Drug and Alcohol

Ketamine: Your Ultimate Guide

Ketamine: What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a powerful anesthetic often abused as a club drug. Long-term ketamine addiction can be physically harmful. Learn more in our blog.

Ketamine is a sedative used by clinicians to induce unconsciousness. Among the side effects are anesthesia and pain relief. The medicine is a non-narcotic Category III controlled substance approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use solely as general anesthesia.

Certain people abuse Ketamine because of its hallucinogenic properties. In addition, due to its ability to tranquilize, paralyze, and induce amnesia, many people use it as a date rape drug. Although Ketamine is safely used by professionals, it is a dangerous, addictive drug when used recreationally.

By the Numbers:

According to a 2021 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, casual ketamine usage and accessibility have increased in recent years, even though it remains a rare medicine used by less than 1% of persons in the United States.

What Is Ketamine? 

Ketamine, sometimes known as Ketalar, is a dissociative sedative. Doctors use it to create anesthesia for non-muscle relaxing surgical procedures. Dissociation refers to the sensation of being separated, whereas general anesthesia refers to a numbing condition. Ketamine, like LSD and PCP (angel dust), can produce hallucinations. Illusions and hallucinations are perceptual distortions of speech and images.

Street names for ketamine include:

  • Special La Coke

  • Cat valium

  • Special K

  • Vitamin K

  • Super acid

  • Jet

  • Kit kat

  • K

  • Purple

What Does Ketamine Look Like? 

Ketamine is typically sold as a translucent, unscented solution or a white or off-white powder.

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Is Ketamine an Opioid?

No. Ketamine is not derived from natural opioids, and it's not a synthetic version of an opioid drug, either. However, recent studies show that ketamine seems to work on opioid receptors.

That said, ketamine isn't an opioid. Researchers call it an NMDA receptor antagonist, which means it bonds to different areas of nerve cells that opioids do.

Is It Illegal to Use Ketamine? 

Ketamine is a controlled substance, and recreational use is unlawful. Ketamine is a prohibited drug. In addition, the Controlled Substances Act classifies it as a Category III substance. Category III pharmaceuticals, such as hydrocodone and anabolic steroids, have a lower addiction risk than Schedule I or Schedule II drugs.

Misuse of Schedule III medications, on the other hand, may result in temporary or permanent reliance on the substance.

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Ketamine Effects: What Does Ketamine Feel Like?

At prescribed doses, ketamine can make a person feel some of the following effects:

  • Drowsiness

  • Vision problems like double vision

  • Vomiting

  • Dizziness

  • Slight anxiety

  • Nausea

The Medical Uses of Ketamine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has permitted medical organizations and clinicians to use ketamine purely for sedative reasons. Nonetheless, the medicine has several off-label benefits, which are detailed below:

General Anesthetic

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), practitioners use Ketamine to produce anesthetic effects in patients alone or in combination with other sedatives such as N2O or nitrous gas. Physicians use it in critical care units to promote temporary relaxation when:

  • Treating severe injuries

  • Repair of displaced joints

  • Tending injuries in uncooperative individuals, such as minors

  • To manage distress and pain

Ketamine in small doses is used to alleviate symptoms such as:

  • Trauma

  • Contusions

  • Gastrointestinal pains

  • Discomfort in the shoulders or legs

  • Muscle pain in the back

Treatment for Epileptic Seizures

A person is said to be in status epilepticus or an epileptic seizure if they have a stroke lasting longer than five minutes or multiple episodes within five minutes. Refractory Status Epilepticus, or RSE, is a kind of epilepsy that does not respond to standard antiepileptic drugs.

This potentially fatal infection can cause cerebral degeneration and death. Ketamine may be an acceptable treatment for RSE, according to a 2015 study published in the Official Journal of Epilepsy. Further study, however, is needed to back up the research approach and demonstrate the usefulness of using Ketamine to treat this condition.

Treating Depression

Some studies demonstrate that Ketamine may quickly heal depression in people who cannot respond positively to other therapy, according to a 2017 Consensus Declaration on the use of ketamine in the treatment of mood disorders. However, despite these positive findings, the researchers warn that studies on using Ketamine with this condition are limited, and doctors must assess the medication's risks before providing it.

Additionally, improper ketamine use is a global health concern because of its hallucinogenic effects, according to a study on the challenges, ethical considerations, and legal ramifications of Ketamine (NCBI) in 2016. With this in mind, they suggest practitioners try traditional antidepressants before considering ketamine for depression.

Treating Anxiety

Ketamine's usefulness for anxiety has received minimal attention. Yet, one study suggests it may help people with social anxiety disorder. A significant aversion to public encounters characterizes this syndrome. The National Center for Biotechnology Information's (NCBI) 2017 clinical study on utilizing Ketamine for social anxiety disorders examined eighteen participants and found that the medicine could effectively identify social anxiety disorder.

Given that several other studies have revealed Ketamine to have significant anti-anxiety benefits, the researchers recommended additional research to investigate this possible benefit further.

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Risks of Ketamine Abuse and Dangers

When used correctly, studies and research show that ketamine ingestion is safe and sound in people with various parameters. However, the safety of ketamine is only achievable when a patient or an individual uses the medication under the supervision of a specialist for specific situations.

Despite its basic safety, the following risks are related to ketamine:

  • Destabilization of cardiac and blood circulation elements could temporarily increase or decrease heart rate and blood pressure. It is also possible for cardiac pulses to change

  • Ketamine intake may cause liver damage

  • "K bladder" is a condition caused by chronic ketamine consumption which can require a person's bladder to be removed

  • Similar reactions, such as restlessness or anxiety, can arise during the postoperative healing phase

  • Because of the intracranial pressure elevation effect, clinicians must regularly monitor persons with high intracranial pressure.

  • Certain studies show impaired reasoning or intellect outcomes are prevalent in children

  • Toxins or a higher incidence of intake could cause respiratory failure

Doctors do not recommend Ketamine for people of any age who have any of the following conditions caused by high blood pressure:

  • Hemorrhage

  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure

  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

  • Rupture of the aorta

  • Lactating mothers

  • Women who are pregnant

  • Patients suffering from schizophrenia

Is Ketamine Addictive? Addiction to Ketamine and Its Abuse 

Ketamine is medically acknowledged to have the possibility of addiction and mental and physical reliance. Individuals who use ketamine claim that the short-term, intensely ecstatic impacts and its status as a portal of entry into community activities make it especially difficult to quit.

If you believe that a loved one is abusing Ketamine, there are warning signals that you should be aware of. The following are symptoms of a ketamine usage problem, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5, 5th edition):

  • Using higher doses of the drug or using it longer than recommended

  • Continued urge or futile efforts to reduce consumption

  • Investing a significant amount of time attempting to acquire the drug, take it, and/or recover from its influence

  • An intense yearning or craving for the substance

  • As a consequence of drug usage, missing out on commitments relating to employment, education, family, and more

  • Continuing consumption in the face of linked personal and social concerns.

  • Alienation from societal, sporting, or occupational pursuits in preference of substance misuse

  • Consuming Ketamine in dangerous settings regularly (e.g., functioning equipment, driving)

  • Continuing the usage after experiencing a medical or psychiatric problem as a result of the medication

  • Evolving tolerance to the drug (requiring much more of the medication to have the intended result and/or a reduced effect when using the same quantity of the drug)

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What Happens When Ketamine and Alcohol Are Mixed?

The NCBI states that no one with an alcohol addiction disorder or drunkenness should ingest Ketamine, even at doctor-prescribed dosages, because it can lead to death. Furthermore, because both alcohol and ketamine damage nerve cells, the combined effect is dangerous.

What Happens When Ketamine and Other Drugs Are Mixed?

The combination of Ketamine and other substances and medications may result in a variety of problems, including:

Depressants for the Central Nervous System (CNS)

The brain and spinal cord comprise the CNS. Anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals such as diazepam (Valium) and opioid prescriptions such as hydrocodone are drugs that impair CNS function. When used with ketamine, either of these drugs can produce profound sleepiness, paralysis, or death.

Vasostrict or Vasopressin

This pharmaceutical family constricts arteries, veins, and capillaries and aids in treating low pulse rates. Because ketamine is to blame for this effect, a doctor must prescribe a lower dose to reduce the risk of severe vascular constriction.

Theophylline (Theo 24) or Aminophylline (Norphyl)

These medications treat pulmonary blockages in people with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Taking one of these with ketamine may lessen the danger of convulsions while increasing their likelihood.

Aside from the prescription medicines mentioned above, a 2017 NCBI study on the interaction of two stimulants, including Ketamine, discovered that mixing ketamine with compounds similar to amphetamines can be harmful.

Stimulants may aggravate ketamine's cognitive issues, whereas ketamine may exacerbate sadness, stress, and weariness. Before utilizing any OTC medications, ketamine users should obtain medical guidance.

How Long Does Ketamine Remain in Your System?

Ketamine can be discovered in hair follicles for a maximum of four months following a single dosage, according to a report released by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). Ketamine or its byproducts were also found in scalp specimens collected using a moist sterile swab for a maximum of forty-eight hours after administering the medication.

Also, ketamine was identified in urinary samples obtained from hospitalized patients who'd already received ketamine as anesthesia for as long as eleven days following drug administration, and its derivatives were identified for fourteen days. Gender, body composition, metabolism, drug quantity, and how it is taken can all impact the medication's length and excretion.

Mentioned below are time detection details for various systems of the body:

Blood Test for Ketamine

Ketamine can be detected for up to 72 hours in the blood.

Urine Test for Ketamine

Ketamine shows up in urine for up to 14 days after it was last used.

Hair Follicle Test for Ketamine

In hair follicles, ketamine traces can last for up to a month or more.

Saliva Test for Ketamine

Ketamine is detectable in saliva tests for up to 24 hours after it was last taken.

What Is the Half-Life of Ketamine?

Ketamine is swiftly converted by the hepatic area or the liver towards less active constituents after ingestion. Around 90% of Ketamine is eliminated in urine as byproducts. Ketamine's half-life, or perhaps the time required for the total quantity of drug in the body to be decreased by 50%, is approximately 2.5 hours in adults and 1–2 hours in minors.

Clinically, it is expected that a substance is completely cleared within 4-5 half-lives, meaning that most Ketamine must be out of an individual's system in around 10 to 12.5 hours. Gender, age, body weight, metabolic activity, medication intake, and administration route can all impact the substance's persistence and clearance.

Is There a Ketamine Comedown?

Some ketamine users report feeling unwell the day after using ketamine. While not exactly like the crash or "comedown" users of stimulants often experience, the day after ketamine use can make someone feel these effects:

  • Confusion

  • Body aches

  • Problems with dexterity

  • Anxiousness

  • Poor judgment

  • Disorientation

Ketamine Overdose and Treatment

One of the dangers of ketamine intoxication is an increased risk of crashes and injuries due to the drug's effects High doses might potentially be lethal as well. If you notice someone experiencing these effects after taking ketamine, call 911:

  • Muscle stiffness or difficulty functioning

  • High pulse rate

  • Convulsions

  • High blood pressure

  • Loss of consciousness 

  • Near-death experience

Ketamine intoxication therapy comprises mostly supportive therapy, although the sufferer might have to be monitored in much more serious instances. If pulmonary assistance is available, intubation could be used. Unfortunately, at the moment, no known treatment can reverse ketamine intoxication.

If it is deemed essential, doctors can employ activated charcoal in a controlled medical environment to aid with digestive detoxification in a ketamine excess. Several psychological and medical ketamine intoxication signs can be managed with medicines at an emergency unit.

After someone has been clinically managed following a ketamine accident, it may be an excellent moment to talk to them about the advantages of getting rehabilitation services for their ketamine consumption. Ketamine abuse can be deadly if not addressed; tackling the psychological part of ketamine abuse through medical counseling might significantly prevent such hazards from becoming a reality.

Ketamine Abuse Is Dangerous. The Edge Treatment Center Treats Synthetic Drug Abuse

Ketamine is a popular club drug, but it's dangerous to abuse and very harmful over time. Synthetic drug addiction can be deadly as well. The Edge Treatment Center can help you overcome your drug addiction and live a substance-free life by utilizing unique treatment techniques and therapy strategies.

The addiction professionals at our treatment center know the difficulties of therapeutic counseling, withdrawal management, and maintaining sobriety after leaving our program. Want to learn more about finding a way out of ketamine addiction? Reach out to The Edge Treatment Center today.

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Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

April 5, 2023