Ketamine is a disassociative anesthetic that has recently been explored for its potential to treat the symptoms of treatment-resistant depression and bipolar disorder. But for those who have been using ketamine outside of its intended uses, this beneficial medical drug can quickly become life-altering and scary. This is especially true for those who fall into a k-hole, best described as intense feelings of dissociation. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at the effects of ketamine, what a k-hole is, and what you can do to receive the help you need if you’re struggling with ketamine addiction.
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What is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a schedule III non-narcotic substance and an injectable, short-term anesthetic for both animals and humans that produces disassociative properties.
First synthesized in the mid-50s and introduced into clinical practice sometime in the 60s, ketamine has proven to be medically beneficial as an anesthetic and a pain management tool as it helps patients dissociate from their pain. In the case of the modern day, esketamine can be introduced nasally to target certain receptors in the brain much more effectively and address depression symptoms faster than traditional antidepressants.
However, as with many other street drugs, this once valuable medical tool started to become abused in the 70s, solidifying itself as a party drug in the 80s and beyond. While use both illicitly and medically started to dwindle around the 2000s with the introduction of other drugs that could achieve the same goal more effectively, the use and abuse of ketamine are still very much alive today, especially now that ketamine is legal for off-label use in approved conditions.
Understanding the K-Hole Experience
When ketamine is applied in a clinical setting and a medical manner, the likelihood of negative side effects is low. When abused, many users can fall into what’s known as a K-hole.
A K-hole is an experience characterized by intense detachment and disassociation from the world around you. Those who fall into a K-hole are unable to control their bodies and lose touch with reality, which can be quite frightening. In many cases, those who fall into a K-hole experience illusions and hallucinations that they liken to a near-death or an out-of-body experience. Those who have fallen into a K-hole exhibit outward symptoms that others can identify, including eyes moving around erratically, poor or no movement, slurred speech, or an inability to speak altogether.
In some regards, people describe k-holes as a life-changing, spiritual experience, which is to be expected from drugs that cause disassociation and hallucinations. However, like many other drugs with these properties, other users have encountered k-holes where they felt like they’d never be able to reconnect with their bodies and have messed up their brains.
Pharmacology of Ketamine
To understand why ketamine can be both medically useful and recreationally problematic, it’s important to understand how it affects the body.
Ketamine interacts with two important neurotransmitters in the brain: glutamate and GABA, the former being the most important. Ketamine’s interaction with this receptor and the subsequent spike in glutamate and glutamine change how the various brain parts, like the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus, interact. The disassociation and derealization one experiences during medical application can be beneficial, and ketamine may even promote greater neuroplasticity. Of course, this is in a medical setting where the goal is minor disassociation for positive effects on the brain.
When abused and taken in much larger quantities to the point of falling into a K-hole, those positive effects can quickly dissipate and be replaced by negative effects. It’s also worth noting that ketamine takes no time to exert its effects regardless of the route of administration, with sublingual and intranasal ketamine only taking five to 10 minutes to start working and lasting up to three hours. The intensity of the effects will vary naturally based on the dose administered.
Risks and Side Effects of a K-Hole
Having an addiction to ketamine likely means experiencing multiple k-holes throughout the period you’re using the substance. Understanding the risks and side effects of falling into a K-hole can be a main motivator to seek treatment.
Physically, short-term ketamine abuse can increase the risk of experiencing cardiac issues due to negative side effects like elevated blood pressure and heart rate, and you can also experience other undesirable side effects like nausea and stiffening muscles. Mentally, abuse may result in a sense of disassociation that could cause psychosis and worsen your overall mental state.
Long-term abuse paints a much more frightening picture. Some of the long-term effects of using ketamine and falling into K-holes include issues with bladder function, the development of seizures, anxiety, nightmares, and even reduced brain function.
If you’re someone who likes to mix ketamine use with other substances, the potential for negative or deadly side effects grows. For example, mixing ketamine and alcohol could lead to gastrointestinal and urinary tract problems. Ketamine and opioids, and other nervous-system depressants are also quite dangerous as they could lead to issues with breathing, coma, and potentially fatal results.
Simply put short-term and long-term effects of consistent k-holes and mixing ketamine with other substances lead nowhere good.
Medical Vs. Recreational Use of Ketamine
It’s important to highlight that ketamine does exhibit positive medical uses. Those who use it in the manner it’s intended and with the right support should not feel as though they’re on the wrong path or putting themselves in harm’s way. Using ketamine as prescribed with the support of a medical professional is vastly different than experimenting recreationally and putting yourself in harm’s way, which could lead you into a K-hole.
When applied in a clinical setting, ketamine is a valuable drug that can serve to reduce pain and help individuals address their treatment-resistant depression. Outside of this environment and in the hands of non-medical professionals, it’s easy to overdose, take too high of a dose, and end up in a K-hole where the experience may or may not go your way. Additionally, because of the lack of oversight, ketamine’s higher potential for dependence can quickly lead to addiction.
It’s also important to think about the legal ramifications of using ketamine outside of its intended purpose. Using ketamine off-label legally is much safer, whereas obtaining it illegally and attempting to achieve the same thing or enjoy it recreationally puts you at risk of getting in trouble with the law.
While it is the same substance, its application makes all the difference.
Harm Reduction and Safety Measures
If you are interested in ketamine for depression symptoms, it’s important to be safe. Speak with a medical professional about the potential benefits and risks of ketamine therapy to understand whether or not it’s right for you and what you need to be aware of before beginning treatment. Ideally, you’ll want to use ketamine in a clinical environment to reduce potential risks or address side effects as they occur. If you do use an at-home treatment, be very careful and use it exactly as prescribed.
In some cases, those who are prescribed ketamine or those who seek it out for recreational use may become dependent on the substance and start to use it in much higher doses and not as intended. If you feel as though this describes you and you’ve started to notice yourself falling into k-holes or exhibiting behaviors like avoiding your responsibilities, engaging in risky behavior to acquire more ketamine, or putting yourself in harm’s way without being able to stop ketamine use, we’re here to help.
Ketamine use has its applications, but it’s a drug that has the potential to be abused as well, especially without the proper supervision. Taking too much can not only turn the medical benefits offered by ketamine into addiction, but it can also lead to experiencing dissociative k-holes that have numerous negative physical and mental side effects that harm you over time. Making the right decisions regarding ketamine use for legitimate mental health disorders and mitigating risks is essential to using ketamine safely.
If you are someone who was either prescribed ketamine and misused it or started with recreational use but found that it’s now out of your control and you’re constantly falling into a k-hole, you can start your journey to recovery here with Live Free Recovery Services. We’re dedicated to helping you get the support you deserve with drug detox programs, inpatient programs, and outpatient services. No matter where you are, we can help you get where you want to be. Contact us today to learn more about the admissions process and take your first steps toward a ketamine-free lifestyle.
Published on: 2023-12-16
Updated on: 2024-02-26