Ketamine is an important medication used to sedate people in intensive care or as an anesthesia for people undergoing surgery. It has the ability to produce a trance-like state that includes pain relief and memory loss, making it ideal for situations where extreme pain could be involved. Because of this, it’s on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines for a basic healthcare system. Unfortunately, the trance-like state produced by this substance has made it popular for recreational use and abuse.
Signs of a ketamine high include:
- Sudden severe drowsiness or mellowness
- Feeling of disconnection from one’s body or reality
- Involuntary muscle movements
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Changes in perceptions of color or sound
- Increased blood pressure that then slowly decreases
- Slowed breathing
- Dilated pupils
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Effects of Ketamine
Ketamine is different than other pain relievers in that it produces a dissociative state that includes depersonalization and derealization – feelings of detachment from one’s body and the surrounding environment. At very high doses, users can enter what’s commonly referred to as a “K-hole.” This creates an extreme dissociative state of severe sedation to the point that individuals often feel that they cannot move, and experience auditory and visual hallucinations.
Due to these unusual effects, it’s not difficult to identify when someone is high on ketamine as long as you’re familiar with the signs. It can be helpful to know the signs of ketamine intoxication even for those who don’t plan on using or being around people who use it due to the fact that it’s a common choice as a “date rape drug” – a drug used to sedate people against their will in order to sexually assault them. In one survey of college students, 75 percent of male victims and 55 percent of female victims said drug or alcohol were involved in the assault.
If someone is exhibiting signs of a ketamine high without having knowingly taken the drug, it’s important to remove them from the area if they’re at a bar or party and have been drinking. It’s also highly recommended to take the person to a hospital in case of overdose.
Not everyone reacts in the same way to ketamine. Dissociative effects can be unpredictable, so it can still be difficult to determine if someone is high on ketamine if they begin acting strangely.
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Another way to determine intoxication on this drug is to check the list of possible side effects. These can include:
- Abnormal heart rate, high or low
- Splotchy or bull’s-eye-shaped rash
- Increased salivation
- Nausea or vomiting
- Double vision or tunnel vision
- Uncontrolled eye movements
- Loss of appetite
- Warm skin
If someone reaches the point of experiencing severe effects characteristic of the “K-hole,” it’s important to monitor them closely for signs of overdose. These include:
- Slow or irregular breathing
- Bluish lips or fingernails
- Chest pain
- Loss of coordination
- Muscle rigidity
- Intense muscle pain or headache
- Extreme paranoia
- Loss of consciousness
A person exhibiting any of these severe signs after ingesting ketamine needs emergency medical assistance.
Ketamine can also cause a serious allergic reaction in some individuals. This can cause an itchy rash, hives, and/or swelling around the face, throat, and tongue. Swelling in this area can quickly become a medical emergency as it can obstruct the airway.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic, which also has some hallucinogenic properties. Effects of the drug are reportedly similar to effects of PCP or DXM. Hallucinations are distortions of sight and sound, along with a sensation of detachment from oneself or surroundings. While this dissociation can be beneficial for anesthetic purposes – it helps reduce pain – it can be disturbing for people who abuse ketamine for recreational reasons.
Ketamine is available either as a white powder or a clear liquid. It has become popular as a “club drug,” at raves or dances, often in combination with MDMA or ecstasy. Due to its potential for abuse and its legitimate medical uses, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists ketamine as a Schedule III substance.
What are the signs of ketamine addiction or abuse?
Signs of ketamine intoxication include hallucinations, mood disturbances, delusions, paranoia, depression, difficulty thinking, unconsciousness, and next-day amnesia. Like many club drugs, ketamine is believed to not be addictive, but for some people, the euphoria associated with it can lead to cravings and compulsive use associated with addiction. People who use ketamine regularly are also likely to develop physical tolerance and dependence, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms when they do not take the drug.
Are there risks of long-term ketamine use?
Ketamine is a potent sedative and hallucinogen, so long-term abuse of this substance can cause serious physical and mental health effects, such as:
- Memory problems
- Worsening depression
- Digestive issues
- Ulcers or pain in the bladder
- Kidney problems
The drug has also been used as a date rape drug, so a person who accidentally ingests ketamine is at a higher risk of contracting STDs.
How addictive is ketamine?
While ketamine is not considered addictive, it can be abused by people who struggle with mood disorders like depression or anxiety. Ketamine has received a lot of media attention as a potential remedy for some types of depression, and its relaxing effects could also make people who struggle with anxiety or panic disorders temporarily feel better. However, abusing this substance in large quantities could, as with other potent drugs, make psychological or mood disorders worse.
People who have a history of substance abuse, or a higher risk of developing an addiction due to genetics or environment, are more at risk of becoming addicted to ketamine. Specific illicit formulations of ketamine induce specific delusions or hallucinations. Some of these more euphoric experiences could be addictive while others may be disturbing or ineffectual and will not induce addiction.
Can you overdose on ketamine?
It is possible to overdose on ketamine. Since the drug is a sedative, the two main symptoms of overdose are an inability to wake up and depressed or stopped breathing. It is very important to call 911 to get emergency medical assistance for someone suffering a ketamine overdose.
Does ketamine cause withdrawal symptoms?
There are no specific withdrawal effects associated with ketamine, although it is suspected that people who struggle with chronic abuse of this drug experience cravings and anxiety around stopping use. Ketamine may also induce some hangover-like effects, including exhaustion and illness, the next day. As with LSD, a person who ingests ketamine may also experience flashbacks to hallucinations or delusions that occurred during the high.