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Ketamine Therapy Side Effects for Different Uses

Ketamine therapy is used to treat a variety of different conditions and diseases. Not every patient will experience the same side effects, but it’s important to know about those possible side effects before you start using Ketamine.

For instance, ketamine nasal spray has different effects than ketamine injections, which we’ll explore further below. But first, let’s look at how Ketamine works and what it’s used to treat. Then we can take a closer look at its possible side effects and risks.

What is Ketamine Therapy?

Ketamine therapy is a treatment option that utilizes Ketamine as a safe and effective means of pain management. Ketamine has become increasingly popular because it offers an alternative to opioids to treat chronic pain. Ketamine is FDA approved for use as an anesthetic. More recently, it has been used off-label to treat acute or chronic pain,1 depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

However, there are some potential side effects when using this drug as prescribed by your doctor. These side effects can range from numbness at the injection site to possible liver damage and inflammation of heart valves.

There have also been reports that high doses may cause kidney damage or death if administered intravenously, so medical supervision is highly recommended. 

If you’re taking Ketamine as prescribed, it is both safe and effective with few negative side effects. Misusing Ketamine, though, poses a serious threat to your health and well-being.

iv nurse at home hanging bag

Common side effects

One of the most common side effects of ketamine therapy is the feeling of being out of touch with reality.

Other symptoms include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Memory loss
  • Drooping eyelids.

These are usually minor reactions and can be overcome by slowly adjusting to a ketamine dose. If these side effects persist or worsen, the patient should contact their doctor immediately. 

Serious side effects

Ketamine therapy carries many benefits, but it’s also important to know its possible serious side effects. 

Below are some side effects2 that should be brought to your doctor or nurse’s attention immediately.

  • Bloody urine
  • Change in vision
  • Chest Pain
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Seeing, hearing, or feeling things that are not there
  • Seizures
  • Trouble breathing
  • Unusual excitement, nervousness, or restlessness
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness.

There are fewer risks involved when taking Ketamine as prescribed, but one still needs to be aware of all the possible side effects beforehand, so they’re prepared to address them if they arise.

What kinds of Short-Term Ketamine side effects can you expect?

Side effects of ketamine therapy are generally short-term and vary depending on the specific use. For example, ketamine injections may cause some of the symptoms outlined above, as well as swelling, redness, or tenderness at the injection site. Patients who take ketamine intranasally may experience side effects3 such as nasal irritation or itching, throat irritation, or changes in taste.

woman in white clothing with spikes growing from her back and sides

Some of the most common short-term side effects include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Weight gain
  • Headache after ketamine infusion
  • Muscle spasms
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Anxiety.

What kinds of Long-Term Ketamine side effects can you expect?

There are a few potential long-term ketamine side effects to be aware of. One of the most common is increased blood pressure and heart rate, which is caused when Ketamine blocks norepinephrine reuptake. This can lead to a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, seizures, and liver damage. Ketamine has also been known to cause some bladder problems4 and lower back pain.

Some long-term side effects, such as impairments in cognition, come when Ketamine is taken at high doses. Low cognitive ability due to ketamine abuse may result in a lack of decision-making skills and increased impulsive behavior.

Withdrawal symptoms of Ketamine

Withdrawal symptoms5 generally occur when users become dependent on the drug. When dependent, tolerance develops after prolonged use. Withdrawal symptoms occur if the medication is suddenly stopped without gradually decreasing the dose (going “cold turkey”).

When people abuse Ketamine, they can experience a range of withdrawal symptoms. In particular, it’s common to experience memory, attention span, and hallucination problems.

There is also an increased risk of depression and suicidal ideation during withdrawal.

hooded person holding a syringe with his right hand and hiding his face with the head down

The severity of withdrawal symptoms is dependent on two main factors. Firstly, how quickly they are taken off Ketamine, and secondly, how often they use Ketamine. Generally speaking, users who stop using slowly and don’t take high doses of Ketamine may experience mild to no withdrawal symptoms. However, users dependent upon high doses or who use it daily will likely experience severe withdrawal symptoms.

What types of Drug Interactions does Ketamine have?

The type of drug interaction that Ketamine has is based on what the person is taking and why. For example, Ketamine can cause liver damage if taken with alcohol or acetaminophen. Ketamine can also interfere with the body’s metabolism of other drugs, causing various potential problems.

black woman with hands crossed in a "X" symbol

Known drug interactions6 to avoid include:

  • Theophylline or Aminophylline: May lower the seizure threshold.
  • Sympathomimetics and Vasopressin: May enhance the sympathomimetic effects of Ketamine.
  • Benzodiazepines, Opioid Analgesics, or Other CNS Depressants: May result in profound sedation, respiratory depression, coma, and death.

Drug interactions should be taken seriously. You must be honest and up-front with your provider about all medications, supplements, and over-the-counter products. You must also inform your care providers of alcohol or recreational drug use. Don’t hold anything back. Your health care team can do a better job of protecting you if they are equipped with all relevant information about your medications.

Is it Safe to use Ketamine Nasal Spray?

It is safe to use ketamine nasal spray as directed under the supervision of a medical professional. It is important to note that the potential side effects and risks of using ketamine nasal spray are minimal if used as prescribed by a doctor. 

Before agreeing to use ketamine nasal spray, discussing these risks with a medical professional is recommended. Depending on your medical condition, your doctor may prescribe additional treatments or therapies to help manage any potential side effects. 

Ketamine nasal spray side effects are similar to infusions. Those side effects can include, but are not limited to:

  • Hallucinations
  • Floating sensations
  • Fuzzy vision
  • Dizziness.

Lastly, beware of compounded Ketamine nasal sprays, it is NOT FDA-approved!

redhead woman with black eyeglasses giving herself a dose of some nasal spray

Is Ketamine for Treatment-Resistant Depression Safe?

When Ketamine is administered properly and under supervision, it can safely provide short-term relief from symptoms of depression.7 Doctors will only prescribe Ketamine for depression if it is safe and the benefits of treatment outweigh the potential risks, which can only be determined on a case-by-case basis. For example, your doctor may recommend ketamine alongside cognitive behavioral therapy for depression, or they may recommend selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) instead of ketamine infusions.

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Other drugs may be more appropriate than Ketamine for treating depression, depending on your condition and specific symptoms.

Your doctor will help you determine which drug is best for you. Don’t hesitate to ask questions about any medication they recommend, and make sure you have all the information necessary to make an informed decision.

Although experts note that Ketamine is safe when used properly,8 the drug can cause unwanted side effects as discussed earlier. Taking too much ketamine can also lead to an overdose or cause the user to experience prolonged hallucinations that make it difficult to function normally.

Ketamine & Alcohol Use

It is possible to develop a tolerance to Ketamine, meaning that higher drug doses will be needed to get the desired effect. People may increase the effect of this drug by combining Ketamine with alcohol9 (either before or after taking it). 

Ketamine should never be combined with alcohol, as doing so may cause serious health problems. The two substances work together synergistically and can cause a person’s heart rate and blood pressure to drop dangerously low. 

Individuals who use ketamine and alcohol may experience symptoms such as:

  • Becoming disoriented, losing touch with reality, and/or feeling extremely vulnerable or sociable
  • Significantly impaired motor coordination or muscle rigidity
  • Increased heart rate
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability, increased aggression
  • Amnesia
  • Potential liver and brain damage
  • Potential cardiovascular effects
  • Serious effects from an overdose can include organ damage and even death.
black and white picture of a sign that reads "No alcohol beyond this point"

Ketamine and alcohol10 are potentially fatal as they significantly slow down breathing. On top of slowed breathing, this mixture can also have cognitive and cardiovascular side effects. 

If you or someone you know has taken Ketamine and alcohol, it’s important to call 911 if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Drowsiness
  • Hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Loss of coordination
  • Trouble breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Pale, clammy skin
  • Seizures
  • Collapse.

For those seeking help for addiction or other mental health disorders, we recommend finding an addiction treatment center where physicians can prescribe the appropriate treatment(s) individually tailored to your needs.

Toxicity of Ketamine

Abusing Ketamine can significantly impact many organs, including the brain, heart, liver, gastrointestinal tract, and genitourinary system. In patients who misuse Ketamine, the likelihood of serious, end-stage organ damage increases significantly. Ketamine is excreted through urine in both its original form and as metabolites.

a stand of glass bottles with harmful chemicals inside, and a background of a white wall with graffiti

The effects of ketamine intoxication11 can last between 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the dose, type of ketamine used (e.g., nasal spray, infusion, etc.), and how often it is used. 

Because of the potential risks associated with misusing Ketamine, it’s important to always seek care from a medical professional who can monitor your treatment. They can help ensure that your treatment program is as safe and effective as possible.

Ketamine Use and Misuse

Ketamine is a medication used as an anesthetic and analgesic agent, but it can be used off-label for purposes such as:

  • Treatment-resistant depression
  • Chronic pain conditions
  • Anxiety
  • OCD
  • PTSD
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Postpartum depression.

Even when a drug is used under a doctor’s supervision, ketamine can cause side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, low blood pressure, nausea, and vomiting. However, it is important to remember that these symptoms often disappear shortly after taking Ketamine. Misusing Ketamine by using too much of it can cause severe side effects, including high blood pressure, rapid heart rate, confusion, hallucinations, or even death.

It is important to keep in mind how serious misuse can be. Misusing Ketamine, especially with other drugs or alcohol, poses a great risk of negative consequences. It is important to always seek professional help. They will be able to determine what kind of dosage will work best for your needs and what adjunct treatments are available.

Regenerate Your Brain with At-Home Ketamine IV Therapy

Ketamine IV Therapy is the most bioavailable way to treat and regulate brain synapses and chemical imbalances. With our services, you can book an appointment and a certified nurse will come to your location to provide Ketamine IV treatment. Any serious side effects will be prevented, and misuse would be impossible with the help of our nurse on-site, during and after therapy.

Click the button to learn more about the benefits of Ketamine IV therapy and book an appointment or schedule a free consultation which will help you make your decision.

References

[1] Ketamine use in current clinical practice - PMC;

[2] Ketamine (Injection Route) Side Effects - Mayo Clinic;

[3] Esketamine (Nasal Route) Side Effects - Mayo Clinic;

[4] Long-term safety of ketamine and esketamine in treatment of depression: Expert Opinion on Drug Safety: Vol 21, No 6;

[5] Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline & Detox Treatment ;

[6] ketamine hydrochloride injection, USP Drug Interactions | Pfizer Medical Information - US;

[7] Efficacy and Safety of Flexibly Dosed Esketamine Nasal Spray Combined With a Newly Initiated Oral Antidepressant in Treatment-Resistant Depression: A Randomized Double-Blind Active-Controlled Study | American Journal of Psychiatry;

[8] Ketamine for treatment-resistant depression: When and where is it safe? - Harvard Health;

[9] Dangers of Mixing Ketamine and Alcohol;

[10] Ketamine and Alcohol: Is It Dangerous to Mix Them? (healthline.com);

[11] Ketamine Toxicity - StatPearls - NCBI;