Ketamine (also known as special K, cat tranquilizers, vitamin K, kit kat and blind) is a dissociative drug. This means it produces a sense of detachment (or dissociation) of the mind from the body. It works by preventing the brain from receiving nerve messages about pain. It also alters how sight and sound are experienced.
Ketamine is odourless and colourless. Its effects can make it difficult for a person to resist sexual assault. For these reasons, ketamine is often used as a date rape drug.
When ketamine is used for medical purposes, it is a liquid that is injected.
When sold illegally, it is generally a powder. This powder can be taken in several ways:
- sniffed up the nose (snorted)
- smoked in a cigarette
- dissolved in a liquid and injected into a muscle or vein
- mixed with a liquid and drunk
Short-term effects of ketamine
Ketamine use can lead to short-term mental and physical effects.
Some of the short-term mental effects of ketamine use can include:
- vivid dreams or hallucinations, which may be intense and terrifying
- feeling like the mind is separated from the body (this disassociation is sometimes referred to as the "K-hole")
- sensations of weightlessness or inability to move
- a drunken, dizzy feeling
- being unable to speak
- sleepiness, confusion and loss of coordination
A person who uses ketamine may also experience physical symptoms, such as:
- blurred vision
- unpleasant taste in the mouth
- increased blood pressure and heart rate, which can lead to:
- heart attack
- difficulty breathing
- decreased response to pain, which puts the person at risk for:
- loss of consciousness
When the effects of ketamine wear off, the person may feel anxious and depressed. They may also be unable to recall what happened while they were on the drug.
Ketamine can also cause nausea and vomiting. People who eat or drink before taking the drug increase their risk of choking on vomit.
Because ketamine is a central nervous system depressant, taking it with other depressant drugs (including alcohol ) is dangerous. Doing so can cause respiratory problems or stop breathing altogether. Engaging in activities that require focus and attention like driving also become dangerous.
Another risk is overdose . Large amounts of ketamine may depress the nervous system. This can result in:
- slowed breathing
Long-term effects of ketamine
With long-term use, the effects of ketamine can become more severe. Common side effects for people who use ketamine regularly may include urinary and bladder problems, such as:
- bladder inflammation
- difficult or painful urination
- frequent or urgent urination
- inability to hold in urine (incontinence)
If people who use ketamine share drug equipment, such as needles and syringes, they are at increased risk of infection. Several infectious diseases can be spread by contaminated drug supplies, including:
Substance use disorders and withdrawal
If people regularly use ketamine they may become tolerant to the drug's effects. This means they need to take more and more to feel the drug's effects.
It is unclear whether ketamine is addictive. However, abruptly stopping use of the drug can produce a withdrawal syndrome which includes symptoms of:
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