Ketamine has many nicknames in English, including Vitamin K, Kit Kat and Special K.
Ketamine is, in essence, an anesthesia drug that has been used in medical settings since the 1970s, especially in veterinary medicine. Ketamine is defined as a dissociative drug, in that it induces disassociation and detachment from reality. It is also categorized as a hallucinogen.
The chemical compound ketamine hydrochloride blocks the neurotransmitter receptors for glutamate and aspartate, which induces a sense of detachment from reality, and inhibits the sensation of pain and other stimuli, among other things.
Ketamine is sold as a white, crystalline powder that can be snorted, as well as in tablets and in liquid form. It is sometimes smoked, usually with cannabis. The effect of ketamine begins quickly – within about 30 seconds to 20 minutes, depending on the method of intake – and lasts about 45 to 90 minutes.
A bit of history
Ketamine was first synthesized in 1962 by a chemist working for an American pharmaceutical company, who was searching for an alternative to the anesthetic phencyclidine (PCP), a drug with many adverse side effects. Ketamine was patented for use as an anesthetic drug in humans after various experiments revealed that its main effect was dissociation. Ketamine was first used as a medical anesthetic in the 1970s to treat wounded soldiers during the Vietnam War.
In the early 1970s, ketamine was common in the United States and Europe, both as an anesthetic and street drug. The publication of two books that described psychedelic experiences and hallucinations on ketamine increased its popularity as a club drug. At the end of the 1980s, attempts were made to classify ketamine as a dangerous drug, but it wasn’t until 1999 that ketamine made its way onto the list of controlled substances enforced by the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Administration). During the 1990s there were 12 reported deaths linked to ketamine use in the United States.
Why do people use ketamine?
As mentioned, ketamine induces a state of disassociation, and can have a psychedelic effect that includes hallucinations. Users report feeling high, relaxed, buoyant, and “out of body.” In addition, at certain dosages the disassociation can manifest as temporary paralysis and loss of consciousness, and can cause memory loss. Ketamine has become associated with rape — that is, as a substance used for the purpose of sexual exploitation — because of the qualities mentioned above, and because it has no color and smell.
What are the adverse health affects of ketamine?
Ketamine is an anesthetic. Any non-medical use of the substance – that is, use that is not administered by a doctor for the purpose of anesthesia – carries risks for the user. The risk level is also affected by the dose relative to the user’s body weight and health status, as well as use of other drugs and medications.
Among other effects, ketamine can induce hallucinations, confusion, outbursts of anxiety and violence, vomiting, blurred vision, slurred speech, as well as increased heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure. Ketamine reduces sensitivity to pain, interferes with movement, and can cause temporary paralysis and stiff muscles.
In the long run, consumption of ketamine can give rise to headaches, abdominal pain, mood swings and depression, and can lead to dependency issues.
Ketamine bladder syndrome is another symptom caused by recurrent use of high doses, and is characterized by urinary incontinence, bladder ulcers and pain.
Consumption of high doses of ketamine in combination with other drugs or alcohol can lead to loss of consciousness and death.
Is ketamine addictive?
There are reports of adaptation to, and dependency on, ketamine, and of the desire to use it again and again, as with other known addictive drugs. There are also reports of withdrawal symptoms after long-term consumption, including anxiety attacks and depression, and of relapse.