Is Ketamine an Opioid?

Written by Will Long

Ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic drug, has recently gained attention for its potential in treating severe depression. However, ketamine has also become a drug of abuse, leading to addiction in some individuals.

Understanding Opioids

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes prescription painkillers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl, as well as illicit substances like heroin. These drugs work by binding to opioid receptors in the brain and body, reducing the perception of pain and producing feelings of euphoria. Opioids are commonly prescribed for acute and chronic pain management, such as post-surgical pain or cancer-related pain.

However, opioids also carry a high risk of addiction and overdose. As tolerance develops, individuals may require higher doses to achieve the same effects, leading to physical dependence. Opioid overdose can cause respiratory depression, coma, and death.

Ketamine bottles
Ketamine bottles

Is Ketamine an Opioid?

Despite its pain-relieving properties, ketamine is not an opioid. Ketamine belongs to a different class of drugs called NMDA receptor antagonists. It works by blocking the activity of glutamate, a neurotransmitter involved in pain signaling, learning, and memory. By inhibiting glutamate activity, ketamine produces sedation, pain relief, and dissociative effects, causing users to feel detached from their surroundings.

Differences in Medical Uses

While both drugs are used for pain management, their medical applications differ. Opioids are widely prescribed for acute and chronic pain, while ketamine is primarily used as an anesthetic in surgical settings. Ketamine is particularly useful for patients with a history of opioid abuse or those who have developed a tolerance to opioids.

Recently, ketamine has shown promise as a rapid-acting treatment for major depression and suicidal ideation. In controlled medical settings, low doses can quickly alleviate depressive symptoms, even in patients who have not responded to traditional antidepressants. This off-label use of ketamine is being studied as a potential breakthrough in treating severe depression.

Risks and Side Effects

Although ketamine is not an opioid, it still carries significant risks when abused. At high doses, it can cause dangerous drops in heart rate and blood pressure, as well as respiratory depression. Combining it with other sedating substances like alcohol or benzodiazepines further increases the risk of coma or death.

The side effects can include confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, delusions, nausea, vomiting, bladder problems, memory loss, anxiety, and panic attacks. Long-term ketamine abuse may lead to cognitive impairments and psychological dependence.


Signs of Addiction

Signs that someone may have a ketamine addiction include continuing to use ketamine despite negative consequences, needing increasing amounts to feel effects, spending excessive time obtaining and using ketamine, neglecting responsibilities due to use, and experiencing cravings and withdrawal when not using.

Treating Addiction at JourneyPure At The River

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, seeking professional help is crucial. At JourneyPure At The River, we offer evidence-based addiction treatment tailored to each client’s unique needs. Our compassionate team provides medically-supervised detox, individual and group therapy, and comprehensive aftercare planning to support long-term recovery. If you or someone you know is battling an addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Contact JourneyPure At The River today at 615-410-9260 to learn more about our personalized treatment programs and take the first step toward a healthier, drug-free future.