Ketamine is a schedule 5 drug mainly used for starting and maintaining anaesthesia. It induces a trance-like state while providing pain relief, sedation, and memory loss.
Ketamine was developed in 1963 to replace PCP and was extensively used for surgical anaesthesia in the Vietnam War due to its safety. Apart from use in human anaesthesia, Ketamine is a powerful tool in EMS in pre-hospital settings. An intramuscular injection quickly sedates an out of control patient (for example psychosis), without affecting their ability to breathe. It is also a fast pain reliever for patients with fractures that need splinting. In addition, it allows heart function, breathing, and airway reflexes generally to remain functional. Effects typically begin within five minutes when given by injection and last up to approximately 25 minutes. Ketamine is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, listing the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system.
Ketamine is also illegally used as a recreational drug for its hallucinogenic and dissociative effects. It is quickly becoming the most prominent hallucinogenic club drug in the 21st century.
Please note: Illegal use of Ketamine is hazardous and has a host of deadly side effects – due to the unpredictability of compounds contained and its potency.
What makes Ketamine a dangerous drug?
Ketamine is manufactured as an injectable liquid, but the illicit use is generally in evaporated powder form. The powder form of the drug is sometimes given to unsuspecting victims in a drink in premeditated sexual assaults. It changes the person’s sense of sight and sound, causes hallucinations and makes it hard to speak or move. It induces amnesia. Therefore, it is also known as the date rape drug – the victim usually has amnesia of the event.
Uncontrolled dosages can cause cardiac arrhythmias, heart damage and a spike in blood pressure with the possibility of a stroke.
How is it used?
Ketamine is odourless and tasteless, so predators can add it to beverages without being detected. It can be snorted, injected or swallowed.
What are its short-term effects?
Ketamine is a powerful drug that cuts off communication between the body and the brain. It means the body goes to sleep while the brain becomes isolated from what happens to the body. As a result, normal sensory perception is blocked – like pain, which is good in a controlled medical setting. However, users reported vivid and dream-like hallucinations, ranging from pleasant feelings and floating outside their bodies.
However, some users experienced terrifying feelings, including almost complete sensory detachment that is likened to a near-death experience. These experiences, similar to a “bad trip” on LSD, are called the “K-hole.”
Low dose intoxication cause impaired learning ability, attention and memory.
Ketamine can cause delirium, amnesia, impaired motor function, high blood pressure, depression, and potentially fatal respiratory problems in high doses.
Withdrawal from Ketamine
Ketamine abuse quickly causes psychological dependence. The best way to stop Ketamine addiction is to go “cold turkey”. The most dangerous symptom of withdrawal is intense depression, which can lead to suicide. In addition, a person can become emotionally very unstable during withdrawal with symptoms of shakes, nausea, fatigue, agitation, confusion, rage, psychosis and suppressed respiratory and cardiac function.
Withdrawal from Ketamine can last from 72 hours to several weeks. Symptoms usually subside by day 15. A person going through withdrawal is best kept separate from other people and needs medical monitoring and assistance to relieve withdrawal symptoms.