Ketamine is a drug most often used to treat chronic pain. It also has an abuse potential, partly a result of the strong influence it has on the brain when taken. Those who take high doses can experience ‘K-holes’, a state of intense detachment and limited mobility.

K-hole: what is it?

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Aas n refers to a state in which an individual who has taken ketamine begins to feel detached from the world around them.

It is caused by them taking a dose so high that their perception of the world becomes skewed, confusing, and greatly impaired.

The term derives from the notion that individuals ‘fall’ into a k-hole, temporarily entering a state where they cannot function properly, limiting their ability to navigate the world around them and interact with other people.

What are the effects of a K-hole?

A woman taking a while pill

Although each individual’s experience can vary, k-holes tend to be characterised by a sense of becoming separate from the physical body. It is often described as stepping out of the body, or becoming part of one’s immediate surroundings and no longer being an individual.

In terms of symptoms, individuals commonly report the following:

  • Increased anxiety, sometimes developing into a strong sense of panic
  • Sensory hallucinationscreate issues with navigating the physical world
  • Symptoms associated with psychosis, include paranoia and hearing things
  • Difficulty seeing and hearing things
  • Distorted perception of time and space
  • Impaired coordination, disorientation, and confusion

K-holes primarily affect cognitive faculties, but the physical body can also suffer. Individuals might also experience:

Are K-holes dangerous?

As with any other state which inebriates an individual, k-holes can be incredibly dangerous. Individuals not being able to function as they normally would cause several problems, many of which can result in serious harm or injury.

Self-harm or injury

The symptoms of k-holes can lead individuals to harm themselves in a number of ways. Not being able to move around without stumbling or tripping is likely to increase the risk of breaking bones and causing head injuries.

However, individuals can also be more likely to hurt themselves on account of the ways in which they can become psychologically impaired during a k-hole.

If an individual becomes incredibly anxious, experiences panic and distress, and has a frightening hallucinogenic experience, they will be more inclined to act irrationally. They might deliberately harm themselves or attempt suicide out of fear.

Harming others

In the same sense, individuals can hurt others during a k-hole. Anxiety and frustration as a result of not being able to move or think properly can push individuals to have violent outbursts, which can sometimes be directed at those around them.

Also, not being able to control their movements can increase the risk of them pushing, shoving, falling over, or striking those around them.

On an emotional level, they might also speak without being able to control themselves, increasing the likelihood of hurtful things being said to others and causing them to feel upset or angry.

Risk of death

Although it is unlikely, fatalities can result from the effects of k-holes. One way in which it can happen is if an individual is left unattended and is able to attempt things they should not be doing while under the influence of so much ketamine.

Walking the streets can lead to them being robbed or hit by a car, and getting behind the wheel can result in a crash.

Danger can also lie in the fact that those around an individual might not immediately be able to identify that they need help. Those in a k-hole might appear relaxed, but they may be experiencing heart problems or feel vomit in their throat that they cannot get out.

Taking ketamine – why do people do it?

K-holes result when individuals consume a lot of ketamine, an anaesthetic drug. Why, however, do people take the drug in the first place?

Ketamine as a painkiller

The predominant medical function of ketamine is to dull pain. It is turned to when less potent painkillers have proved ineffective, and is often used when individuals experience chronic pain or have cancer.

Ketamine is used in this way due to the effect it has in the brain. When taken, ketamine blocks the functioning of a receptor known as N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA). NMDA plays a large role in the amplifying and moving of pain signals throughout the brain and body.

Ketamine’s effect means that those who live with intense or consistent pain experience a brief period of relief. Its ability to succeed where other painkillers fail stems from ketamine’s strength, and that is carefully managed.

When prescribed, ketamine is provided in a very low dose which is gradually increased. Side effects can result from using too much too soon, so 10mg (taken around 4 times a day) is what most individuals start on.

Ketamine as an antidepressant

Research has also found that ketamine can be used in other medicinal ways. Oxford University studies have found that it can be an effective method of treating depression [1], again thanks to how ketamine interacts with the brain when taken.

Glutamate is a neurotransmitter in the brain which enables brain signals to cross synapses and, as a result, journey from neuron to neuron. Ketamine directly interacts with glutamate, activating it and promoting the flow of signals through the brain [2].

When this happens, Gamma-Aminobutyric acid levels increase, providing individuals with temporary relief from the symptoms of their depression.

Ketamine as a recreational drug

Due to its sedative, relaxing, and painkilling effects, individuals can also use recreational Ketamine. This essentially means that they use it without a medical prescription, but this is not advised due to the risks it poses to health.

Does Ketamine consumption produce dangerous effects?


Due to its strong effect on the brain, ketamine has a range of effects. These largely depend on the dosage taken – as well as an individual’s personal tolerance to the drug – and can be felt both in the short- and long-term

Taking ketamine once: what happens?

When ketamine consumption begins or is closely controlled, an individual can expect to feel both physical and psychological symptoms. Some of these can be unpleasant, but part of the process is finding the right dosage for each specific individual.

The list of possible symptoms includes:

  • Difficulty speaking and seeing
  • Profuse salivating
  • High blood pressure and/or heart palpitations (Tachycardia can also occur, where the heart beats over 100 times per minute)
  • Poor judgement, memory, and concentration
  • Not being able to move and/or sedation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing [3]
  • Seizures
  • Intense anxiety
  • Unpredictable mood swings
  • Sensory hallucinations and a sense of detachment from the world [4]
  • Vivid dreams

Taking ketamine consistently: how does the body change?

When an individual takes ketamine for several weeks or months, they can begin to experience long-term effects. Again, dosage should be adjusted to account for any problems that do arise, but those who abuse the drug are not protected in this way.

Some of the long-term effects of using ketamine include:

  • Increasingly unstable mental health, affecting mood and worldview
  • Reduced ability to concentrate and remember things
  • Difficulty urinating, pain while urinating, or seeing blood in urine
  • Problems with major organ functionality (affecting the brain, liver, kidneys, and digestive system)
  • Damage to muscles, veins, and skin (when ketamine is injected)
  • Gradual intensifying of depressive symptoms

Is it possible to overdose on Ketamine?

Person lying on their side

Taking a substance in high doses or consistently over a long period of time can bring questions of overdose to mind. When the strength of ketamine is considered, it is no surprise that the drug can cause overdose, but careful consumption will lower this risk.

The biggest fact to note is that dying from ketamine overdose is not likely. However, the more probable risks associated with ketamine overdose must still be considered with caution as they can still result in injury or hospitalisation.

Some of the biggest risks include heart problems, difficulty breathing, and slipping into a coma. Seizures are also common, which increase the risk of individuals injuring themselves or others.

To reduce the risk of an individual dying or getting hurt when they have overdosed, those around them must immediately call for an ambulance, clear the immediate space around them, and monitor them until help arrives.

I think I might be developing a dependence for Ketamine

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Medicinal ketamine users tend to be well monitored, so the risk of developing unhealthy consumption habits is low. However, those who use it often or at an unregulated dosage are at risk of developing an addiction to it.

Recreational users, who take it without a prescription in order to attain a pleasurable ‘high’, are particularly vulnerable, but what is ketamine addiction and how is it treated?

What is ketamine addiction?

Using ketamine on a regular basis changes to body and brain chemistry. With consistent exposure, the body begins to adjust to its presence by altering its own chemical structure; and the brain starts developing an association between the drug and feeling okay.

Over time, both of these processes continue until an individual cannot function, either physically or mentally, without ketamine. Their body slips into imbalance when sober, triggering withdrawal symptoms; and the brain demands the drug to boost mood.

These two facts refer to physical and psychological dependence. Individuals are considered to be addicted when they reinforce such a reliance on ketamine by taking it again in order to avoid the consequences of withdrawal.

Ketamine rehab: how it works

Treating ketamine addiction requires physical and psychological dependence on the drug to be relieved. Rehab achieves this via a two-stage process, beginning first with the body.

During detox, an individual is slowly relieved of their dependence on ketamine by reducing their consumption of it. This tapering off process works to help the body become sober without shocking it into withdrawal.

Individuals undergo this process under the watchful supervision of an expert team who can slow or speed up the progress of their detox according to how their body is responding, and also prescribe benzodiazepines to tackle withdrawal symptoms that do manifest.

Following this, therapy tackles the psychological and emotional hold that ketamine has over an individual. Triggers which incentivise drug use are identified and worked through, and techniques are practiced to help individuals resist such influence in the future.

Spotting ketamine addiction

Before a ketamine addiction can be tackled via rehab treatment, it must first be identified. As with any substance use disorder, spotting a ketamine dependency can be incredibly difficult, especially because those who misuse substances are good at hiding it from others.

However, there are some key signs to look out for which can indicate whether someone is struggling with their ketamine use.

These include:

  • Using ketamine without a prescription
  • Desperately seeking a ketamine prescription, or seeing several doctors in order to get one
  • Consuming higher doses of ketamine over time, regardless of the prescribed dose
  • Making ketamine a priority, perhaps equal to or even more important than family life and hobbies
  • Struggling to reduce ketamine in spite of the problems/risks associated with it
  • Lying or hiding ketamine use
  • Being defensive when someone asks about ketamine consumption
  • Getting into debt or stealing money in order to buy ketamine
  • Losing motivation in maintaining personal hygiene or appearance

For those assessing their own behaviour in order to identify an unhealthy reliance on ketamine, it can be hard to spot some of these signs. Recognising deception or defensiveness can be hard to objectively achieve, but there are tests available for doing this.

The CAGE questionnaire is designed to help individuals identify whether they themselves exhibit some of the behaviours associated with substance misuse.

It asks individuals to put the following 4 questions to themselves:

  • Do I ever want to cut down on my ketamine use?
  • Do I ever get annoyed or angry at those who inquire about my ketamine use?
  • Do I ever feel guilty about my ketamine use?
  • Do I ever use ketamine as an eye-opener to energise myself in the morning?

If an individual can recognise that the answer to some of these questions is ‘yes’, they might benefit from ketamine rehab support.

OK Rehab: who we are and how we can help

At OK Rehab, we have all the information and guidance that you need when it comes to the use of ketamine and addiction. Our team are knowledgeable about the drug, its effects, and how healthy consumption can turn into substance abuse and dependency.

That’s why we are the people to contact if you think you need help with your ketamine use. Whether you fear you have developed an addiction for it, or simply want to understand the drug better to reduce the chances of addiction-forming, we are on hand at all times.

Whether it’s preventing ketamine abuse or finding the best treatment options for tackling it, give us a call at 0800 326 5559 and allow us to be of service!