to a more effective response, ensuring the best possible outcome for someone experiencing ketamine toxicity.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What should I do if I overdose on ketamine?

If you suspect a ketamine overdose, call 911 immediately. While waiting for help, stay calm, monitor breathing and consciousness, and provide any information on the drug and symptoms to medical responders.

What are the risks of ketamine?

Negative side effects of ketamine may include hallucinations, dissociation, fast heart rate, and high blood pressure. Long-term use may lead to addiction, cognitive impairment, and ketamine bladder syndrome. Overdose can be life-threatening. It’s crucial to use ketamine only as prescribed by a medical professional.

Can ketamine be addictive when given for pain relief?

Yes, ketamine has addictive potential, even when administered for pain relief. Prolonged use or misuse may lead to ketamine use disorder. Individuals may experience withdrawal symptoms upon cessation after regular use. Always consult with health professionals for careful management of ketamine usage to mitigate the risk of drug use disorder.

The Haven Detox-Little Rock: Your Guiding Light

Struggling with ketamine addiction can be overwhelming, but there’s hope for a brighter, healthier future. The Haven Detox-Little Rock is here to support you every step of the way.

At our treatment center, we offer a thorough medical detox program, where we help your body clear out drugs of abuse and prepare for the journey ahead. In our residential treatment, lasting change happens. We craft a personalized plan for you through our evidence-based therapies, NAD IV therapy, and medications.

Don’t wait. Contact us at (501) 271-3342 to take the first step towards a healthier life. Our team of medical practitioners aims to help patients reclaim control of their lives.

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