Is Ketamine An Opiate?
Ketamine has many similar characteristics to those of opioids, but it is not an opiate drug. Ketamine belongs to a class of drugs called dissociative anesthetics. It has the anesthetic properties of opiates but also has strong dissociative, sometimes hallucinogenic effects. It is similar to PCP.
Ketamine is a Schedule III drug. That means it is approved for medical and clinical use and requires a prescription. Thus, any use or possession of ketamine without a prescription is illegal. Drugs are classified under 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 moderate, but the risk of developing a psychological dependence is very high.
Ketamine is mainly used as an anesthetic drug. It’s also used for the same general purpose in veterinary medicine. Since ketamine doesn’t lower the patient’s heart rate or blood pressure, it is commonly used in more minor surgeries since a licensed anesthesiologist is not required to be present. This also makes ketamine a popular anesthetic in developing countries where access to other anesthetic drugs and monitoring equipment is difficult.
Ketamine can also be used as a pain reliever when used in smaller doses. In more recent studies, researchers have found ketamine to be effective in treating depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, the FDA has not approved prescribing ketamine to treat these conditions. Treating depression or PTSD with ketamine would be an off-label use.
Since the 1990s, ketamine has become a popular drug on the club scene. The dissociative properties of the drug cause people to become disoriented and confused. High doses can lead to effects of temporary paralysis, feeling detached from the body and experiencing strong hallucinations. Experiencing these out-of-body effects is commonly called being in the “k-hole.”
Because ketamine significantly impacts motor function, it has become 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 increasingly risky.
While chronic ketamine use can lead to some physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms, it is more psychologically addictive than anything else. People who abuse ketamine tend to quickly build up a tolerance to the drug, leading them to take larger and larger amounts in an attempt to get back to the “k-hole.” Withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, depression and flashbacks.
It is very difficult for people to know exactly how much of the drug they have taken. Overdoses on ketamine alone are very rare. However, overdosing on ketamine does happen, and usually involve combining the drug with another substance, usually alcohol. One of the dangers of ketamine is that people don’t really know how much they are taking, particularly when it is mixed in a drink.
There are many adverse side effects associated with using ketamine as a recreational drug. While using the drug, people may experience difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness or even seizures. Loss of motor abilities and dissociation leads to a high risk of injury or assault. Many people injure themselves while on ketamine and don’t even realize it, causing further injury. Also, the risk of overdose when combining ketamine with alcohol or other drugs is very high. Long-term side effects include high blood pressure, kidney or bladder problems, addiction, memory loss, insomnia, depression and anxiety.
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