Ketamine hydrochloride is an anaesthetic drug used by veterinarians and medical professionals.
Special K, K, ket, kitkat or super K.
What it looks like
When sold illegally, ketamine is usually a white crystalline powder. It can also be made into tablets and pills, or dissolved in a liquid.
How is it used?
The effects of any drug vary from person to person. How ketamine affects a person depends on many things including their size, weight and health, also whether the person is used to taking it and whether other drugs are taken around the same time. The effects of any drug also depend on the amount taken.
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk—even medications can produce unwanted side effects. It is important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
The effects of ketamine may be experienced within 30 seconds (if injected) up to 20 minutes (if swallowed) and 5–10 minutes (if snorted). The effects of ketamine can last for approximately 45 to 90 minutes.
As the effects of ketamine begin to wear off, a person may experience a range of effects. These effects can last for approximately 24 hours and can include:
The long-term effects of ketamine use on health can include:
Ketamine bladder syndrome
Large, repeated doses of ketamine have been found to cause 'ketamine bladder syndrome', a painful condition that requires on going treatment. Symptoms associated with the syndrome include—difficulty holding urine and incontinence, which can cause ulceration in the bladder. It is essential that any person suffering from ketamine bladder syndrome cease using the drug and see a health professional.
Other effects of ketamine use
Ketamine and social problems
All areas of a person's life can be affected by drug use.
Taking ketamine with other drugs
The effects of mixing ketamine with other drugs, including alcohol, prescription medications and over-the-counter medicines, are often unpredictable.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
It is dangerous to drive after using ketamine. The effects of ketamine, such as impaired motor coordination, blurred vision and distorted perception, can affect driving ability.
People with distorted perception may be less aware of reality, which can increase the chances of an accident. The symptoms of coming down and withdrawal can also affect a person’s ability to drive safely.
Ketamine use in the workplace
Under occupational health and safety legislation, all employees have a responsibility to make sure they look after their own and their co-workers' safety. The effects of ketamine such as distorted perception and impaired motor coordination can affect a person’s ability to work safely and effectively. The symptoms of coming down and withdrawal can also affect a person’s ability to work safely and effectively.
There is evidence that after frequent and prolonged use, ketamine is addictive. People who use ketamine regularly can develop dependence and tolerance to it, which means they need to take larger amounts of ketamine to get the same effect.
People who are psychologically dependent on ketamine may find they feel an urge to use it when they are in specific surroundings or socialising with friends.
Physical dependence occurs when a person's body adapts to ketamine and gets used to functioning with the ketamine present.
If a dependent person stops taking ketamine, they may experience withdrawal symptoms because their body has to get used to functioning without it. People may experience withdrawal symptoms for approximately 4–5 days.
What to do if you are concerned about someone's amphetamine use
If you are concerned about someone's drug use, there is help available. Contact the alcohol and drug information service in your state or territory.
What to do in a crisis
Always call triple zero (000) if a drug overdose is known or suspected—and remember that paramedics are not obliged to involve the police.
If someone overdoses or has an adverse reaction while using ketamine, it is very important that they receive professional help as soon as possible. A quick response can save their life.
Is it legal?
Legally produced ketamine is a restricted substance and only a doctor or vet may prescribe or administer it. All other ketamine is illegal in Australia.
National drug policy
Australia’s national drug policy is based on harm minimisation. Strategies to minimise harm include encouraging people to avoid using a drug through to helping people to reduce the risk of harm if they do use a drug. It aims to reduce all types of drug-related harm to both the individual and the community.
This information has been adapted from the pamphlet How Drugs Affect You: Ketamine, produced by the Australian Drug Foundation. For single copies of this pamphlet, contact DrugInfo. Multiple copies are available from the ADF Bookshop.
Last updated: 27 June 2014
Information you heard is intended as a general guide only. This audio is copyrighted by the Australian Drug Foundation. Visit www.DrugInfo.ADF.org.au for more