What Is the Ketamine Drug?

What Is the Ketamine Drug? | Harmony Treatment and Wellness

Ketamine (referred to on the street as Special K) is an anesthetic prescription drug that also has psychedelic properties. It alters sensory perception and can induce feelings of detachment from oneself and the world. For these reasons, it is a common drug of abuse. Ketamine exists in the form of a white powder or clear liquid.

Ketamine Abuse

When used for non-medical purposes, ketamine is frequently injected, although the powdered form can also be snorted or ingested orally. Ketamine is sometimes combined with other drugs or alcohol to intensify effects.

There is little evidence that suggests that ketamine has the potential to lead to chemical dependence. However, some long-term abusers can develop an emotional dependence and experience cravings for the drug when they attempt to discontinue use. Tolerance will also increase, which will require them to need increasing amounts to achieve the desired effect.

The development of tolerance can drive many individuals to engage in drug-seeking behavior and binge-like patterns of abuse. When binging, a user will use the drug repeatedly and excessively in a relatively short period.

Psychologically, ketamine withdrawal is similar to withdrawal from other drugs of abuse, such as cocaine, and can induce intense cravings. Adverse psychological effects, such as depression and anxiety, are common with ketamine, but physical symptoms are minimal or non-existent.

Short-Term Effects of Ketamine Abuse

Ketamine will typically produce a sudden high that lasts for around an hour. Unlike other dissociatives, such as phencyclidine (PCP), ketamine is short-acting. An injection can induce a high in less than a minute, and snorting or smoking can result in a high in under five minutes.

Anecdotally, users report feeling an overpowering sense of relaxation as if they are floating or having an out-of-body experience. Hallucinations can also occur and last beyond the initial relaxation phase.

As with any intoxicating substance, high doses will likely result in more intense effects, which users often cite as being comparable to a near-death experience. This overall effect is called a “K-hole” and can create unpleasant hallucinations and feelings of detachment from reality.

Other side effects of ketamine may include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Drowsiness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased blood pressure

Also, because ketamine reduces a person’s perception of pain, a user can unintentionally injure him or herself. These injuries can be especially problematic if the user fails to seek medical treatment promptly due to intoxication and can result in additional complications.

What Is the Ketamine Drug? | Harmony Treatment and Wellness

Long-Term Effects of Ketamine Abuse

The long-term effects of ketamine abuse are not entirely understood, especially since ketamine is often abused in conjunction with other substances. However, there is some evidence that suggests that prolonged use can result in a thickening of the urinary tract and bladder, and long-term users may need to have their bladders removed when they encounter difficulty with urination. As with many drugs and alcohol, ketamine abuse has also been associated with kidney problems.


If you suspect that you or someone you know is experiencing a ketamine overdose on ketamine, medical attention should be sought immediately. Overdoses are often treated with symptomatic and supportive care in a clinical environment, and adverse effects will likely resolve in less than three hours.

Respiratory support is seldom needed, but additional ventilation or oxygen may be required. Profound respiratory depression is more likely to occur if ketamine was used in combination with other sedatives.

Managing Withdrawal Symptoms

Psychological withdrawal symptoms that onset as a result of chronic or repeated ketamine use can often be managed using a progressive tapering of the drug dosage over a few weeks, as directed by a health provider. When this method is used, the person’s system can gradually adapt to receiving smaller and smaller amounts of the drug, and psycho-emotional withdrawal symptoms will be minimized in comparison to quitting abruptly.

Treatment for Ketamine Abuse

Detox, therapy, counseling, and group support are very helpful for recovery from ketamine abuse. Harmony Treatment and Wellness offers these treatments in both partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient formats. Most ketamine users also suffer from polysubstance abuse or a co-occurring mental health disorder, and treatment is designed to address these problems simultaneously with the abuse of ketamine itself.

Ketamine is an intoxicating and potentially psychologically addictive drug that can result in severe mental distress and intense cravings upon abrupt discontinuation. If you or someone you love is abusing ketamine, other drugs, or alcohol, we urge you to contact us today to discuss treatment options. You don’t have to do this alone—we can help!

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