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Teens using ketamine

How Popular Is Ketamine Among Teenagers?

In the United States, the annual Monitoring the Future survey is considered one of the best ways to determine what sorts of drugs young people are taking and how often they are taking those drugs. In 2014, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 1.5 percent of 12th graders admitted to using ketamine at some point.

That may seem like a low number, but it may hide the real truth. Students participating in this study provide open information about the drugs they’re using, and there are no medical tests that either verify or discredit the data these kids provide. If numbers coming from other countries are any indication, the ketamine problem might be much larger than anyone thought possible.

In Europe, for example, experts are warning of a ketamine surge. According to The Guardian, the number of teenagers using ketamine rose 68 percent between 2010 and 2011, and that rise in popularity comes in response to price and legislation.

As other drugs became illegal in Europe, they also became more expensive. People could still get them from dealers, of course, but they had to pay more due to the bigger risks dealers had to take in order to obtain drugs that experts considered illegal and dangerous. Ketamine, since it is still legal in Europe, remained less dangerous for dealers to get, and it was less expensive to buy as a result.

The same issue could take hold in the United States. Prescription painkillers, once a favorite target for teen drug users, are growing harder and harder to get. And manufacturers are including controls that make these drugs harder and harder to buy. They can’t be crushed, they can’t be mixed with water, and they can’t be taken in large amounts. The pills that can be abused are growing more scarce, and more expensive, and that could drive some young people to try ketamine instead.

Teen Ketamine Use

Ketamine is an anesthetic drug, according to the U.S. National Drug Intelligence Center, and it’s often put to use in veterinary clinics. Human users discovered that it produced hallucinogenic and calming sensations when it was taken, and in time, ketamine became a popular choice among club-going or festival-attending teens.

To teens like this, loud music and flashing lights are part of the fun and experience. Ketamine has the unique ability to make lights seem a little more vivid and music just a little louder, and that could make a festival seem a touch more exciting.

Teens interested in ketamine can often find dealers working the edges of a party, selling the drug on the sly. These dealers might provide information on how to take the drug, instructing teens to smoke it or sprinkle it into a drink, but these dealers may not provide complete dosing instructions. They may not even sell a product that’s pure. That means teens taking ketamine at a party could get a drug that’s stronger, weaker, or just different. Sometimes, they take doses that come with very real consequences.

Ketamine Dangers

At high doses, ketamine seems to hijack the body’s internal temperature-regulating system. That means teens taking large amounts of ketamine tend to experience:

  • Fevers
  • Jitters
  • Nausea
  • Profuse sweating
  • Rising core temperatures

Stressed young woman with her head in her hands.These teens are in the midst of a medical crisis, but they may feel simply happy and serene. They may be physically unable to move out of the heat and into the cool, because they may not feel as though they are in danger. Some teens slip into seizures, as they don’t cool off in time.

Those teens who don’t develop seizures may not be completely safe. Research done on rats, published in PLOS One, found that doses in the 80 mg/kg range could impair brain cells to such a degree that learning is impacted. This research seems to suggest that ketamine could kill off or derail the brain and make clear thinking impossible. Teens with this issue could find it hard to participate in school, as their brain cells may not be up to academic tasks.

Similarly, researchers have uncovered a link between ketamine abuse and bladder health. In a study in BJU International of 214 active ketamine users and 104 prior ketamine abusers, researchers found that bladder capacity and bladder emptying ability were reduced in people who took the drug.

This is another problem that teens may not notice, particularly if they’re spending most of their free time under the influence of drugs. Bladders that don’t empty properly can become organs riddled with disease, and in time, those organs can shut down altogether.

Possible Solutions to Ketamine Abuse

While it’s reasonable to hope that the government will ban ketamine altogether, it does have some important uses. Veterinarians rely on this medication to help them deal with their very ill furry and feathered patients, and these medical professionals would likely be quite upset if that drug solution was no longer available to them.

Human researchers are still looking for other uses for ketamine in human medicine. For example, the U.S. National Institutes of Health is promoting a study in which researchers hope to use ketamine to assist teens with depression that hasn’t responded to other forms of treatment. For these researchers, ketamine could be the solution to a very serious problem.

This likely means that ketamine won’t disappear from the illicit drug market. And that means dealers will still be able to steal it or somehow acquire it in order to sell it to teens.

Police officers in New Jersey also point out, in an article in, that ketamine addiction can’t be solved with an arrest. The number of teens abusing ketamine is on the rise in this area, the officers say, but arrests don’t seem to have the ability to stem the drug-using tide.

Stressed teen sitting against wall in a school hallway.

Teens often believe that they are immune from the consequences others face. They just don’t think they’ll get arrested for their choices, and they don’t believe that anything they do will impact their life for a long period of time. That means an arrest for drugs may help the one teen that’s arrested, but it may not have a ripple effect to that person’s peers or friends. Teens just don’t think that way.

If legislation won’t help and arrests won’t deter, that means parents have a vital role to play in beating back a ketamine abuse issue. That work should start just as soon as ketamine is found and the teen admits to the use. A tough talk about the drug, and how long the teen has been taking that drug, can give parents the clues they need in order to choose the right course of treatment.

If the teen is just dabbling in ketamine abuse, perhaps a short course of outpatient treatment will help that young person to make better future choices. But if the teen has been abusing ketamine regularly for weeks or even months, that short course of treatment may not be enough.

A teen inpatient addiction program provides a comprehensive course of care that touches an addiction on all sides. Teens get medical help, counseling, lifestyle coaching, support, nutritional help, and alternative therapies. They emerge transformed and sober. And that transformation starts with one call. If you are ready to get your teen help for addiction and start them on the road to recovery, contact Next Generation Village today.

Medical Disclaimer: Next Generation Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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