Is Ketamine Addictive? 11 Clinicians and Doctors Weigh In

Is Ketamine Addictive? 11 Clinicians and Doctors Weigh In

Before receiving ketamine therapy, it’s important to be aware of all the associated risks. One question you might have before undergoing treatment is, “is ketamine addictive?” This is a valid question but it does not have an easy answer. Ketamine has the potential to be addictive. That is unquestionable. And we will turn to this subject in the subsequent discussion. However, when used carefully and by attentive professionals, the likelihood of becoming addicted to ketamine is substantially reduced.

Looking for ketamine therapy? Click here to find top rated ketamine clinics near you

How to Tell If You Are Addicted to Ketamine

RecognitionYou might be addicted to ketamine if:
1. You frequently crave ketamine and it dominates your thoughts
2. You’re using larger amounts or over a longer period than intended
3. You have unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control use
4. A lot of time is spent in activities necessary to obtain, use, or recover from the effects of ketamine
5. You have given up social, occupational, or recreational activities because of ketamine use
6. You continue using ketamine despite knowing it has caused or worsened physical or psychological problems
7. You experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to quit
Signs of AddictionPhysical signs can include:
1. Increased tolerance to the drug, meaning you need more to achieve the same effect
2. Changes in appearance, such as sudden weight loss, poor hygiene
3. Problems with coordination or speech
4. Unusual bruising or infections, typically from injecting
5. Problems with memory or cognition
Psychological signs can include:
1. Mood swings, depression, anxiety
2. Paranoia, hallucinations
3. Social isolation or withdrawal from friends and family
4. Neglect of responsibilities at home, school, or work
How to StopIf you or someone you know is struggling with ketamine addiction, it’s crucial to seek professional help.
1. Consult with a healthcare provider: They can help assess the situation, provide resources, and offer treatment options.
2. Detoxification: This should be done under medical supervision due to the potential for severe withdrawal symptoms.
3. Therapy and Counseling: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), group counseling, and family therapy can be beneficial.
4. Medication: Certain medications may be used to manage withdrawal symptoms.
5. Self-care: Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate sleep can aid in recovery.
6. Support Groups: Groups like Narcotics Anonymous can provide support and understanding from people who’ve had similar experiences.
PreventionThe best way to prevent ketamine addiction is to avoid non-prescribed use of the drug. Education about its risks, as well as early intervention and treatment for those struggling with substance abuse, can help.

Ketamine’s Addictive Potential

When considering the question, “is ketamine addictive?” we need to answer this in a nuanced way. Yes, ketamine can be addictive, as most drugs can be. But this does not necessarily mean ketamine is highly addictive or that its addictive potential is extremely low.

Firstly, it is worth emphasizing that ketamine’s addictive potential separates it from other psychedelics. For example, magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, and ibogaine not only have a low risk for abuse and addiction in a clinical context; they can also be incredibly anti-addictive in their effects. There is evidence that ketamine can be useful in the treatment of addiction. However, the substance also carries a much higher risk of addiction than traditional psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms.

RELATED: Is Ketamine an Opioid? Why One of These Painkillers is Safer Than the Other

That said, it would be wrong to think of ketamine as addictive as a drug like heroin. Based on research carried out by David Nutt, the most addictive substances are heroin, cocaine, nicotine, barbiturates, and alcohol. Ketamine sits in about the mid-range in terms of addictive potential, rated as being only slightly more addictive than cannabis. Nutt and other researchers found “club drugs” like LSD and MDMA (‘ecstasy’) to have a lower potential for addiction.

The potential of becoming addicted to ketamine should still not be underestimated. Those addicted to ketamine may find it difficult to control their use or stop using, despite the negative effects this has on their finances, relationships, social life, and work.

If you still have questions about the risk of ketamine addiction, keep reading. We’ve asked medical experts from across the country to share their thoughts on ketamine’s addictive potential and how that potential is mitigated.

RELATED: How Ketamine Treatment For Anxiety Works, Per Medical Experts

Seek help if you feel you are addicted to ketamine:

Contact SAMHSA (or call their hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)) if you feel like you need help. Please note that substance abuse and addiction are serious issues that require professional help. This table is intended as a guide and not as a substitute for professional medical advice. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, reach out to a healthcare provider or a trusted support network.

And now our experts (many of whom are ketamine clinicians) weigh in on the question: is ketamine addictive:

Dr. Mike Cooper – Innerwell At-Home Ketamine Therapy

Because ketamine journeys are relatively brief and can produce euphoria in addition to relieving depression, certain individuals who are prone to chasing “highs” or experiences that make them feel good can be at risk of abusing ketamine. The vast majority of people without this tendency needn’t worry about becoming addicted to ketamine. There are also several important safeguards against addiction while receiving ketamine treatment: 1) Being prescribed only a limited amount of ketamine with each clinical visit, 2) Receiving the lowest effective dose, and 3) Reducing the frequency of treatment or pausing treatment once clinical goals are achieved.

— Dr. Mike Cooper, Medical Director of Innerwell At-Home Ketamine Therapy

A board-certified psychiatrist, Dr. Mike Cooper, M.D. is also the Medical Director at Innerwell.

Dr. Leonardo Vando – Mindbloom

Although ketamine has a long history of safety when used in clinically-appropriate doses and settings, it is possible to develop a dependence. Risk of dependence is minimized with proper patient screening, and when the medicine is used as part of a structured therapeutic program with appropriate monitoring. Mindbloom does not treat patients with an active, uncontrolled substance use disorder, or patients with a history of ketamine abuse. All of our clinicians are trained to screen and monitor for unusual behaviors that may suggest the potential for dependence. And Mindbloom’s programs require limited, incremental dosing and multiple clinical consultations to ensure the medicine is being taken appropriately. Fortunately, we’ve found that the vast majority of people who seek treatment with Mindbloom are looking for relief from legitimate mental health issues, and follow our protocols with care. You can learn more about the potential addictive side effects of ketamine on our website.

— Dr. Leonardo Vando, Medical Director of Mindbloom

As Mindbloom’s medical director, Dr. Leonardo Vando has been a board-certified psychiatrist and addiction psychiatrist with over 15 years of experience.

Dr. Ben Medrano – Nue Life

Although ketamine can be habit forming, ketamine by definition is a non-addictive medication. Physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms are generally not found in ketamine abusers. However, ketamine abuse is a known problem for those who illegally obtain it. Generally problematic use of ketamine is rarely found when managed by a trained medical provider.

— Dr. Ben Medrano

Dr. Ben Medrano earned an MD from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, prior to completing his Psychiatric Residency at Mount Sinai Hospitals NYC. His time working with the highly traumatized population of Harlem kindled a desire for greater impact and meaning as a healer. This led to his current specialization in integrative psychiatry and psychedelic assisted therapies.

As the former Medical Director of Field Trip Health, he has extensive experience office-based ketamine therapy. He currently leads Nue.Life Medical Group in providing home-based ketamine treatment. His unique approach is influenced by over 20 years of intensive study and meditation within the Buddhist community.

Dr. Steven L. Mandel – Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles

“Ketamine is not addictive. Some people do use it recreationally or to self-medicate, but it is not addictive any more than ice cream or chocolate can be addictive. Users do not develop a physical dependence in the way they do with alcohol, nicotine, opioids, and other commonly used substances. Some may develop a mental association with it as a means of escape, though we do not see that when patients receive IV ketamine in a clinical setting. Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles has provided more than 14,000 infusions over 9 years. We have not had any issues with addiction or misuse. Many patients find the experience pleasant or even enjoyable, but it is not something they crave or seek. Interestingly, many often remark that they don’t understand how people use it on the street, and that it has no appeal to them in that way. Bottom line is clinical ketamine in a physicians office is safe and non-addictive.”

— Dr. Steven L. Mandel, Founder & President of Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles

Dr. Steven L. Mandel, M.D., is an internationally-recognized expert & pioneer in the use of ketamine infusion therapy to treat mental health disorders & chronic pain. Dr. Mandel has more than 40 years of experience utilizing ketamine as a board-certified anesthesiologist. He also earned his master’s degree in psychology. He is the founder & president of Ketamine Clinics Los Angeles, a leading ketamine infusion therapy clinic in Southern California. Dr. Mandel is also founder and first president of ASKP.

RELATED: What Are The Biggest Misconceptions About Ketamine Therapy?

Susan Gillispie – Wholistic Health

The answer is twofold when used in low amounts that are used in ketamine therapy, it usually is not addictive. When it is abused as seen when people refer to it as “Special K” yes, it can be very addicting when it is abused just like any other drug that is used recreationally. Patients who receive Ketamine in an office setting that is carefully monitored have a relatively small chance of becoming addicted or even building a tolerance. When Ketamine is used appropriately for health reasons, it is important to assess risk and benefit. We all have had a drink of alcohol, and yes, alcohol, when abused, is addictive; the same goes for Ketamine; it is not always the drug that causes harmful behavior; it is also the environment. Ketamine has a low dependence potential, much lower than both alcohol and nicotine.

— Susan Gillispie, APRN

Susan Gillispie, APRN, is a Family Nurse Practitioner at Wholistic Health in Theodore, Alabama. She specializes in holistic health (by disease prevention) through diet and nutrition. Susan’s Approach to Health: I work closely with you to find nutritional deficiencies. Together, we define your health goals and ways to achieve your optimum health. I believe in the holistic philosophy that the body has an inherent ability to establish, maintain and restore health. There is a healing power of nature and it is important to treat the whole person and not just symptoms. I also believe that prevention is the best cure.

Steve Caddick, PharmD – Neurospa Therapy Centers

Like all controlled substances, ketamine historically does have the potential for abuse when not used in the correct set and setting and under medical/clinical supervision. Unlike opiates, ketamine has more of a psychological dependence and a tolerance buildup (when abused) vs a physical dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms. The safety profile of ketamine when used properly, is well documented over the last 50 years. When prescribed and under clinical supervision in connection with therapy, ketamine is a profound treatment for the rapid recovery of major depression, treatment-resistant depression, and suicidal ideations. There are potentially many more modalities in that ketamine is useful, the most important plan for success is to follow the protocol set forth by your medical team in a controlled environment with the proper support. 

Steve Caddick, PharmD

RELATED: What are the Odds on Psychedelics Helping Gambling Addiction?

Ajona Olsen, MSN, APRN, ANP-C – Daytryp Health

“Ketamine does not cause addiction in terms of what we know as a chemical addiction, causing withdrawal symptoms after discontinued use, as we see in substances like opioids, alcohol, nicotine, heroin, and many others. Ketamine can be abused and with excessive use, much greater amounts than medical providers would administer or prescribe, severe cases have shown cognitive/memory decline as well as bladder wall changes/thickening. Ketamine has been in use for over 50 years and has been scientifically proven as a relatively safe medication when used as intended and in a safe and medically supervised setting.

The vast majority of the science and research has shown that ketamine has real, proven, biological and psychological benefits for most people that have tried it, both long term and short term. That will always be the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to drugs of any kind, ketamine or otherwise. I am confident that after years of research and real world results that ketamine can end unnecessary suffering and enhance lives with further integration around the medicine treatment. Ongoing tests and trials will only confirm what neuroscience already knows. As we learn even more about how the brain works, through technological advances in brain imaging and advances in understanding brain biology, the benefits of ketamine and other psychedelic treatments will only improve. Ketamine is not the only solution for mental health issues, but it will be one of the primary and leading ones going forward.”

— Ajona Olsen, MSN, APRN, ANP-C

Ajona Olsen, MSN, APRN, ANP-C began her career in healthcare in 2001 as a registered nurse (RN) in the hospital and in 2006 became a nurse practitioner and continued working in corporate medicine. Her career path changed when she found Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP) in 2021 and decided to open her own private practice. Ajona is now collaborating with Daytryp Health – a state of the art Psychedelic Assisted Psychotherapy clinic in Phoenix, AZ.

Sean McLean – Catalyst Clinic

Ketamine isn’t known to have the same addictive properties as addictive drugs like opioids. Clinically, that’s been our experience as well. At Catalyst Clinic, our patients have not exhibited addictive behaviors. In fact, the vast majority have a goal to extend the amount of time between booster infusions even further. In our opinion, ketamine is not addictive.

— Sean McLean

Sean McLean is a certified Registered Nurse Anesthesiologist. He has over four years of treating mental health conditions with IV Ketamine. He co-founded Catalyst Clinic, a Ketamine IV Infusion and Functional Medicine clinic.

Dr. Radowitz – Nushama

Ketamine is less addictive than caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine as it does not cause physical dependence… However, like any psychoactive medicine, it can be misused, especially in recreational settings at lower doses, one can experience a conscious euphoric effect. When ketamine is administered periodically in larger, more psychedelic doses by a medical professional in a clinical setting with proper education and support, the likelihood of addiction is low as it reduces the risk of psychological dependency. People are monitored throughout their treatment for any signs of dependence and encouraged to explore other healing tools as their symptoms improve.

— Dr. Radowitz

Dr. Radowitz has a wealth of experience seeing the effects trauma can have on our physical health firsthand. He joined Nushama to oversee and develop treatment modalities, believing psychedelics are the future of mental wellness as current solutions treat symptoms, not underlying issues.

Dr. Christopher Romig – ARK Integrative Medicine

There’s a still lot of misunderstanding surrounding the safety of ketamine infusions. One of the most common concerns we hear about is the worry that ketamine infusions could lead to addiction. When administered in safe doses, ketamine has been shown to cure depression symptoms when other forms of antidepressants fail to work.When it’s abused, ketamine can be an addictive substance. But when it’s administered by a professional as a form of depression treatment, ketamine does not appear to be addictive. Special care is given to the dosage, frequency, and method the ketamine is administered in so that patients are safe and protected from any possibility of addition.

— Dr. Christopher Romig

Dr. Christopher Romig M.D., is the owner, founder and medical director of Ark Integrative Medicine and Therapeutics. He is a board certified anesthesiologist with 20 years of experience and more than 6 years of experience in the field of ketamine therapy.

Kendall Miller – Healing Ketamine

It definitely can be, but the way that we use it and administer it, I have not seen anyone get addicted to it in the 10 years that I’ve done ketamine infusions. I have seen it help people with addictions. I’ve seen it help people stop drinking alcohol, and I’ve seen it help with several different process addictions like pornography, spending, and eating disorders.

— Kendall Miller, CRNA, BLS, ACLS

Kendall Miller, CRNA, BLS, ACLS, is a skilled nurse anesthetist at Healing Ketamine in Orem, Utah. He’s been practicing anesthesia in various settings for more than 20 years.

Should I Be Concerned Trying Ketamine Treatment?

Make sure you are as informed as possible before starting any new therapy. If you are worried about the possibility of getting addicted to ketamine following treatment, you can ease your concerns by getting as many professional opinions as you can. You should find a ketamine clinic where you can have an in-depth consultation before signing up for any treatment plan. The psychiatrist you meet should be willing to discuss risks like addiction in a comprehensive manner, as well as highlight how they work to minimize these risks. You should also disclose whether you have a personal history of addiction. It may turn out that ketamine therapy could help you overcome an addiction, rather than add a new one to the mix.

It’s important that a ketamine therapy provider treats your safety and health with the utmost care and respect. This means avoiding any recommended treatment without detailing all the benefits and risks beforehand. Many high-quality ketamine clinics exist and, in general, patients using these clinics avoid addiction issues as a result of treatment. When administered diligently, ketamine infusions can be a safe and low-risk form of mental health treatment.

Ketamine Therapy Clinic Spotlights:
Quad Cities Ketamine Clinic – Davenport, Iowa
Relievus Pain Management – Havertown, Pennsylvania
Redemption Psychiatry – Phoenix, Arizona
Advanced Infusion and Wellness Center – Wichita, Kansas
Integrative Pain Management – De Pere, Wisconsin
Florida Spine Institute – Clearwater, Florida
Advanced Pain Relief Institute – Boerne, Texas
The Anderson Clinic – Cincinnati, Ohio
Prizm Pain Management Clinic – Belleville, Michigan

Sam Woolfe

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.

Abid Nazeer

This post was medically approved by Abid Nazeer

Dr. Nazeer is the Founder and President of APS Ketamine/Advanced Psychiatric Solutions, which he established in 2016 as the first psychiatric outpatient ketamine clinic in Illinois. He is board certified in Psychiatry as well as Addiction Medicine. He completed his psychiatry residency at Louisiana State University Health Sciences in Shreveport where he held the role of Chief Resident. Dr. Nazeer is providing medical oversight to the growth plan of Wesana Clinics, with the model of comprehensive psychiatry clinics specialized ketamine and psychedelic therapies, integrated brain health and wellness centers, and technology utilization of Wesana Solutions remote patient monitoring product.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Explore Psychedelic Therapy Regions