In detail

Ketamine, medicine or drug?

Ketamine, medicine or drug?

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic agent, which is mainly used in veterinary practice and has high hallucinogenic potential. This substance is derived from phencyclidine, which is used in medicine for its sedative, analgesic and, above all, anesthetic properties.


  • 1 How ketamine works
  • 2 In what format is ketamine presented
  • 3 Effects of ketamine
  • 4 side effects
  • 5 Signs of dependence on ketamine

How ketamine works

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic agent, whose name is because distorts visual and auditory perceptions producing a sense of environmental isolation and of one's own being. Ketamine produces effects similar to those of the drug known as PCP, whose action is generated on a type of glutamate receptor called NMDA receptor.

Its action produces a powerful psychoactive effect that consists of a functional and electrophysiological dissociation between the thalamocortical and limbic. This prevents the upper centers from perceiving auditory, visual or painful stimuli without causing respiratory depression. The eyes remain open with a lost look and usually nystagmus is observed. The clinical effect of Ketamine is defined as “somesthetic sensory block with amnesia and analgesia”.

In low doses it produces decreased attention, learning ability and memory. In higher doses, ketamine can cause conditions similar to sleep and hallucinations; and in even higher doses it can cause delirium and amnesia.

As a drug, it is increasingly popular consumption in recreational environments such as discos and parties, it is included in the so-called "club drugs", among which are the GBL, Mephedrone, Butandiol and 2CB among other. Due to its psychotropic and dissociative effects. It is popularly known as K powder. However, it is easy to abuse it due to its potency and fall into an accidental overdose.

In what format is ketamine presented?

Ketamine can be purchased in powder, pills or liquid. In its powdered form it can be inhaled through the nose or consumed orally mixed with a drink. In its liquid form it can also be injected. The effects of smoking or ingesting it tend to be less intense than if injected directly.

Due to the dream state and dissociation that is capable of creating this drug, where the user finds it difficult to move, and because it is also odorless and colorless, ketamine has been used as a drug for rape.

Ketamine Effects

Short term effects

The Ketamine effects last about an hour. It starts about 2 to 5 minutes after the dose has been smoked or swallowed. If injected they appear around 30 seconds after the injection has occurred.

The first sensation that appears is overwhelming feeling of relaxation, sometimes described as a full-body buzz. Some feel they are floating and others even describe it as if they were out of their bodies. Many experience hallucinations that can last longer than anesthetic effects.

Higher doses can produce much more intense effects, and users talk about a feeling of complete and total detachment from their bodies. The effects are similar to those described by people who have had near-death experiences, and is described as being in "hole K".

Other short-term effects are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Drowsiness.
  • Cardiovascular effects such as hypertension and tachycardia.
  • Respiratory depression
  • Hypersalivation

Long-term effects

The main effects that are known in the long term are:

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Memory problems.
  • Depression.
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Mental disability
  • Addiction.

Side effects

The drug has, of course, unwanted side effects that can be quite problematic. The Short-term side effects include "bad trips" or terrible hallucinations. As with all psychotropic drugs, the pleasure of hallucination depends on the mood of the user, and if the user is trying to escape from unhappiness, hallucinations are likely to be unpleasant.

The most common side effects include:

  • Disorientation and general confusion due to the anesthetic nature of the drug.
  • Double vision.
  • Redness of the skin.
  • Loss of appetite and weight.
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain in the injection area.
  • Double vision.
  • Uncontrolled eye movements.
  • Unusually hot skin.
  • Rashes.
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficult, burning and painful urination.
  • Dizziness, fainting and lightheadedness when getting up.
  • Lips, nails and skin pale or blue.
  • Excitation, nervousness and restlessness.
  • See, hear and feel things that do not exist.

High doses of the drug may result in what some describe as the "K hole," which may include intense and unpleasant visual and auditory hallucinations along with a marked derealization and a terrifying detachment from reality with the feeling of being "almost dead".

However, perhaps the most problematic symptoms of ketamine are nausea and vomiting, as they can be very dangerous for those in a state of dissociated confusion, because they often end up supine (face up ), presenting a serious danger of suffocation from bronchoaspiration.

Signs of dependence on ketamine

There are some reports of people who consume unrestrained ketamine, and their behavior is very similar to that observed in some individuals dependent on the cocaine waves amphetamines.

Regular consumers of ketamine can develop tolerance and uncontrollable desire to use the drug, even if they do not experience withdrawal symptoms.


Maeng S, Zarate CA Jr. The role of glutamate in mood disorders: Results from the ketamine in major depression study and the presumed cellular mechanism underlying its antidepressant effects. Curr Psychiatry Rep., 2007.