Ketamine is used by medical practitioners and veterinarians as an anaesthetic. It is sometimes used illegally by people to get 'high'.
Ketamine can produce hallucinogenic effects, causing a person to see, hear, smell, feel or taste things that aren't really there or are different from how they are in reality.
When it's sold illegally, ketamine usually comes as a white crystalline powder. It can also be made into tablets and pills, or dissolved in a liquid.1
A number of clinical trials and studies are currently being undertaken to assess ketamine as a treatment for depression, early indications are showing good results.
How is it used?
Ketamine can be swallowed, snorted or injected. It is also sometimes smoked with cannabis or tobacco. The effects of ketamine may be experienced within 30 seconds if injected, 5–10 minutes if snorted, and up to 20 minutes if swallowed. The effects of ketamine can last for approximately 45 to 90 minutes.3
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It's important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Ketamine affects everyone differently, based on:
The following effects may be experienced:
If a large amount or a strong batch is taken, it could also cause an overdose. If any of the following effects are experienced an ambulance should be called straight away by dialling triple zero (000). Ambulance officers don't need to involve the police.
In the day following ketamine use, the following effects may be experienced:
Regular use of ketamine my eventually cause:
Ketamine bladder syndrome
Large, repeated doses of ketamine may eventually cause 'ketamine bladder syndrome', a painful condition needing ongoing treatment. Symptoms include difficulty holding in urine, and incontinence, which can cause ulceration in the bladder. Anyone suffering from ketamine bladder syndrome needs to stop using ketamine and see a health professional.2,5
Using ketamine with other drugs
The effects of taking ketamine with other drugs– including over-the-counter or prescribed medications – can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:
Giving up ketamine after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms usually last for 4-6 days. These symptoms can include:
Reducing the risks
1. Drug Enforcement Administration. (n.d.). Ketamine [PDF:580KB] [Fact sheet].
2. Morgan, C., & Curran, H. (2011) Ketamine use: a review. Addiction, 107(1).
3. Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Ketamine.
4. Winstock, A., & Wolff, K. (2006). Ketamine: from medicine to misuse. Central Nervous System Drugs, (20)3.
5. DrugScope. (n.d.). Ketamine [Fact sheet].
6. Zarate, C. & Niciu, M. (2015). Ketamine for depression: evidence, challenges and promise. World Psychiatry. 14(3), p. 348-350.
Last updated: 30 June 2016