Dissociative Anesthetics

Dissociative anesthetics are a hallucinogenic type of drug. While many hallucinogenic drugs cause hallucinations, that’s not always so for dissociative drugs. These drugs are known more for how they alter a person’s perception and can cause out-of-body experiences.

The most common dissociative anesthetic drugs that are abused are:

  • PCP: Short for phencyclidine, PCP was originally created as an intravenous anesthetic. However, due to its side effects, medical professions stopped using it. Now it is made illegally, and comes in powder, pill or liquid form. It has many street names, including angel dust and PeaCe Pill.
  • Ketamine: Primarily used in veterinary medicine, ketamine first created as an alternative to PCP. Due to side effects however, it was regulated to animals as an anesthetic. Ketamine goes by many names, including “K,” “Special K” or “Vitamin K.” It also used as a date-rape drug.
  • Dextromethorphan (DXM): An ingredient often found in cough medicines, at correctly prescribed doses, this drug is safe. However, when taken in large doses, it can produce a dissociative experience.

How Dissociative Drugs Work

Dissociative drugs work by affecting the brain chemical glutamate, which is responsible for learning, memory, emotion and pain perception. PCP also affects the brain’s reward center, causing a dopamine rush that gives people a euphoric high. The side effects of dissociative anesthetics can range based on how much a person takes. In general, when a person takes a low dose, they can experience:

  • Sedation
  • Euphoria
  • Trance-like state
  • Dissociation from environment
  • Aggression
  • Amnesia
  • Slurred speech
  • Agitation/Violence
  • Dilated pupils
  • Involuntary muscle movements
  • Numbness
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate

The side effects of higher doses of dissociative anesthetic drugs include:

  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Extreme panic
  • Fear
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Exaggerated strength
  • Aggression
  • No reaction to pain
  • Blood pressure, heart rate, respiration and body temperature increasing to dangerous levels

Dissociative drugs also have long-term side effects, which include:

  • Speech problems
  • Memory loss
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Depression and suicidal thoughts

Side Effects of Using A Dissociative Drug

Each dissociative drug also has specific side effects. These include:

  • PCP: Muscle contractions that are so violent, they can lead to bone fractures; muscle cell breakdown that can damage kidneys; coma; hyperthermia; death usually by accidental fatal injury.
  • Ketamine: People have such an extreme feeling of detachment from their bodies that it is described as a “near-death” experience. This is called the “K-hole.”
  • DXM: At high dosages can cause respiratory distress and seizures. Cough syrup also contains antihistamines, which can increase a person’s heart rate.

Like many drugs, the “positive” effects of a drug lessen over time, which can lead a person down the path to abuse and addiction. They may take more and more of the drug to feel the same effect (or even anything at all) when they become addicted. This addiction will normally cause the user to compulsively seek out the drug, and their whole life revolves around it.

When a person starts abusing the drug or becomes addicted, they need to seek medical treatment.

Treatment For Dissociative Anesthetics

Whether a person needs ketamine treatment, treatment for PCP or dextromethorphan addiction treatment, detox and therapy are the main treatment options. Detox, specifically medical detox, is the process by which a person stops using a drug while their withdrawal symptoms are treated by medical professionals. The withdrawal symptoms for PCP, ketamine and DXM vary, but can include:

  • PCP: Weight loss, speech problems, low energy; dangerous effects, such as seizures, coma or death
  • Ketamine: Agitation; confusion; psychosis, insomnia; shakes; fatigue; nausea; rage; loss of motor skills
  • DXM: Insomnia; restlessness; depression; diarrhea

Sometimes these drugs can have long-term side effects, such as memory loss and depression, even if they haven’t taken the drug in a while. For long-time users, there may be permanent health effects, such as nerve cell damage.

After detox, a person should then go into therapy. Addiction is a psychological disease, and a person needs to learn how to manage its effects. Whether it’s individual therapy or group therapy, a person learns the nature of addiction, how certain thought patterns can lead to certain behaviors, and the skills they need to avoid relapse and live a drug-free life. After their initial treatment, a person should then continue to receive supportive care, such as a 12-step program, to help them on the long road to recovery.

It’s also important that a person be treated for any co-occurring illnesses such as addiction and depression. Without treatment for the secondary illness, it can make it harder for a person to fully recover, putting them at risk for relapse.

Treatment For Dissociative Anesthetics At Sovereign Health

At Sovereign Health, we offer world-class ketamine, dextromethorphan or PCP treatment options. Our focus is on personalized care that addresses our patient’s needs and treatment for any co-occurring illnesses they may have. If you or your loved one are struggling from dissociative drug abuse or addiction and want treatment, contact our 24/7 helpline today.


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