Ketamine is a drug that has grown more and more into the UK’s public consciousness, and unfortunately, it’s becoming known as recreational popularity – despite it being a high-risk substance when used in this context. The drug is being used by younger people in club settings whilst being trialled as a substance to help people with treatment-resistant depression.

The link between drugs and mental health is clear. In the latest government report, over a third of people who entered treatment also had a mental health need – requiring dual diagnosis treatment.

Because of its effects, questions have come up about ketamine and permanent psychosis. Mental health issues, especially psychosis, are hard to subjects definitively explain – but the questions are there that need to be answered.

Can ketamine cause permanent psychosis? How? What are the signs?

Knowing what ketamine can do to you, what psychosis is, and the available help are all things you should know if you are worried about these problems affecting your life.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a dissociative anaesthetic drug. It was first synthesised in the 1960s and has been used in medical and veterinary circles ever since. In a medical setting, it comes in the form of a clear liquid but on the street you buy it as a powder.

The effects of ketamine – making you feel detached, chilled out, alter your perception, and hallucinate – made it popular as a post-party drug. Ketamine first appeared on the UK scene around 20 years ago and has grown in popularity – shifting from the post-party atmosphere to the club.

With this rise in recreational use has been the rise in its therapeutic use. In the last decade, research has shown how useful the drug is at combating treatment-resistant depression, as more popular push for it to become available via the NHS.

Understanding Psychosis

Psychosis is an umbrella term for a collection of symptoms that leads a person to disconnect from reality. This disconnection means that a person perceives reality in a different way to everyone around them. People with psychosis may experience things that aren’t real and hold on to false beliefs, no matter what others say or think to disprove them.

Common symptoms of psychosis include delusions, hallucinations (visual, auditory, smell), and disorganised thinking and speech.

Psychosis can also be a temporary affliction. Many people have a single psychotic episode that comes on suddenly and goes after less than a month. After that, they may never experience the symptoms again.

Permanent psychosis is when symptoms remain and will worsen without proper management.

Ketamine’s Effects on the Brain

How ketamine interacts with your brain explains the effects it has on you – and why it has become more popular in the mental health treatment world.

Ketamine can increase glutamate levels which is an excitatory neurotransmitter, sending messages between neurons and is also responsible for learning and memory. The drug also increases the release of dopamine and serotonin – responsible for pleasure, arousal and cognitive function.

These changes in brain chemistry are thought to be the cause of the short-term effects of ketamine – dissociation, hallucinations and detached feelings.

A review by the University of Exeter, looking at studies into ketamine, has said that in the short-term ketamine can have a fast-acting and relief from depression and other mental health issues. The long-term effects of ketamine on your mental health are potentially negative. A severe addiction to the drug will result in a declining emotional state and worsen any issues you have.

Can Ketamine Cause Permanent Psychosis?

There is no debate that some of the effects of ketamine mirror psychotic symptoms. The debate is whether ketamine can be the root cause of psychosis.

A study by King’s College London in 2020 found that ketamine did induce psychosis symptoms in healthy volunteers and concluded that while the drug may be useful to treat depression, those already with psychotic symptoms should be wary.

In 2023, a study published in Cell Reports reported that ketamine decreases dopamine in the midbrain, which could explain why long-term users of the drug show psychotic symptoms. Another study at the University of Groningen in 2021 stated that ketamine does not exacerbate psychosis risk.

The point is that there are no clear answers. The widely held belief is that for drugs to trigger psychosis, you likely have to be already predisposed to it. Factors that increase the risk of permanent psychosis occurring include genetics, pre-existing mental health problems, long-term use of ketamine and the amount taken.

Signs and Symptoms of Ketamine-Induced Psychosis

When it comes to ketamine and permanent psychosis, early intervention can make all the difference. If left untreated, both the addiction and psychosis can have a long-lasting impact on your life. Knowing what symptoms to look out for can help you get the professional support you need before the situation gets really bad.

Everyone is different, though, and some signs of addiction and psychosis may not show up. It’s important to have a clearer picture of what these issues look like so you can make the best decisions.

Behavioural Signs:

  • Disorganised speech and behaviour
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of motivation
  • Dangerous behaviour
  • More aggressive
  • Catatonia

Cognitive and Emotional Signs:

  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Confusion
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Mood swings

Physical Signs:

  • Lack of facial expression
  • Lack of hygiene
  • Slurred speech
  • Poor sleeping patterns
  • Reduced speech
  • Redness of the skin

Treatment and Management of Ketamine-Induced Psychosis

If you begin to experience psychosis symptoms, you should immediately see a doctor. You will be referred to an early intervention team, a group of mental health professionals who can help you.

You will probably be given antipsychotic medication to help with your symptoms and attend CBT therapy sessions to make sense of your experiences.

Ketamine rehab treatment is important to deal with your addiction – and help lessen your psychosis.

If dealing with permanent psychosis, long-term management is your only option. Having a support system around you is important when it comes to psychosis and ketamine addiction. Rehabs offers aftercare that includes group meetings. Attending these types of meetings for both addiction and psychosis can help you feel less isolated and build up a strong support system.

How to Prevent Ketamine-Induced Psychosis

Ketamine leading to permanent psychosis is an issue you should know about as you cannot predict it happening. When it happens, it is too late to prevent it. There are things you can do to lessen this outcome and also not need to go to drug rehab.

  • Education: become educated about ketamine and permanent psychosis. Organisations such as Mind have a lot of information and resources that can help you.
  • Support: learn about the support available for you if you are at risk
  • Stop recreational use: curb your ketamine use if addiction has not yet taken hold
  • Harm reduction strategies: practise safe ketamine use, know the risks, reach out to professionals for help

Find Support for Ketamine Abuse

Useful in some settings but dangerous in others. The question remains – can ketamine cause permanent psychosis?

The answer isn’t clear cut, and rather than cause psychosis, it may likely uncover an existing issue with overall mental health. The important thing to remember is that ketamine is a dangerous drug if abused. Getting treatment and attending counselling and support groups are essential to help you deal with ketamine addiction.

Addiction Advocates can help you deal with your ketamine abuse by helping you gain access to expert treatment. For more information about us, call now at 08000126088.


  • [1] ketamine decreases dopamine in the midbrain -
  • [2] Mind -