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Teen Ketamine Abuse: Symptoms and Recovery


Ketamine written on a blackboard

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that is legally used in the medical field in human anesthesia and is also widely used in veterinary medicine. As a hallucinogen, when ingested it causes a young person to feel detached from reality. It works by inducing a dissociative state, while also providing pain relief, memory loss, and sedation. Ketamine is manufactured as an injectable liquid, but when sold illicitly is often evaporated to form a powder. It is odorless and tasteless. Ketamine is classified as a Schedule III controlled substance, which according to the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are defined as “drugs, substances, or chemicals with a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.” When used illegally, ketamine can be snorted, smoked, injected and/ or eaten. 

Signs and Symptoms

Every teen is different and each has the propensity to exhibit a unique combination of signs and symptoms when it comes to ketamine abuse. Commonly reported signs and/ or symptoms associated with ketamine teen abuse include, but are not limited to, the following examples, as provided by Pediatric Emergency Care:

  • Amnesia
  • Impaired motor function
  • Delirium 
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Agitation
  • Bladder pain
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness 

With prolonged abuse, it is likely for a young person to develop a tolerance to ketamine, which can increase his or her risk for developing severe short and long-term consequences. 


Recovery from ketamine abuse starts with detox. Detox is the cleansing process that rids one’s body of any abused and/ or foreign substances. This is an essential and unavoidable step a teen must undergo when recovering from ketamine abuse. According to American Addiction Centers, ketamine withdrawal symptoms begin approximately twenty-four hours after a young person’s last dose and will generally subside around six days after one’s last dose. Withdrawal symptoms are the body’s physical manifestation of experiencing the absence of a substance (ketamine) of which it had become reliant upon to properly function. Some common withdrawal symptoms from ketamine abuse could include the following examples, as provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH):

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive sweating
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nightmares
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chills
  • Restlessness 

The most dangerous withdrawal symptom associated with ketamine detox is severe depression that can lead to suicidal urges. After the successful completion of the detox process, it is recommended a teen continue with his or her recovery by attending a formal substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment program. 

From habitual ketamine abuse, a young person has essentially developed and reinforced damaging habits and harmful patterns. Those do not simply disappear when he or she stops abusing ketamine. The old patterns must be shed and new habits and patterns must be established, which require steadfast commitment. A formal substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment program can provide a teenager with the fundamental tools needed to continue on a path of recovery. It is important to note that if left untreated, ketamine abuse can lead to fatal consequences.

For Information and Support

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at

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