Ketamine Abuse: Facts and History
Users may think it’s fun to have an out-of-body experience by using dissociative drugs like ketamine, but long-term side effects — such as addiction — are anything but thrilling. If you or someone your love is abusing ketamine, get help now.
- 1.0 What Is Ketamine?
- 2.0 The History of Ketamine
- 3.0 Popular Street Names for Ketamine
- 4.0 How Is Ketamine Used?
- 5.0 The Dangers of Mixing Ketamine and Other Drugs
- 6.0 How is Ketamine Obtained?
- 7.0 Symptoms of Ketamine Abuse
- 8.0 Effects of Ketamine Abuse
- 9.0 Getting Help with Ketamine Addiction
Ketamine is a short-acting dissociative drug, one of two types of hallucinogens. It’s used medically as a tranquilizer or anesthetic.
People who use hallucinogens often exhibit intense emotional mood swings and report seeing, hearing and feeling things that aren’t real. Dissociative drug users may also feel disconnected from their body while high. Although the science behind it is not completely understood, research shows dissociative drugs work, in part, by disrupting the brain’s communication system that regulates sensory perception, sleep, hunger and other characteristics.
In 1999, the U.S. government identified ketamine as a Schedule III controlled substance, the third-most dangerous and addictive class of drugs. Although it has less potential for abuse than higher levels of drugs, ketamine abuse can still lead to physical and psychological dependence.
Ketamine is an anesthetic that was originally developed in the 1960s. Today, it is mostly used by veterinary clinics to tranquilize animals, but also has some medical application on humans. Doctors mostly use ketamine on humans for radiation and burn therapy, battlefield injury treatment and for children who do not react well to other anesthetics. In these cases, it is preferred because the sedative effects are not as deep as with other medications. It is manufactured as an injectable liquid, although most abusers evaporate it into a powder — often referred to as “ketamine powder”.
New forms of ketamine (e.g. capsules, powder and crystals) were introduced in the 1970s, and began being distributed for illicit use. In the mid-1980s, ketamine grew in popularity in dance cultures as an adulterant of ecstasy.
Use, purchase and sale of ketamine at parties, dance clubs and raves has only grown since then, solidifying it as a “club drug.” Ketamine is also known as a “date rape drug” and is often used to facilitate sexual assault because it’s odorless, tasteless and produces an amnesia effect.
There are several slang terms associated with ketamine, including:
- Special K
- Vitamin K
- Cat Valium
The user will feel the immediate effects of the drug — mainly hallucinations — for up to one hour after injection, but they may continue experiencing impaired senses, judgement and coordination for up to 24 hours after use.
Combining ketamine with depressants like alcohol and opiates can knock the user unconscious quickly and unexpectedly. It may cause the user to stop breathing or choke on their own vomit. Combining ketamine with stimulants like ecstasy and cocaine may be too much for the user’s heart to handle. The chance of injury is also heightened — the stimulants will mobilize the user’s body, even though the ketamine may give them the feeling of disassociation.
Once evaporated into a powder or compressed into pills, ketamine is often bought and sold at nightclubs, parties and raves.
Teens often use ketamine to enhance their party experience — the drug alters senses, perceptions of reality, and can make a user have an out-of-body experience.
While using the drug, your teen may experience:
- A distorted sense of time, motion, colors, sounds and self
- Feelings of detachment from their body and environment
- Loss of coordination
- Memory loss
- Little or no pain
When taken in high doses, ketamine may produce nightmarish or near-death experiences that can be very frightening to the user, often referred to as a “K-hole.”
If your child has a ketamine problem, you may notice some signs, including:
- No reaction to painful stimuli like a cut or burn
- Slurred speech
- Slow motion or exaggerated movements
Users can experience ketamine withdrawal for 4–5 days after discontinuing use. Although withdrawal from dissociative drugs causes some physical symptoms like a craving for the drug, headaches, sweating and tremors, it’s more common for users to experience psychological symptoms that include anxiety, depression and nightmares.
Because ketamine can be injected, and is also sometimes used as a date rape drug, users may also be at an increased risk for HIV, hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases.
- Attention, learning and memory deficits
- Dreamlike states
- Problems speaking and moving
- Memory loss
- High blood pressure
- Slowed breathing that can lead to death
- Psychotic episodes
- Respiratory depression
- Heart rate abnormalities
- Bladder pain
- Stomach pain
- Kidney problems
- Poor memory
At The Recovery Village, our addiction experts are available to answer any questions you may have, confidentially and free of cost. Don’t wait to get help— call today.
- “Research Report Series: Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs.” NIDA for Teens. National Institutes of Health, Feb. 2015. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
- “Resources – Controlled Substance Schedules.” DEA Office of Diversion Control. U.S. Department of Justice, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
- “Ketamine | CESAR.” CESAR (Center for Substance Abuse Research). University of Maryland, 29 Oct. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
- “What is Ketamine? Street Names & Side Effects.” Drug Free World: Substance & Alcohol Abuse, Education & Prevention. Foundation For A Drug-Free World, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
- “Ketamine.” Drug Science ~ ISCD. Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs, n.d. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
- Vogt, Amanda. “3 Teenagers Accused Of 30 Break-ins.” Tribune Digital – Chicago Tribune. Chicago Tribune, 25 Jan. 2000. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
- Doward, Jamie. “Teenage Ketamine Problems Rising, Drug Charities Warn | Society | The Guardian.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited, 30 Apr. 2011. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
- “Intelligence Bulletin: Ketamine.” National Drug Intelligence Center. U.S. Department of Justice, July 2004. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
- “Ketamine: How Drugs Affect You by Australian Drug Foundation.” Issuu. Australian Drug Foundation, 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2016.
- “Commonly Abused Drugs Charts.” National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). National Institutes of Health, Jan. 2016. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.
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