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What Is Ketamine? — Uses, Benefits, and Side Effects

Though pioneered for medical use, many prescription medications have developed a huge black market presence, and ketamine is unfortunately no exception. Special K, super K, horse trank — these are all street names for ketamine when one uses it for illegal, recreational purposes to get high.

However, ketamine’s actual purpose is for use by medical practitioners and veterinarians as an anesthetic. Today, we’re reviewing the intended uses and benefits of this drug, while also casting an eye over its potential side effects and abuse.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a class III scheduled drug approved for use as an anesthetic in hospitals, veterinary offices, and other medical settings and situations.

Ketamine was first used in Belgium in the 1960s as anesthesia for animals. Over the next few years, it became evident that the drug also benefited humans, and in 1970 the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use for people. Since ketamine doesn’t slow down one’s heart rate or breathing and can be easily administered, it was commonly used during the Vietnam War to treat injured soldiers on the battlefields.

Ketamine is a dissociative drug, which is a class of hallucinogens that acts on chemicals in the brain to distort the perception of sight and sounds. Often, this can also produce feelings of detachment and dissociation from reality. People use the term “k-hole” when describing the out-of-body experience of being on the drug. Some people say that it feels as if they are rising above their body, being teleported to another place, or melting into their surroundings and unable to move.

These effects are what make ketamine a popular recreational drug. Illegally, it is typically sold in the form of a white powder that very closely resembles cocaine. However, it is also sold in pill form and can be dissolved into a liquid and injected. 

What Are the Therapeutic Uses and Benefits of Ketamine?

Nowadays, ketamine is most often used for veterinary purposes. However, when it comes to humans, it can induce and help maintain general anesthesia before, during, and after surgery. Ketamine is considered a suitable option since it does not need oxygen, an electricity supply, or highly trained staff to administer the drug. In these types of situations, the drug is typically given intravenously or injected into the muscle.

Besides pain relief, medical professionals may use ketamine in certain procedures including:

  • Skin grafts
  • Orthopedic procedures
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Minor surgical interventions, such as dental extractions
  • Diagnostic procedures on the eye, ear, nose, and throat

Although it is considered controversial, researchers have found that a ketamine infusion can significantly reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in some patients. This discovery has led to researching other possible uses of ketamine in relation to mental health, such as suicide prevention, substance abuse disorders, and treatment-resistant depression.

How Is Ketamine Used Illegally?

When sold and used as a recreational drug, ketamine can be snorted, swallowed, or injected. If snorted, effects are typically felt within 5-15 minutes. It can take up to 30 minutes to feel these same effects if swallowed and within one minute when injected. Ketamine is also sometimes rolled up and smoked with marijuana or tobacco.

The desired effects of ketamine can typically last for about an hour; however, one’s senses or coordination may be affected for up to 24 hours after the initial use.

What Are the Side Effects of Recreational Use?

Generic effects of taking ketamine can include:

  • Feeling happy and relaxed
  • Hallucinations
  • Clumsiness
  • Feeling detached from your body
  • Slurred speech 
  • Blurred vision
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lowered sensitivity to pain

There are also many physical and mental side effects and health risks associated with the long-term use of ketamine illegally as a recreational drug. 

Physical Health Risks

  • Ketamine can cause confusion, agitation, deliriousness, and a feeling of disconnection from reality.
  • When on ketamine, your body cannot properly feel pain, so if you injure yourself while on the drug, you may not realize you’ve been hurt or to what extent.
  • It can cause damage to your memory.
  • Serious bladder problems are likely, including frequent, painful, bloody urination. With heavy ketamine use, the bladder may need surgical repair or possibly even removal.
  • Long-term use can cause abdominal pain, referred to as ‘K Cramps,’ and liver damage.
  • Taking ketamine can be fatal, especially if mixed with other drugs.

Mental Health Risks

  • Ketamine use can cause depression or enhance already existing mental health problems. 
  • Regular use of the drug can cause hallucinations.
  • Longer-term effects can include memory loss, difficulties with concentration, and flashbacks.

Coming Down

The day after using ketamine, you may experience additional side effects, such as:

  • Impaired judgment
  • Disorientation
  • Memory loss
  • Aches and pains
  • Anxiety

Can You Overdose on Ketamine?

A ketamine overdose is possible when taking a large amount or mixing ketamine with other drugs. However, the risk of death is low due to ketamine’s ability to cause unconsciousness. It also has minimal impact on blood circulation or airway reflexes. The main concern is that individuals are at a higher risk of physical harm and accidents while under the influence due to not feeling pain.

What Are the Symptoms of Withdrawal?

Any long-term drug use will be challenging on the body because it has grown used to functioning with the drug. Symptoms of withdrawal from ketamine can include:

  • Cravings for more ketamine
  • Chills
  • Sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness and tremors
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nightmares
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

Countrywide Testing

The first step towards recovery is recognizing that there is a problem. If you suspect a friend or loved one is addicted to ketamine, other narcotics, alcohol, or even nicotine, let Countrywide Testing help you confirm your suspicions and help get them started on the road to recovery.

At Countrywide Testing, we are an online store providing individuals, companies, and facilities with access to drug tests and pharmacogenetic testing. We offer an array of drug tests for testing at home, individuals staying clean after rehab, workplace testing, healthcare emergencies, and law enforcement purposes. 

Our test kits are convenient, affordable, and ship to you quickly. Plus, our lab is SAMHSA accredited, so you can rest assured your test results are handled in accordance with the highest industry standards.

Visit our website or contact us by phone at (619) 292-8734, and our experts can help you figure out what drug test(s) will be the most effective for your situation.



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