Addiction Drug Use Hallucinogens What to Know About Ketamine Use By Buddy T Buddy T Facebook Twitter Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Learn about our editorial process Updated on June 25, 2021 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Psychonaught / Wikimedia Commons Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Overview What Does Ketamine Do? Common Side Effects Signs of Use Dependence and Withdrawal How to Get Help Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that was developed in the early 1960s and used in human and veterinary medicine. The drug is primarily used for anesthesia. In the 1950s, phencyclidine (PCP) was developed as an intravenous general anesthetic, but because of its severe side effects, ketamine was developed to replace it. MXE (methoxetamine) is also a similar drug made from arylcyclohexylamines. Overview Ketamine is a Schedule III drug, which means it is approved for use as an anesthetic in hospital and other medical settings. It is safe and effective when used in a controlled medical setting, but it also has the potential for misuse and addiction. Also Known As: Various street names for ketamine include K, Special K, Vitamin K, super acid, super c, bump, cat Valium, green, honey oil, special la coke, and jet. Drug Class: Ketamine is an NMDA receptor antagonist. It has anesthetic, dissociative, and hallucinogenic effects. Common Side Effects: Ketamine can have side effects including elevated blood pressure, tremors, hallucinations, confusion, and agitation. How to Recognize Ketamine Ketamine usually appears as a clear liquid or a white to off-white powder. It can also be sold illegally in pill or capsule form. It is tasteless and odorless. What Does Ketamine Do? In medical settings, ketamine is given intravenously to induce and maintain anesthesia. When used recreationally, it can be ingested by mouth in pill or capsule form. In liquid form, it can be injected into a vein, consumed in beverages, or added to smokable materials. Some people also inject the drug intramuscularly. The effects of ketamine are similar to PCP, but not as severe and with a shorter duration. People who use ketamine describe the high as a pleasant sensation of floating or a dissociative state of being separated from their bodies. The drug can produce hallucinogenic-like effects, lasting a short period of time, from one to two hours. Some people describe a feeling of complete sensory detachment, which they associate with a near-death experience. Others describe this experience as being so deep inside the mind that reality seems distant. This state of total dissociation is called the "k-hole." 2:06 Click Play to Learn More About K-Holes This video has been medically reviewed by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE. What the Experts Say There is little research into the long-term effects of ketamine misuse, but research has shown that chronic use of the drug can produce impairments in memory and reduced psychological wellbeing. Studies have found that ketamine use can lead to urinary tract problems. People who used ketamine reported an increased urge to urinate, blood in their urine, and pain on urination. For people who use ketamine recreationally, many of the dangers—other than long-term cognitive effects—are associated with the interaction with other drugs the person may be taking, including alcohol. Ketamine can increase the effects of other sedatives like benzodiazepines, barbiturates, and opiates, which can lead to death. As a street drug, ketamine has become popular as a "club drug," used by teens and young adults at dance clubs and events known as raves. Because it is odorless and tasteless and can be added to beverages without being detected, there are also reports of it being used as a date-rape drug. In addition to rendering victims immobile, it can also induce amnesia making it difficult to recall events that took place while under the influence. The K Hole and the Effects of Ketamine Psychiatric Uses Ketamine has been shown to have antidepressant effects in patients with mood disorders, so it is has been sometimes used intravenously off-label to help treat major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder. In 2019 the FDA approved an intranasal form of ketamine for use in treatment resistant depression. There is still much to learn on the safety and long-term effects of the psychiatric use of ketamine. Some research has also found that ketamine can reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Common Side Effects Some of the common short-term side effects that people experience include: Visual disturbancesConfusion and disorientationDrowsinessIncreased heart rateElevated blood pressureNausea and vomitingEuphoriaSedation Depending on the dosage, some can experience these more severe side effects of ketamine: Severe allergic reactionHypotension and heart rhythm abnormalitiesDifficulty talkingAbnormal movementsSlowed or depressed breathing Signs of Use Some of the signs that someone might be using ketamine include: Changes in sleep habitsIrritabilityMood changesHallucinationsDifficulty speakingMemory problemsDisorientationPresence of drug paraphernalia Typically, the outward symptoms of ketamine overdose are the psychotropic effects, including dreams, illusions, and hallucinations—similar to LSD and PCP use. Benzodiazepines might be given to reduce agitation. This requires caution, however, as in cases of ketamine overdose, ketamine was typically not the only drug ingested. Over-sedation and drug interactions are a concern. If you believe that someone has overdosed on ketamine or another substance, contact emergency services immediately. Tolerance, Dependence, and Withdrawal The use of ketamine can result in tolerance, dependence, and symptoms of withdrawal. When tolerance occurs, people require larger or more frequent doses of the drug to achieve the same effects they felt initially. Dependence occurs when a person needs to continue taking a drug in order to avoid the negative effects of withdrawal. How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System? Ketamine has a half-life of approximately three hours , which means that it takes approximately 14 to 18 hours for the drug to be eliminated from a person's system. The exact range of time, however, depends on a variety of factors including how much of the drug was used as well as the individual's body mass, hydration levels, and metabolism. While ketamine may be cleared from the body within a day or two, it may be detectable in urine tests for up to 14 days and in hair follicle tests for up to 90 days. Addiction The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported in 2019 that a bit less than 0.1% of people in 12th grade had used ketamine in the past year. Addiction to ketamine can cause chemical changes in the brain's reward system that make it very difficult to stop taking the drug. Because ketamine creates feelings of detachment, people often experience major disruptions in multiple life areas once they have developed an addiction. Signs of addiction can include neglecting work and family responsibilities and spending large amounts of money on the drug. The high from ketamine is short-lived and tolerance tends to build quite quickly, meaning people who use it need to increase the amount they use in order to get the same results. It can also be difficult for those using the drug to gauge how much of the drug they need for their desired effect, which can lead to overdose. Withdrawal Once people have become tolerant, dependent, or addicted to ketamine, they are likely to experience symptoms of withdrawal when they stop taking it. These symptoms can range in severity from mild to more serious. Symptoms of withdrawal can include: DepressionAnxietyRapid heartbeatFatigueLack of appetiteInsomniaNightmaresRestlessnessTremorsChills or sweatsAnger Because ketamine withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be serious, it can be helpful to go through the detox and withdrawal process under the supervision of trained addictions recovery professionals. How to Get Help While ketamine use and addiction is serious, there are effective treatment options available. Treatment options may include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, motivational enhancement therapy, or other approaches. Treatment may occur on an inpatient, outpatient, or residential basis. While there are no specific medications approved for the treatment of addiction to ketamine, interventions may include the use of medications to treat co-occurring psychiatric conditions. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Learn How Effective Drug Addiction Treatment Is 13 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Kurdi MS, Theerth KA, Deva RS. Ketamine: Current applications in anesthesia, pain, and critical care. Anesth Essays Res. 2014;(8)3:283-90. doi:10.4103/0259-1162.143110 Nelson S. Hallucinogens: Unreal Visions. Mason Crest/Simon & Schuster. 2014. Morgan CJ, Dodds CM, Furby H, et al. Long-Term Heavy Ketamine Use is Associated with Spatial Memory Impairment and Altered Hippocampal Activation. Front Psychiatry. 2014;(5):149. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00149 Ou YL, Liu CY, Cha TL, Wu ST, Tsao CW. Complete reversal of the clinical symptoms and image morphology of ketamine cystitis after intravesical hyaluronic acid instillation: A case report. Medicine (Baltimore). 2018;(97)28:e11500. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000011500 Wilkinson ST, Sanacora G. Considerations on the Off-label Use of Ketamine as a Treatment for Mood Disorders. JAMA. 2017;(318)9:793-794. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.10697 US Food & Drug Administration. FDA approves new nasal spray medication for treatment-resistant depression; available only at a certified doctor’s office or clinic. March 2019. Feder A, Parides MK, Murrough JW, et al. Efficacy of intravenous ketamine for treatment of chronic posttraumatic stress disorder: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;(71)6:681-8. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.62 LeMone P, Burke K, et al. (Editors). Medical-Surgical Nursing: Critical Thinking for Person-Oriented Care (Third Edition). Pearson Australia. 2016. Zhang MW, Ho RC. Controversies of the Effect of Ketamine on Cognition. Front Psychiatry. 2016;(7):47. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00047 US National Library of Medicine. Ketamine. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Club drugs. Lin PC, Lane HY, Lin CH. Spontaneous Remission of Ketamine Withdrawal-Related Depression. Clin Neuropharmacol. 2016;(39)1:51-2. doi:10.1097/WNF.0000000000000121 Lerner A, Klein M. Dependence, withdrawal and rebound of CNS drugs: an update and regulatory considerations for new drugs development. Brain Communications. 2019;(1)1. doi:10.1093/braincomms/fcz025 Additional Reading Feder, A, et al. Efficacy of Intravenous Ketamine for Treatment of Chronic Posttraumatic Stress Disorders: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(6):681-688. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2014.62. Morgan, CJ, Muetzelfeldt, L, & Curran, HV. Ketamine Use, Cognition and Psychological Wellbeing: A Comparison of Frequent, Infrequent and Ex-Users With Polydrug and Non-Using Controls. Addiction. 2009;104(1):77-87. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2008.02394.x. Sanacora, G, et al. A Consensus Statement on the Use of Ketamine in the Treatment of Mood Disorder. JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(4):399-405. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2017.0080. Wilkinson, ST & Sanacora, G. Considerations on the Off-Label Use of Ketamine as a Treatment for Mood Disorders. JAMA. 2017; 318(9):793-794. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.10697. Cottrell, A. M, et al. "Urinary tract disease associated with chronic ketamine use". British Medical Journal 3 May 2008 By Buddy T Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.