Anesthetic procedures help perform clinical interventions and procedures in a painless manner. Medications administered for anesthetic purposes sedate patients by bringing them to a trance-type of condition. Such drugs are widely used in clinical settings like hospitals. There are many types of anesthetic medication; among them, dissociative genre of anesthetics can make you dissociate from your ambience and feelings. You may feel as if you are removed away from your body which further helps to numb pain and other discomforts. Ketamine is a medication which belongs to the dissociative genre of anesthetic drugs. Its use may lead to a few undesired side effects and adverse reactions. It pays to know about the common side effects this drug may cause.

Drugs administered for the short term loss of awareness or feelings for clinical / surgical purposes are broadly categorized as anesthetics. These drugs help relax your muscles, induce memory loss as well as numb painful feelings. Such drugs help in performing surgical procedures and medical interventions without discomforts such as pain. These drugs form a numbing sensation which can lead to sedative effects or can make you fully unconscious by suppressing the normal functions of your central nervous system (CNS).

Of these different types of outcomes, localized anesthetic effects are targeted towards a particular part of your body. Here, a set of nerves in the periphery of an organ are numbed; for instance, areas surrounding a tooth can be numbed for a dental intervention. On the other hand, drugs that cause sedation aim to control nerves to a certain extent; this helps in the reduction of stressful conditions and mood swings, including anxieties. Sedative drugs can also stop formation of memories with very minimal or no effects on your consciousness.

Drugs used for generalized anesthesia can fully suppress your nerves. These meds can completely numb your sensations and make you unconscious. Based on the type of clinical intervention, an appropriate type of anesthetic drug is chosen to bring about numbing effects – i.e., local, sedative or generalized anesthesia. Your health condition plays an influential role in determining the type of drug as well as methods of administering it. In this milieu, ketamine is an anesthetic drug chiefly used for avoiding discomforts and pains during clinical procedures as well as surgical interventions.

Side effects of ketamine

Ketamine is usually administered through an injection either through a blood vessel or a muscle. It is often given through a single dose. Hence, there is no daily medication plan or subsequent dosages. Most common reactions or side effects of this drug include being in a confused state of mind or living in a dream-type setting. In some instances, a few people have also reported discomforts such as being lightheaded, loss of control of bladder, traces of blood in urine, painful spells of urination, frequent urges to urinate, etc. You may also feel as if you are going to faint or pass out; in some instances, you may experience involuntary twitching of muscles.
Other common side effects include doubling of eyesight, excessive levels of drowsiness, nausea or other abdominal discomforts as well as feeling very dizzy. In some people it has also led to sleep-based disorders as well as a marked drop in appetite. If you are witnessing adverse effects such as persistent spells of weird dreams, acute levels of confusion, being in persistent spell of fear or unrealistic thoughts, it is strongly recommended to talk to a qualified medical practitioner.

A few serious side effects of ketamine

In most circumstances, this drug can cause an out-of-body experience as if you are away from your body. There is also an altered perception of reality and this can lead to weird dreams or thoughts. Serious side effects – which however do not occur very often – that are caused by ketamine include hypertension (increase in blood pressure), slowdown of respiratory cycles or shallow breathing. In some people, adverse side effects like formation of ulcers, gastrointestinal discomforts such as pain in lower abdomen, discomforts in your bladder, renal problems as well as memory lapses. Your doctor will advise not to take alcohol. Co-administration of this drug with alcohol can result in acute levels of unconsciousness, which can also lead to fatal outcomes. Mental conditions such as depression, anxiety or mood related disorders have also been witnessed in a few users.

Other likely side effects of ketamine

In general, you are advised to stay watchful of a few other side effects like bradycardia and / or erratic heartbeats which may also show up along with changes in your blood pressure level (either as a hypertensive or hypotensive condition). You may also develop a few eye-related disorders such as doubling of eyesight, involuntary twitching of muscles of your eyes, a marginal increase in the pressure of fluids in your eyes, etc. Some people have also witnessed breathing difficulties such as obstruction of airways, spasms in your throat, etc. If you notice one or more of these side effects, it is highly recommended to reach out to a qualified medical practitioner without much delay.

While being infused into a blood vessel (vein), the process may take nearly 45 minutes. In most cases, a numbing sensation may start even before the infusion is over. The drug’s effects may take a few hours to go away; however, in a few people, it has taken several days or even weeks for the sedative effects to disappear in full.

Ketamine for treatment of mental conditions

Many clinical studies have drawn attention to mood-boosting capabilities of ketamine. Usage of this drug to prevent suicidal ideas is an active area of interest and is under continued medical research. This drug is however not recommended for treating mental conditions. In the form of a spray (used in nasal airways), this drug has the approval of the food and drug administration (FDA) for treating mood-related conditions such as depression. However, this spray is used only onto adults; especially, for those who have limited support from conventional antidepressants.

Despite being approved, the spray form is administered strictly under clinical supervision. Also, a careful scrutiny under the care of a qualified healthcare professional is needed for at least 3 hours soon after using the spray. The spray form runs the risk of being abused and may lead to disorders such as inability to stay focused or pay needful attention. Also, you need to remember that the other forms of ketamine – such as, disintegrating pill (i.e., lozenge) or an injection are not recommended for mental conditions. You may also need to know that the spray – used through nasal route – is always accompanied by an orally-administered antidepressant.

Likely interactions with other medications

It is not a good practice to administer ketamine with drugs such as narcotics as well as barbiturates. Of these drugs, barbiturates are used for the treatment of convulsions as well as insomnia or other such sleep-based problems. It is a safe practice to inform your medical team about all the other drugs you are presently taking. The treating physician will advise you to make a list of all such currently taken medications. While making this list, ensure to add over the counter meds, prescription drugs, herbal supplements and other dietary aids, if any. Once you have submitted the list to your treating doctor, it is unsafe to change the dosage levels or stop taking the drugs featured in this list.

Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers

Ketamine is likely to harm your fetus. Hence, it is not recommended for women who are pregnant. Also, if you are planning to become pregnant or if you are already pregnant, you need to inform your doctor about it. Such information can enable your medical team to opt for safer substitutes or other alternatives.

Women who are breastfeeding are recommended to stay away from ketamine. This is largely because – the side effects of this drug on women nursing their baby are not fully known. Clinical research and studies are actively underway to understand the impact of this drug on breastfeeding women. It is important to tell your surgical team that you are breastfeeding; this will help them develop a safer anesthetic plan prior to your surgical procedure or a clinical intervention.

Safe dosage levels of ketamine

You need to always remember that ketamine has to be used under by a qualified doctor. Initial dosage value is often a very low value. The first dose is usually administered at 1 mg per kg. Your medical team knows the dosage level and the resultant period of sedation or numbness. For example, a dose of say, 2 milligram per kg can lead to an anesthetic effect for nearly 10 minutes. Also, a sizable dose – of say, 10 mg per kg can yield more than 20 minutes of deeper anesthetic effects.

The discomforts listed above do not form an entire list of possible side effects. It is quite likely to experience newer discomforts and adverse side effects which are not listed here. Once you witness such unlisted side effects, it is a safe practice to consult your surgical team immediately. Those living in the US can contact 911 or rush to a poison control center near your place. If you are a resident of Canada, it is highly recommended to establish contact with Health Canada or a poison control unit located in the province you live.

Risks of abuse of ketamine

A few people may develop excessive dependence on ketamine. Over a period of time, it may turn into tolerance – especially, if the drug is taken too often and for a longer duration. Abuse of ketamine can lead to very adverse side effects such as difficulties to sleep, weird dreams, fear psychosis, anxieties, an altered sense of reality, etc. Once you have developed tolerance to this drug, a sudden discontinuation can trigger withdrawal symptoms; the typical side effects of withdrawal include anxieties, restlessness, being in a nervous state of mind, insomnia or other sleeping disorders, etc.

In sum, ketamine is an anesthetic medication. It is mainly administered to avoid pains experienced during surgical interventions as well as other invasive or a few non-invasive procedures. Common side effects include being confused, dream-kind of living, doubled vision, drowsiness, abdominal discomforts, dizziness, etc. In some people it has also led to sleep-based disorders as well as a drop in appetite. Upon experiencing such adverse effects for an extended period of time, consult a qualified medical practitioner on an emergency basis.

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