Ketamine addiction can be deadly. Find out why the drug can be deadly when misused as well as the additional risks that come with ketamine misuse.

Ketamine is an FDA-approved drug mainly used to block post-surgery pain. However, people often misuse ketamine to experience a trance-like state and sedation. It can also be addictive and have serious side effects too. Learning more about the drug, how addiction to it develops and the drug’s uses can help people identify misuse in themselves or loved ones.

What Is Ketamine

Ketamine is a drug that was originally developed in the 1960s. It comes as an injectable liquid. However, most people who misuse it evaporate it into a powder. They then snort it to get high.

Ketamine can relieve pain, similar to how opioids can, and it also has strong dissociative effects that make people feel like they are outside their bodies. Sometimes effects cause hallucinations, so ketamine is similar to PCP and LSD in that way.

Ketamine is a Schedule III drug. That classification means it is approved for medical and clinical use and requires a prescription. Thus, if you use or have the drug without a prescription, it is illegal. Drugs are classified as Schedule III if they are designed for medical use but have a risk of dependence. In the case of ketamine, the risk of physical dependence is low to medium. However, the risk of developing psychological dependence is very high.

What Is Ketamine Used For?

Ketamine is mainly used as a pain-blocking drug. Today, it is mostly used by veterinary clinics to sedate animals. However, it also has some medical uses for humans. For example, it is commonly used in minor surgeries.

Doctors found ketamine works for treating depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, the FDA has not yet approved the drug to treat these disorders.

Since the 1990s, ketamine has become a popular drug on the club scene. Ketamine abuse can put people in a trance. High doses can lead to effects of temporary paralysis, feeling detached from the body and having strong hallucinations. This effect lasts about 30 minutes.

Because ketamine significantly impacts motor function, it is a popular date rape drug. The fact that it is taken in a setting where users are using alcohol and other drugs make its use even riskier.

How Addictive Is Ketamine?

While chronic ketamine use can lead to physical dependence and withdrawal, it is far more psychologically addictive. People who abuse ketamine tend to build up a tolerance to the drug quickly. This development leads them to take larger and larger amounts in an attempt to get high again. Withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, depression, and flashbacks.

It is difficult for people to know exactly how much of the drug they have taken. Overdoses on ketamine alone are very rare. However, overdosing on the drug does happen. Overdoses usually involve mixing the drug with another substance like alcohol. One of the dangers of the drug is that people don’t know how much they are taking. This risk is particularly true when it is mixed in a drink.

There are many side effects associated with using ketamine as a recreational drug. While using the drug, people may have difficulty breathing, fall unconscious or experience seizures. Loss of muscle control and dissociation leads to a high risk of harm or assault. Many people injure themselves while on the drug and don’t even know it. The risk of overdose when mixing the drug with alcohol or other agents is very high. Long-term side effects include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney or bladder problems
  • Addiction
  • Memory loss
  • Sleep problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Ketamine Street Names, Common Misspellings, and Generics

Ketamine is the generic name for the brand name drug Ketalar. Street names for the drug include:

  • Cat Valium
  • Green K
  • Honey Oil
  • Jet
  • K
  • K-hole
  • Ket
  • Kit Kat
  • Purple
  • Special K
  • Special La Coke
  • Super Acid
  • Super C
  • Vitamin K

Related Topic: Street Names for Drugs

Ketamine may be misspelled in many different ways. A few misspellings of ketamine are ketamin, catamin, katamin and ketimin.

Ketamine Addiction Statistics

Very little data is available about ketamine addiction in the United States. This lack of information is likely because the drug, when used alone, is usually not fatal. Data about the drug is typically combined with other hallucinogens like LSD and PCP. What is known is that overall, hallucinogen use is considered to be low compared to other drugs. However, the United States still ranks first among other countries in the number of high school students who have used hallucinogens.

How to find help for Ketamine addiction

When ketamine is used in combination with another substance it can cause fatal toxicity. If combined with a central nervous depressant like alcohol it can cause sedation that results in death. If a loved one has a ketamine problem, you may notice some signs, including:

  • No reaction to painful stimuli like a cut or burn
  • Slurred speech
  • Confusion
  • Slow motion or exaggerated movements

Users can have ketamine withdrawal for four to five days after stopping use. Withdrawal from dissociative drugs causes some physical symptoms like:

  • Cravings
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Tremors

However, it’s more common for users to have psychological symptoms like anxiety, depression, and nightmares.

If you or a loved one struggle with ketamine addiction, our trained professionals at The Recovery Village can help. The Recovery Village offers many different addiction treatment options to help you lead a healthier life. Reach out today for more information.

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Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

World Health Organization. “Fact File on Ketamine.” March 2016. Accessed March 30, 2019.

Get Smart About Drugs. “Ketamine.” February 2019. Accessed March 30, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs.” February 2015. Accessed March 30, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.