Ketamine is a prescription medication primarily used to commence anesthesia in preparation for surgery. It is also used under strictly controlled conditions as a strong sedative and analgesic for patients in intensive care.
While the drug is considered generally safe for treatment purposes when administered by medical professionals, recreational use of this drug can cause serious adverse effects. Ketamine is often used as a club drug, due to the dissociative state it can cause. Users experience a feeling of detachment from the physical body or depersonalization when under the influence of ketamine that can include hallucinations and changes in perception of distances.
Abusing a powerful sedative drug can be potentially lethal, especially in combination with other substances. Ketamine can increase the effects of other sedative-hypnotic drugs, including alcohol, benzodiazepines, opioids and barbiturates, which dramatically increases the risk of overdose.
Adverse effects of abusing this drug can include arrhythmia (irregular heart beat), heart palpitations, and dangerously high or low blood pressure. Some users may also experience increased intracranial pressure, leading to potentially fatal intracranial hypertension. Studies show that long-term abuse of this substance increases symptoms of depression and increases the risk of long- and short-term memory impairment.
Ketamine is used in medicine as an anesthetic, but is also obtained and produced illegally and sold on the street for recreational use. It is initially produced for medical use as a clear liquid, but can also be dried into a white powder. The powder form is most commonly encountered in street use. In medicine it is prescribed under a number of different brand names, the most common being Ketalar.
Ketamine is a sedative and painkiller. The primary action is as an NMDA receptor antagonist, but it also acts on monoamine transporters and opioid receptors.
Ketamine is listed as a Schedule III drug by the DEA. It is considered to have low to moderate addiction potential. Though abuse of it is not uncommon, it is also vital in medical use and is considered one of the essential medicines by the World Health Organization.
Abuse outside of medicine usually consists of crushing and snorting the powder form of ketamine. It can also be smoked or injected, but these methods of administration are more uncommon.
Ketamine acts on many different receptors in the body and is unique in that it can be a stimulant and a depressant simultaneously. The physiological tug-of-war that this produces usually results in psychoactive effects such as disassociation and hallucination.
The anesthetic quality of ketamine can cause users to feel invulnerable to pain, potentially not realizing that they are badly harming themselves while under the influence of it. A severe dissociative state called the “K-hole” also sometimes occurs, in which users feel extremely distant from their own body and temporarily lose the ability to move or communicate. Death by overdose due to respiratory depression is also possible.
Long-term abuse of ketamine is not well-studied at this point, but some studies indicate it may cause brain damage that is similar to chronic use of other addictive drugs. Memory, learning ability and attention are though to be affected. Long-term ketamine users have also developed chronic flashbacks and a variety of neurological disorders.
Abusers of ketamine gradually develop a tolerance to it, requiring higher doses to achieve the same effect. In time this can cause a Ketamine addiction. Death by overdose is also always a possibility.
The “K-hole” effect of this drug is also sometimes used by slipping it to others as a date rape drug.
Ketamine is dangerous to mix with any other drug, but especially with depressants. There is a major risk of death by respiratory depression. The drug is often used by partiers to extend the effects of their use of Ecstasy.
While ketamine is not considered one of the top addiction threats in the United States, there is significant use of it among younger people. Statistics collected by the Drug Abuse Warning Network indicate that out of all annual emergency room visits related to ketamine use, more than half of patients are between the ages of 12 and 25. The University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Survey also indicated that about 3% of all graduating seniors in the United States try thid drug at some point during high school.
Users of this drug often appear confused or disoriented due to the strong psychoactive effects of the drug. If the effects are strong enough, they may be unresponsive and immobile for a time.
Ketamine addiction usually requires an initial detox period of at least a few days. Depending on the severity of the addiction, patients may be recommended for either inpatient or outpatient treatment. Either way, a certified medical facility is the best choice for handling a thorough recovery.
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