Facts about Ketamine:
- Ketamine is most commonly known as “Special K” or the “Date Rape Drug”. Some additional street names also include, “Cat Valium”, “Kit Kat”, and “Vitamin K”, among others.
- The drug come in both liquid and powder form. Less commonly it is made into the form of a small white pill, or capsule. When used illicitly it is either swallowed, injected, inhaled through the nose, mixed into a cigarette, or “joint”, and smoked, or added to a drink.
- The appearance of the powered form can be hard to distinguish from other illicit drugs, but most commonly looks like a fine, flaky, white powder.
- Regardless, of the way it is consumed. The drug is often “cut” with other chemicals. As if Ketamine is not dangerous enough, when the drug is mixed with other substances, the effects can be even more unpredictable. As with many “street drugs”, the user really has no idea what they are taking.
- Ketamine does have legitimate medical use. It is an anesthetic drug that is most commonly used in veterinary medicine. In some instances, the drug can also be used in human emergency settings, usually when a person as undergone a severe trauma, or in an Intensive Care setting.
- The drug is medically classified as a dissociative anesthetic. The medical dictionary (2012), defines this class of anesthetic as: a form of general anesthesia, but does not necessarily induce complete unconsciousness, characterized by catalepsy (lack of response to external stimuli), catatonia (stupor with rigid muscles), and amnesia (partial or total loss of memory).
- So we can see how this drug could cause a person to feel “detached” from the environment, and or have distorted perceptions of reality, and/or hallucinations. Traditional painkillers work by blocking the sensation of pain. Ketamine interferes with the way the brain communicates with the body. This is what accounts for the dream like state, and sometimes hallucinations, that the drug creates.
Adverse effects of Ketamine:
- The most common adverse effects associated with Ketamine use include:
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Increased Heart Rate and High Blood Pressure
- Loss of Memory
- Trouble Breathing (with possible respiratory arrest!)
- Physical and/or Psychological Dependence
- Rape or abuse related to being in a dream like state, that can also include difficulty being able to move.
Unusual Adverse effects related to chronic use:
- People who have abused Ketamine often end up with severe damage to the lower urinary tract, and possibly the kidneys, which can be permanent. A specific term often used for the disorder is (LUTS) or Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms. This condition is generally a combination of Ketamine-induced ulcerative cystitis or Ketamine-induced vesicopathy (Ho et al., 2007).
- These are long medical terms so I will break them down a bit. Ulcerative generally describes some degree of erosion to the lining of an organ, in this case the bladder. Cystitis is the medical term for inflammation of the bladder. Vesico- is a prefix used for bladder, and -pathy is a suffix that would indicate pathology, or disease.
- These conditions both produce irritating symptoms in the urinary tract that can include: pain when urinating, a feeling of the need to urinate frequently (due to a smaller bladder volume), urinary urgency (in which the person feels the need to find a bathroom quickly), incontinence, and blood in the urine,
- The condition can improve, somewhat, with discontinued use of Ketamine. However, in some cases, long term users of Ketamine must have their bladders stretched, or other medical procedures, in order to alleviate some of the symptoms.
Dangers of Ketamine:
- Young people are particularly susceptible to exposure to this drug. The Drug Abuse Warning Network indicates that the majority of emergency room visits, involving the use of Ketamine, involves people in the 12 to 25 age group (NDIC, 2006). Ketamine is generally viewed as a “club drug”, which is what appeals to younger people.
- When a person takes an excessive amount of the drug, they often report feeling as if they had a near death, or out of body experience.
- Ketamine can be very unpredictable. As with any drug, some people may be able to use the drug without any serious problems, while others can have extreme reactions. In addition, if Ketamine is mixed with other drugs, this increases the chance of adverse effects. If too much of the drug is taken, or when the drug is mixed with other drugs, overdose can occur. Complications that can occur with an overdose may include psychosis, coma, respiratory failure, permanent brain damage resulting from too little oxygen reaching the brain, and death.
- In summary, Ketamine is a powerful anesthetic that should only be given under the care of a trained anesthesiologist. It is not a drug that should be used recreationally, the dangers are too great.
Resources for help:
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction. Please reach out for help. You are not alone, many people live with drug addiction. It may be time to think about reclaiming your life. Help is available. The first step is realizing there is a problem, and wanting to change it.
- SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1 (800) 662 HELP
- Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)Website
- National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
- Intervention Resource Center: 1 (888) 421 4321
- List of Helplines and Crisis Hotlines
dissociative anesthesia. (n.d.) Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing. (2012). Retrieved from https://medicaldictionary.thefreedictionary.com/dissociative+anesthesia
Ho, C., Pezhman, H., Praveen, S., Goh, E., Lee, B., Zulkifli, M., & Isa, M. (2010). Ketamine-Associated Ulcerative Cystitis: A Case Report and Literature Review. The Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences : 17(2), 61–65. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3216160/
National Drug Intelligence Center [NDIC]. 2006. Ketamine fast facts. Retrieved from https://www.justice.gov/archive/ndic/pubs4/4769/