As a strong dissociative drug, ketamine (also known as “Special K”) can cause severe mental impairment in chemically dependent individuals. Affecting clarity of cognition, memory formation and even severe delusions, ketamine clouds the mind during both the period of intoxication and beyond. Unless ketamine addiction is properly treated in an inpatient drug treatment facility, dependent individuals can experience brain damage and learning problems that last the rest of their lives.
Mental Impairment From Acute Ketamine Intoxication
Ketamine affects the brain’s neurotransmitters, triggering a host of changes that lead to cognitive impairment. During intoxication, ketamine can cause memory difficulties including temporary amnesia. In fact, studies have shown that ketamine addiction can lead to a sharp decline in working memory, as well as problems with verbal recall.
The mental impairment caused by ketamine can also lead to impaired problem solving abilities. Ketamine dependent individuals experience lowered concentration levels, attention deficit problems, learning disabilities, and even drastically reduced sensory processing of visual and verbal information. In fact, one 1997 study found that ketamine dependent individuals qualified for a clinical thought disorder due to symptoms of mental impairment, experiencing slow thought processes, and compromised spatial thinking.
Mental Impairment From Prolonged Ketamine Addiction
What does seem to be a deciding factor in ketamine induced cognitive impairment is length of dependency and level of dosage. Cognitive impairment has been shown in several scientific studies to vary with dosage among ketamine dependent individuals. With prolonged use, ketamine can affect recognition and procedural learning. In fact, in severe cases, ketamine can trigger schizophrenic-like symptoms in dependent individuals, causing them to split from reality. Additionally, because ketamine drastically reduces heartrate in high doses, dependent individuals who overdose can experience oxygen deprivation in the brain, potentially leading to severe brain damage and permanently impeded cognition.
As ketamine dependency builds over time with tolerance, cognitive impairment increases, as well. Studies have shown that the duration of ketamine addiction makes a significant difference in the level of mental problems that occur—a similar effect as occurs when average dosage increases. Prolonged ketamine addiction can cause a host of secondary mental problems, lessening recognition, compromising procedural learning, and even causing users to split off from reality.
The Effects of Ketamine Addiction on Intelligence
Some ketamine dependent individuals are highly intelligent at the outset of their addictions. In fact, in the mid-’70s, physicians in Southern California were tested for mental responses to ketamine doses. Once high on ketamine, these brilliant individuals underwent tests that revealed they displayed less ability to learn, poor memory skills, and difficulty in associating words and language.