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How Does Your Body React To Ketamine?

How Does Your Body React To Ketamine?

Ketamine is used for many reasons, which is why it has many different and fascinating effects. A lot of attention is paid to the psychological and therapeutic effects of ketamine. Many people are interested in what the ketamine experience is like, as well as how ketamine therapy might benefit them.

However, you may want to know about how ketamine affects your body as well. Indeed, ketamine has a range of bodily effects that changes with dosage. This can lead to changes in different organs like the brain, the heart, and neurotransmitters.

In this article, we will examine the ways that your body reacts to ketamine.

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Ketamine And The Heart

When you take ketamine at sub-anesthetic doses, it has effects on your cardiac system. This can include an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure. One study found these increases were significant. However, ketamine increases both heart rate and blood pressure without causing hypertension. Hypertension is characterized by a high level of blood pressure that may be dangerous.

Meanwhile, other studies have highlighted that blood pressure increases are small following a sub-anesthetic dose. This makes the compound safe even for those with hypertension.

Because ketamine increases rather than decreases blood pressure, it is a useful anesthetic. Other common anesthetics decrease blood pressure. This can make certain medical procedures riskier. This makes ketamine extremely useful as an anesthetic in places where there isn’t ventilation equipment at hand. For example, when dealing with gunshot victims, severe car crashes, or trauma victims with low blood pressure.

Ketamine And The Respiration System

Ketamine doesn’t affect your breathing rate as much as other anesthetics. This again makes it the anesthetic of choice in emergency situations. Especially where someone’s breathing rate might be low or there’s a risk of respiratory depression.

Studies have reported that ketamine can stimulate, depress, or have no effect on respiration. However, respiratory depression is scant. This is why the compound is a useful anesthetic in the contexts described above.

Ketamine And The Eyes

Ketamine can produce pupil dilation, with the dilation increasing with the dose. However, your pupils won’t dilate as much as they do with other psychedelics. Substances like LSD and MDMA, for example, cause intense dilation.

Ketamine And Motor Behavior

You may experience impairment of motor function when taking a high dose of ketamine. The symptoms of ataxia include slurred speech, stumbling, and poor coordination. Ketamine can disrupt your ability to control your body.

Due to these effects, it’s important to use ketamine in a safe environment. Sub-anesthetic doses that impair motor function increase the risk of accidents. Ketamine-related accidents could potentially be severe or fatal.

Ketamine And The Brain

Some of the most interesting bodily effects of ketamine take place at the level of the brain. These effects are responsible for several therapeutic outcomes of the drug. Reductions in symptoms of depression, suicidality, and PTSD, for example, are a few.

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Most antidepressants target one of the monoamine neurotransmitters. These include serotonin, norepinephrine, or dopamine. Ketamine, on the other hand, affects the neurotransmitter glutamate. This is the most common chemical messenger in the brain. Glutamate plays a key role in brain functions such as learning and memory. It also plays a role in synaptic plasticity. Plasticity is the ability of synapses to strengthen or weaken over time.

Researchers have proposed that glutamate plays a key role in major depression. This refers to the glutamate hypothesis of depression. This contrasts with the monoamine hypothesis, which suggests that depression is due to the reduced availability of monoamines. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are one antidepressant used to treat this.

Evidence in favor of the glutamate hypothesis includes the fact that levels of it are lower in patients with depression. In addition, drugs that increase the levels of glutamate in the brain have an antidepressant effect. Ketamine is one such drug. One paper notes that:

“A single subanesthetic dose of the NMDA glutamate receptor antagonist, ketamine, produce[s] meaningful clinical improvement within hours… The increase in glutamate release produced by ketamine seems to be essential for its antidepressant effects.”

Ketamine also leads to changes in levels of the neurotransmitter GABA. Deficiencies of GABA have, like glutamate, been implicated in major depression. This has led to the GABAergic hypothesis of depression. And according to a 2020 study published in Neurobiology of Disease looking at male rodents:

“A single dose of ketamine can reverse…deficits of GABA markers, in conjunction with reversal of… depressive-like behaviors.”

Structural Changes In The Brain

Ketamine can also lead to structural changes in the brain. The compound can, for instance, promote synaptic growth in brain regions affected by depression. This includes the prefrontal cortex, which makes up over 10 percent of the brain.

One study looked at mice with lost dendritic spines associated with depression-like behavior. Researchers then administered ketamine to see what happened. Results revealed how ketamine first induces brain circuit function that improves depression-like behavior in the mice. This happens within three hours. But it is only after this period that ketamine stimulates the regrowth of synapses in the prefrontal cortex.

The neuroscientist Ronald Duman states that indeed improvements in brain circuit function contribute to rapid antidepressant effects. But “increased spine formation contributes to the sustained antidepressant actions of ketamine.”

Dr. Steven Levine, who runs Actify Neuropathies, told Psycom:

“Depression is linked to the build-up of proteins in the brain. But ketamine can repair damage to the brain that are the result of long-term stress hormones. The body’s response to stress spills cortisol and other hormones in the brain and they damage it in the process. [Ketamine] is thought to have much more rapid effects on increasing brain plasticity.”

As we can see, ketamine leads to many diverse reactions in the body. This guide is not an exhaustive list of all the types of physical changes that occur after using ketamine. But it should give you an overview of how ketamine affects the body.

Sam Woolfe

View all posts by Sam Woolfe

Sam Woolfe is a freelance writer based in London. His main areas of interest include mental health, mystical experiences, the history of psychedelics, and the philosophy of psychedelics. He first became fascinated by psychedelics after reading Aldous Huxley's description of the mescaline experience in The Doors of Perception. Since then, he has researched and written about psychedelics for various publications, covering the legality of psychedelics, drug policy reform, and psychedelic science.

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