Any time you take a new drug it’s smart to ask about the risk of addiction. Due to ketamine being a popular street drug, many people balk at the idea of giving it to patients. However, ketamine was originally developed to be used as an anesthesia. Ketamine for depression treatment is just the latest development in using this drug in legitimate ways. If you haven’t been having any luck with traditional medications or psychotherapy, ketamine infusions may be a treatment you’re considering. Here’s what you need to know about ketamine therapy and addiction risks.
Ketamine was originally used as an anesthetic for pain relief and sedation back in the 1960s. It’s a fast-acting drug, but due to its psychological side effects, it has since been replaced by other anesthetics although it’s still used in veterinary surgeries or in special circumstances like patients that are young or in war zones.
Ketamine is a dissociative similar to PCP, but it has a significantly shorter duration. Ketamine infusion therapy administers the drug in small doses through an IV. Patients begin feeling the effects almost immediately, which makes it extremely valuable in time-sensitive situations like individuals suffering from suicidal thoughts. The FDA has approved ketamine infusions for treating depression and it’s continued to gain popularity.
Feeling dissociative, “out of body”, is the most common side effect of ketamine infusions. But its addictive risks are very real, especially since it’s such a popular party drug. Ketamine infusions are a relatively new procedure though, and long-term addiction effects are still unknown although there haven’t been any signs of short-term addiction.
In fact, ketamine has shown promise in curbing the use of highly addictive opioids used in pain management. The US is currently in an opioid crisis so an alternative drug like ketamine could be extremely beneficial.
The most common side effects of ketamine infusions are short-lived, and only last an hour or so after an infusion. The great news is that the drug’s positive effects continue even after the dissociative effects wear off.
The answer is, we don’t know. The drug has been used for decades as anesthesia and there is little evidence of a high risk of addiction. However, there isn’t any data on the long-term effects of ketamine infusion therapy, so doctors don’t really know.
Its recreational use can’t be ignored either. There is an abuse track record when it’s not used under the guidance of trained medical professionals. As a party drug, it has serious side effects and can lead to overdoses.
But as of right now, doctors don’t have any serious concerns regarding the addiction risk of ketamine infusion therapy. As long as trained professionals administer the drug, the risk is minimal. If you feel as if you are beginning to experience addiction to the drug let your psychiatrists know immediately so they can begin exploring other options with you.
Most doctors and patients that have experience with ketamine infusions feel the benefits outweigh the risk, but it’s ultimately up to you. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about ketamine therapy.
Since 2003, the Delray Center for Healing has provided exceptional psychiatric and therapeutic care for mental health, eating, and substance use disorders. To learn more about our philosophy and treatment approach, download our free e-book, “Psychiatry Redefined,” written by our founder and medical director, Raul J. Rodriguez, MD.