Ketamine (C13H16 ClNO M.W. 237.73) hydrochloride is a short-acting dissociative anesthetic with hallucinogenic and painkilling qualities. Ketamine is occasionally administered to people as a general anesthetic but, more commonly it is used by vets for pet surgery. Popular in club and rave culture, street “K” is most often diverted in liquid form from vets’ offices or medical suppliers for illegal, recreational use.
Chemically related to PCP or “Angel Dust”, the most common trade names for Ketamine are Ketalar and Ketaset. Ketamine’s street names include cat Valiums K, Special K, and Vitamin K.
Ketamine is currently a DEA Schedule III drug.
In 1962, while searching for PCP anesthetic replacements, Ketamine was first synthesized at Parke Davis Labs. Three years later, the drug was found to be useful as an anesthetic, primarily for veterinary use because its respiratory depression was far less than most other anesthetics. By the 1970’s patients began to report hallucinations while under its influence and in 1978, John Lilly’s book “The Scientist” enhanced Ketamine’s popularity. In the rave and club scene, Ketamine abuse waltzes beside gamma hydroxy butyrate (GHB) and MDMA (Ecstasy). All three are very popular with this party crowd and in the mid nineties, the DEA added Ketamine to its “emerging drugs list”. A few years later the media and legislators lumped it together with GHB as a “date rape drug”, and a “club drug”. In 1999 the DEA emergency scheduled Ketamine. Today, Ketamine is used for short-term surgical procedures in both animals and humans and the drug is legally sold only to hospitals and physicians.
Ketamine is prepared by evaporating the liquid from the legitimate prescribed injectable product and then grinding the residue into a powder. The liquid is dried by warming the liquid on low heat. In liquid form it is injected intramuscularly.
Alternatively, Ketamine is snorted or swallowed as a powder and sometimes smoked.
Ketamine has become a staple at ‘rave’ parties, producing a dose-related progression of effects from a state of dreamy intoxication to delirium. Other effects include an inability to move, feel pain or remember what happened while under the drug’s influence.
Ketamine’s benefit as an anesthetic is its ability to block nerve paths without depressing respiratory and circulatory functions. Some of Ketamine’s primary effects include increased heart rate and blood pressure, impaired motor function, memory loss, numbness, nausea and vomiting.
Ketamine “trips” have been described as experiencing alternate planes of existence, past and future revelations, and being “at one with the universe”. Users often experience communication difficulties and an inability to see or hear others in the same room.
Ketamine can produce profound physical and mental problems including delirium, amnesia, impaired motor function and potentially fatal respiratory problems. Two psychological problems associated with regular use Ketamine are paranoia and egocentrism.
Other effects include panic, rage and paranoia. Some user’s experience a feeling of paralysis, slurring, euphoria, confusion, nausea and vomiting. Ketamine users literally “feel no pain”, increasing the likelihood of causing injury or harm to themselves without even knowing it. Users are often unaware they are hallucinating and some enter the “K Hole” – purportedly similar to a “near death” experience.
In the rave and club scene these days, substances sold as Ketamine or Special K are often mixed with other drugs, including heroin, coke, and ecstasy. Any such drugs combined with Ketamine are a potentially lethal combination with minimal psychedelic value.
High doses of Ketamine may induce delirium, depression, respiratory depression and arrest. As an anesthetic, a Ketamine overdose will knock you out just as if you had received a general anesthetic in an operating room. Continuous use in large doses can induce unconsciousness and cardiac arrest, leading to death. If an overdose is suspected, seek IMMEDIATE medical attention.
Ketamine should never be combined with central nervous system depressants, particularly alcohol, barbiturates, and benzodiazepenes such as Valium.
*Do Not Operate Heavy Machinery.
*Do Not Drive.
*Do Not Swim and avoid bodies of water. At least one Ketamine associated death has been recorded from a user who drowned while taking a bath.
While Ketamine is generally considered to be more psychologically addicting, its physical hold is also incredibly powerful on an individual. Regular users may find it extremely difficult to stop.
Ketamine’s seductive and tremendous psychological dependence results from the dissociation from one’s consciousness experienced with the drug.
If used regularly, users of Special K can quickly build a tolerance to the drug’s effects. Special K is illegal and possession can result in long prison terms.
Tolerance is a diminished response to a drug. It is the effect of cellular adaptive changes or enhanced drug metabolism from extended use of a medication. Tolerance develops over days, weeks, or months.
According to the FDA, addiction is characterized by compulsive use, use for non-medical purposes, and continued use despite harm or risk of harm.
It does not appear that Ketamine produces withdrawal symptoms in chronic users. However, abstaining long term users report tension, twitching, decreased attention span, and restlessness. These symptoms may be due more to the sedative norketamine (a breakdown product of ketamine) lingering in the blood stream.
If you are a long term Ketamine user, it is advisable to stop taking it under medical supervision. Sudden cessation of the drug in long term users may produce unpredictable effects.
With a moderate to severe addiction from relatively long term use, an in patient detox in a hospital or medical supervised setting is available. Lower levels of dependence can usually be handled under a knowledgeable physician’s supervision with minimal discomfort. Treatment will ultimately depend on the degree of addiction.
However a person chooses to free themselves from the clutches of a drug, there is one constant each needs: Support. Narcotics Anonymous remains a successful choice for many addicts, with world-wide availability. The “information age” has produced numerous on line support forums, popular with many recovering addicts, useful to some addicts as their sole means of support and for others, as adjunct therapy. Drug addiction is treatable, with help out there for everyone.