Dissociative Anesthetics

Dissociative anesthetics or dissociative drugs are a class of hallucinogen known for altering or distorting people’s sensory perceptions (e.g., sight, sound, sense of time) and for making them feel detached from the reality. People who take dissociative drugs may feel separated from the world around them, the environment, and partially or completely detached from their own senses, which can be a terrifying experience for some.

Under the influence of dissociative drugs, the users often report rapid and intense emotional swings, seeing images, feeling sensations, and hearing sounds that may seem real. Though the exact mechanism by which dissociative drugs work is not known, research suggests these drugs work by temporarily disrupting communication between the neurotransmitter systems throughout the body that regulate sensory perception, mood, body temperature, and muscle control, among others.

How do dissociative drugs work?

Researchers believe that dissociative anesthetics work by disrupting the activity of glutamate on certain types of receptors of nerve cells throughout the brain. Glutamate is a brain chemical important for memory and learning, perceiving pain and emotional processes. Dopamine, another brain chemical that plays an important role in pleasure and reward, is responsible for the “high” produced by addictive drugs and is also affected by dissociative drugs like phencyclidine (PCP).

Effects of dissociative drugs

The effects of dissociative anesthetics depend on the dose and the particular drug taken by the user. The effects are unpredictable and are seen within minutes of taking the drugs.

Following are some general symptoms produced by dissociative drugs taken in low-to-moderate doses.

  • Visual and sound distortions
  • Changes in a person’s sense of time
  • Hallucinations
  • Numbness
  • Dizziness, nausea and vomiting
  • Increased blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and respiration
  • Disorientation

When taken in higher doses, dissociative drugs have the ability to produce more unpredictable effects. Following are some of the general symptoms produced by dissociative drugs taken in high doses.

  • Hallucinations
  • Memory loss
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Extreme panic
  • Physical and psychological distress
  • Aggression

People who take dissociative drugs with alcohol or other CNS depressants run the risk of experiencing fatal respiratory problems that can eventually result in death.

Types of dissociative drugs

The most common types of dissociative drugs include ketamine, PCP, salvia, and dextromethorphan (DXM).

Ketamine, also referred to as special K, super K, Cat Valium, and K, is a dissociative anesthetic that is commonly used in human and veterinary medicine for its pain-relieving and amnesic properties. People who take ketamine can find it difficult to move, and can experience sedation and memory loss, along with other primary effects like feelings of detachment, hallucinations and sensory distortions.

PCP, also known as angel dust, is a synthetic dissociative anesthetic that can be snorted, smoked, ingested or injected. PCP users can become violent or aggressive, or experience psychotic symptoms when they take moderate-to-high doses of PCP. Similar to ketamine, people who abuse PCP can also experience major problems like serious respiratory distress and cardiovascular effects.

Salvia or S. Divinorum produces short-lived, intense psychedelic and subjective effects. Some of the common side effects of salvia include loss of coordination, slurred speech, sensations and hallucinations. The drug works by attaching itself to and activating the kappa opiate receptors (KOR) that are involved in human perception, pain awareness, consciousness, and mood, and is considered a KOR agonist.

DXM, a psychoactive drug often used for cough and cold, can lead to serious side effects when abused. Following are some of the effects of DXM.

  • Euphoria
  • Slurred speech
  • Increased blood pressure, body temperature and heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Paranoia
  • Problem in movement

While DXM can be safely used for suppressing a cough, taking large doses of the drug for its dissociative effects can be extremely dangerous. People who take DXM can develop other health-related issues and are at an increased risk of experiencing central nervous system and cardiovascular problems.

Ketamine abuse: Additional effects

Ketamine abuse can produce serious physical and psychological effects. Following are some of the short-term effects of ketamine abuse.

  • Coordination problems
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Lethargy
  • Slowed respiration or fatal difficulties with breathing
  • Violence
  • Chest pain
  • Terrors

A “K-hole,” a terrifying experience in which people feel almost completely detached from their senses, similar to a bad LSD trip, can also occur among people who abuse higher doses of ketamine. Although ketamine overdose deaths are rare, it is possible to overdose on the drug.

PCP abuse: Additional effects

PCP produces a range of physical and psychological effects, many of which are dose-dependent. Following are some of the additional physical and psychological effects of PCP abuse.

  • Intense euphoria
  • Paranoia
  • Impaired motor skills
  • Sensitivity to pain or touch
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Stupor
  • Coma
  • Seizures
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure and respiration.

The psychological effects produced by PCP can lead to accidental deaths, suicides and homicides. Taking high doses of PCP or overdosing on it can be fatal.

Dissociative drug abuse: Health consequences

Use of dissociative anesthetics can cause problems with motor skills, cognition, memory, and learning and thinking ability. People who take these drugs may experience sleep problems like insomnia and other mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia, including paranoia and psychosis. Dissociative drugs can also produce potentially fatal respiratory problems, high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat.

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Dissociative drug abuse: Withdrawal symptoms

People who abuse dissociative anesthetics may develop drug tolerance, when they would need a higher dose of the drug to feel its effects. When a person tries to stop taking dissociative drugs or reduces the use, he or she is at a risk of experiencing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, such as chills, drug cravings, hallucinations, and others. The withdrawal symptoms may depend on the substance abused.

An effective step to mitigate the effects of drug withdrawal is undergoing a supervised dissociative anesthetic detox treatment. While a medically supervised detox program helps flush out the toxins from the body and deal with the drug withdrawal symptoms, addiction treatment therapies help patients learn effective coping skills to live without drugs after the treatment.

Dissociative drug addiction treatment

An addiction to dissociative drugs happens when a user continues to take the drug without the consent or knowledge of his/her physician. The effects of dissociative drugs widely depend on the variety of the drug, thus, those addicted to them will benefit from the treatment programs that are geared specifically toward their drug of abuse. The prolonged use of dissociative drugs can produce tolerance and lead to substance use disorder along with uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

A comprehensive dissociative drug addiction treatment program depends on the drug of abuse, frequency and term of addiction. It consists of a combination of medically supervised detoxification treatment and intense behavioral therapies.

Why choose Sovereign Health?

Substance abuse early in life can result in a number of problems among young people. Teens who get addicted to substances like drugs and alcohol require a treatment according to their needs. A comprehensive treatment for substance addiction for teens must address a teen’s emotional, physical and social needs.

A dually licensed and Joint Commission-accredited center, Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego is dedicated to providing the latest and cutting-edge treatment to all our young patients. A safe and secure facility with friendly and welcoming professionals, our team of trained clinicians and psychiatrists incorporate holistic and strength-based approaches to treat adolescents ages 12 to 17 for mental health disorders, co-occurring disorders, and alcohol and/or drug abuse and addiction. At Rancho San Diego, the programs for dissociative drug abuse and addiction include ketamine addiction treatment that stresses on a tailored and holistic treatment approach to assist teens in overcoming their substance use disorder.

For more information about our top-notch addiction treatment programs or to locate the finest dissociative anesthetic detox centers, near you, call our 24/7 helpline number and speak to our admission specialists. You can even chat online with our representatives for further assistance.

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