Those who have heard of ketamine probably recognize it as a common club drug.
Ketamine is so popular in the clubbing scene because of its effects on a person’s brain and mood. Researchers are even experimenting with the idea of using ketamine as a way to treat major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You may be wondering why doctors would even attempt to use a club drug to treat mental illness in their patients. The reason is that they’re most attracted to ketamine effects on the brain and how it can benefit those with a mental disorder.
While ketamine is currently used for sedation, anesthesia, and treatment-resistant depression, it still has a high potential for abuse. As a nationwide addiction and mental health treatment center, we advise against any form of drug abuse or misuse and encourage those who are suffering from addiction to get help immediately.
What Is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that can produce hallucinogenic side effects. Like other hallucinogens, ketamine can distort a person’s perception of sight and sound, causing hallucinations and making them feel out of touch with reality. It’s referred to as a dissociative anesthetic because it makes patients and users feel disconnected or distant from their pain. It’s produced in different countries and illegally distributed across the United States. Trading, selling, or distributing ketamine commonly occurs amongst friends or dealers and most often at raves, clubs, and parties. Similar to other club drugs, ketamine is manufactured and distributed as a powder or liquid and can be smoked, snorted, injected, or dissolved into drinks. It’s also commonly used to facilitate sexual assault.
Despite its current legal status and use to treat mental illnesses like depression, ketamine is highly addictive. Ketamine effects on the brain can lead to permanent damage or serious brain injury. At Banyan Treatment Centers, we offer a residential treatment program that offers 24-hour care for those struggling to overcome drug or alcohol addiction.
How Ketamine Affects the Brain
Regulates GABA and Glutamate Levels
Since it’s gone from a club drug to a treatment for depression, one can’t help but wonder: how does ketamine affect the brain? One way ketamine affects the brain is by targeting glutamate receptor genes. Glutamate receptor genes can cause an imbalance in GABA, which regulates nerve cell communication in the brain. Any changes in GABA levels can lead to mental illnesses like depression. GABA levels are most commonly associated with dopamine production and mental illness. Experiencing high levels of GABA can result in depression while experiencing low levels of GABA can cause anxiety.
Ketamine effects on the brain also include synaptic growth. Low doses of ketamine can increase glutamate production, which can result in new synapses or connections between neurons in areas of the brain like the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus. These areas of the brain are responsible for regulating mood, behavior, character development, and memory. The stress many experience as a result of a mental illness can break neuron connections, causing mental illness. Administering ketamine is believed to regrow these connections and help people struggling with mental disorders like depression and PTSD.
Reduces Activity in the Lateral Habenula
Ketamine also affects the area of the brain called the lateral habenula, which regulates functions like pain, behavior, maternal instinct, circadian rhythm, and sleep. Abnormal behavior in the lateral habenula is associated with mental illness like depression because it leads to symptoms like feelings of helplessness and anhedonia, or lack of pleasure. When a person is depressed, their lateral habenula overworks itself and causes negative thoughts and feelings. A 2017 study revealed that ketamine could possibly reset this area of the brain and reduce symptoms of depression.
Long-Term Side Effects of Ketamine
While research suggests the positive findings related to ketamine and the brain, it doesn’t mean this drug is safe to use on your own. When used for anesthetic purposes or to treat depression, ketamine is administered by medical professionals. Studies are still being conducted on ketamine effects on the brain and how it can be utilized as mental health treatment; those with depression should still get help from a mental health program. Ketamine has a high potential for abuse and can result in addiction if misused or abused on your own.
Some ketamine side effects include:
- High blood pressure
- Feeling out of touch with reality
- Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD)
- Bladder issues
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Amnesia or memory problems
We strongly advise against recreational ketamine use. This is a highly addictive drug that can cause physical and mental dependency. Those who do become addicted to ketamine and other similar drugs should receive addiction treatment at our rehab centers across the country.