Ketamine, also known by the street names of Special K, K, Horse tranq, Super K, Jet K, Kit Kat, Vitamin K, and more, is a dissociative drug used legally as an anesthetic and more recently approved to use with severe depression. Ketamine is used frequently by veterinarians and much of the illegal ketamine comes from this source. Additionally, ketamine is brought into the United States illegally via Mexico. Ketamine has been used in the U.S. for anesthetic means since the 1970s and was approved for depression treatment in 2019.
However, despite these legal uses, ketamine is also used by some individuals to get high. The ‘high’ experienced with ketamine includes producing visual and auditory disturbances and makes the user feel disassociated with or ‘out of’ reality. Ketamine is considered to be a ‘club drug’ and is most frequently used at raves, nightclubs, and private parties.
How Do People Use Ketamine Illegally?
When used illegally, ketamine most frequently comes in a white or off-white powder. It can also come in the form of a clear liquid. These come in small glass vials, plastic bags, aluminum foil, glassine, or paper folds. Most times, users snort ketamine or smoke it in a cigarette or with marijuana. Liquid ketamine can be injected or put into beverages. It’s important to note that ketamine has been used as a date rape drug due to its clear nature as a liquid and the effects it produces once consumed.
When people take ketamine it usually begins to have effects very quickly depending on the method of consumption. If injected, effects begin within minutes, if snorted, effects can be felt within five to 15 minutes, and when consumed orally, the effects occur within about 10 to 30 minutes. Generally, they last for just one or two hours however, the user can still feel the effects of the drug for up to 24 hours.
What are the Effects of Ketamine?
Ketamine produces effects that include disassociation with reality and even hallucinations. The specific effects as well as the intensity and how long they last depend on several factors. These include the individual’s:
- Size, weight, height
- General health
- Amount consumed
- Other drugs consumed at the same time
- History of ketamine use
- Potency of drug (which varies from one batch to the next)
Once consumed these effects may be felt by the user:
- Feelings of happiness and relaxation
- Feelings of pain relief
- Feeling detached from reality
- Feeling detached from body (K-hole)
- Experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations
- Slurring speech
- Experiencing clumsiness
- Experiencing confusion
- Experiencing nystagmus or the inability to control eye movements
- Experiencing blurred vision
- Increasing heart rate and blood pressure
- Feelings of anxiety and panic
- Feeling depressed
These are generally the experiences users have when taking small, recreational-sized doses of ketamine. However, there is the risk of overdose with any drug consumption. With ketamine, the dangers increase when it is combined with other drugs and alcohol.
Short-term, ketamine has been linked to problems with memory, learning, and attention. In addition, the following are often experienced with short-term use of ketamine:
- Ongoing dreamlike state
- Slowed breathing
For those users who continue to use ketamine on a longer-term basis, they can experience detrimental health issues. These issues can include:
- Diminished sense of smell
- Changes in mood and personality
- Onset of depression
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Memory issues
- Compromised liver and kidney function
- Ketamine bladder syndrome
- Experiencing ongoing abdominal pain
- Having flashbacks
Ketamine bladder syndrome is a condition in which there is generally not only ongoing pain but also incontinence and problems holding urine which can lead to ulcerations in the bladder. This is a serious condition in need of professional medical attention.
All of these long-term effects of ketamine are cause for concern. In addition, long-term users can build up a tolerance, needing more of the drug to obtain the same effect. What’s more, users can become dependent on and addicted to ketamine.
What many first-time users of ketamine fail to realize is that the aftereffects of using this dangerous drug can last for a day or two following use. Many users have found these following days to be very difficult to navigate. Some of the problems users face when ‘coming down’ from ketamine include the following:
- Compromised judgment and confusion
- Being disoriented
- Having severe anxiety
- Having aches and pains like the flu
- Ongoing clumsiness
- Loss of memory
Many users report the following days to be excruciating and difficult. It’s important to realize that ketamine is a dangerous drug with serious side effects. One of the side effects mentioned is feeling of complete detachment from one’s body or experiencing the K-hole.
What is a K-Hole?
Some users experience what is referred to as K-hole when consuming ketamine. This most frequently occurs when users consume larger or more potent amounts of ketamine. It’s important to remember that the potency of ketamine varies from batch to batch. This can be very dangerous for the unsuspecting user. When a user experiences a K-hole they say they have an out-of-body experience and in some cases, users say they have had a near-death experience and met their maker.
While for some this may sound blissful, the fact is that the users are so impaired both physically and mentally they are completely out of touch with reality and unable to interact with their surrounding environment. This can be dangerous for a number of reasons. When an individual is in this state at a party, rave, club, or even at someone’s home, they can be easily taken advantage of in numerous ways. This is how ketamine is used as a date rape drug.
It’s vital that not only should users of ketamine be aware that one dose is not always the same as the next but also that ketamine in its liquid form can easily be slipped into drinks. This is why drinks should never be left unattended for any reason. Once a user slips into a K-hole they can be completely out of control of their bodies and thinking leaving them vulnerable to serious harm.
Treatment for Ketamine Addiction
When individuals become dependent on or addicted to ketamine, it is highly advised that they seek professional treatment at an addiction treatment center. Once addicted, ketamine users can experience withdrawal symptoms when they attempt to stop using it. As with other drugs, these symptoms of ketamine withdrawal can be difficult to manage on one’s own. These withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Cravings for ketamine
- Feeling tired
- Lacking appetite
- Sweating and chills
- Having tremors
- Feeling unable to sit still or being restless
- Having nightmares
- Experiencing anxiety and/or depression
- Having heartbeat issues
In addition to experiencing these withdrawal symptoms when attempting to cut down or stop ketamine use, a person who is addicted to ketamine will most likely start to suffer issues with family, friends, finances, work or school, and other responsibilities.
Treatment for ketamine addiction works much like treatment for other substance use disorders (SUD). Treatment includes using evidence-based behavioral therapies and other specific programs that are helpful to each specific individual and their unique needs. Treatment for any type of addiction is more than simply stopping using the drug. While this is a vital first step, the underlying issues fueling the addiction must be addressed for long-term recovery.
If you or someone you love is using ketamine or another drug, Futures Recovery Healthcare is here for you. We offer hope and help to adults struggling with dependency on numerous substances including ketamine. Learn more about how Futures can help online or call us at 866-804-2098.