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Substance Use: Ketamine

Accordion Content

  • Ketamine functions in the brain as a "dissociative anesthetic," where dissociative indicates a shutting off of the brain from the body rather than simply pain blocking. Specifically, ketamine blocks the brain’s glutamate receptor, which when normally functioning accept glutamate increasing cell activity and brain function. Interference with glutamate receptors results in decreased interpretation of data within the brain and temporary shut down in certain parts. Ultimately with a high enough dosage, these physiological effects produce what is commonly referred to as the “K-hole.” The mind temporarily becomes unaware of physical sensations while imagination and mental awareness are heightened resulting in a hallucinogenic state. It is virtually impossible to move, hence the reason it has also been considered a "date rape" drug.

    At lower dosages, users feel slightly "trippy" and "out-of-body" with some numbness. Overall, however, the effects are more stimulatory in nature, often placing the drug with ecstasy as a "party drug" or "club drug".

    After taking ketamine, the effects come on quickly within 10-20 minutes, beginning with the inability to move and the approach to an out-of-body experience. The peak is accompanied by hallucinations and a sense of incredible insight and consciousness disconnected from the body. All of these effects are dosage dependent. The length of the effects, however, is not dependent on the dosage. The trip will usually last from 45 to 90 minutes with the comedown accompanied by drowsiness that is typical of any anesthetic. Users may also feel a bit disoriented or achy afterwards. It is rather easy to build resistance to ketamine, and for some chronic users, the effects will never be as intense as they were when the user first started.

    Overdosing on ketamine is not extremely common but does occur. Danger still exists when taking high doses in an unsafe setting due to the respiratory, paralyzing, and circulatory effects. When the dose is regulated, as in medical practices, the dissociative effects are experienced while respiration and circulation remain at a normal level. At high enough doses, the respiratory and circulatory systems may be depressed which could be fatal, especially if ketamine has been mixed with another depressant. When using ketamine, some people become nauseous and vomit. If this occurs prior to entering the K-hole, it is possible that someone may choke on his own vomit. There also exists the potential of falling down or getting injured. It is recommended that when using enough K to enter the "K-hole" to either take the drug within the safety of one’s home or to be accompanied by a responsible, non-using friend.

    Ketamine is reportedly not physically addictive, but some people find it habit forming due to its effects. Studies have shown that long term use of ketamine may result in brain damage, but those results have been inconclusive or inconsistent.

  • As an alternative to PCP, ketamine was introduced in 1962 as a safer anesthetic. In the Vietnam War, it was applied to American soldiers but was later avoided in the medical field due to the uncomfortable “out-of-body” experience that it entailed.

    In 1965, the first psychedelic use of ketamine took place, throughout the rest of the century, recreational use of ketamine increased. It moved into the rave and gay dance club scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s, while it is still only legally used for veterinary use and some medical practices. More recently, ketamine is being explored as a treatment for depression that is otherwise resistent to conventional forms of treatment.

  • Ketamine, an anesthetic used for humans and veterinary purposes, exists in three main forms. The first is a cocaine-like powder that is white. As the most common form of ketamine, the white powder is favored by beginning users as it allows for easy control over the amount taken. It is produced when the liquid is baked to get rid of the solvent leaving the powder behind.

    Ketamine exists in a tablet form as well, often being sold as a form of ecstasy under the same logo and name. The pills are usually diluted and cut with stimulants like ephedrine, leading to a mildly speedy, trippy effect.

    The third form is liquid ketamine, which is the form intended for hospital and veterinary use. The bottles are labeled as Ketaset, Ketalar, or Ketavet.

    Ketamine is also commonly referred to as "K," "Ket," "Special K," and "Vitamin K."

  • Snorting ("taking bumps"): 5-10 minutes to get high; high doesn’t last as long as when orally taken, but you can use less to get high than when taking it orally.

    Swallowing (may be added to beverage): longer high (up to 4 hours), but have to use more than when snorting; greater numbing and sedating effects; harder to move or walk; reportedly fewer out-of-body experiences than with snorting.

    Injecting (intramuscular): 2-4 minutes to get high and effects last up to an hour; effects are more powerful than snorting or swallowing; dangerous if dose is injected too quickly (but less dangerous than intravenous injection).

    Injecting (intravenous): extremely uncommon and strongly advised against; much quicker onset than even intramuscular injection (only 10-15 seconds); due to the quick onset, there is a more sudden and dramatic drop in respiratory depression, which is extremely dangerous in cases where the dose is injected too quickly.

  • Alcohol: Extremely dangerous, since both are respiratory depressants. Mixing ketamine and alcohol may also result in dangerous levels of motor and cognitive impairment as well as dissociative or psychotic experiences and potential for seizures.

    Heroin: Extremely dangerous, for the same reason as alcohol; both are respiratory depressants

    Valium: Extremely dangerous due to sedative effects.

    GHB: Also extremely dangerous, as both are depressants

  • Within the gay community, ketamine has increasingly become part of the party scene due to its dissociative effects. Often, it is combined with other drugs such as crystal, cocaine, E, and even heroin.

    When ketamine is used to induce a state of euphoria, similar to using E, people’s sexual inhibitions may be lowered, leading to more sex/unsafe sex. The potential of spreading HIV and STD’s increases greatly under the influence. Make sure you keep condoms handy before you use ketamine, or any drug.

    For information about treatment and resources for help with an addiction please check out our resources page.