Ketamine’s street names often make reference to its initial intended use as an anesthetic for household pets – Kit Kat, Cat Valium, Special K, Dorothy or Vitamin K. But since this dissociative anesthetic and sedative has become a popular recreational drug, the impact on young people has been anything but cute.
It has gained notoriety in recent years as one of the more common “club drugs” – psychoactive drugs abused by young adults at concerts, nightclubs, bars and parties – because of its euphoric qualities. Users often experience a dream-like state of delirium and a feeling of detachment from their body and environment.
Ketamine also distorts the user’s perceptions of sights and sounds and sometimes makes it difficult for them to move or respond their surroundings. It has been used as date rape drug because it is odorless and colorless, making it hard to detect when it is added to a beverage.
In the case of extremely high doses, usually taken through injections, the effects can be even more pronounced and extreme. Some users describe having a “near-death experience” while using ketamine, and others say there were in a state of “utter bliss.” This effect is known in slang as the “K-hole.”
Legally, ketamine is sometimes used in medical care, particularly for children who have an adverse reaction to other anesthetics, or in some instances where other medications may be too strong for an individual patient. Sold under the brand name Ketalar, it is a Schedule III controlled substance, meaning it may lead to physical dependence but users are generally unlikely to develop psychological dependence.
Accidental overdoses of ketamine are not uncommon. An overdose may not even require a large amount of ketamine if other drugs or alcohol are being used at the same time. Often, an overdose will occur when a user is trying to attain the “K-hole” effect.
Because ketamine acts as a tranquilizer, users may lose mobility and not be able to speak, which can be a dangerous situation because they cannot ask for help if they are in distress. The leading cause of death from ketamine abuse is respiratory failure.
Other negative effects of ketamine use include:
During drug rehab treatment for ketamine addiction, withdrawal symptoms are primarily psychological – agitation, confusion, intense anger, hallucinations and insomnia are some of the most common symptoms. However, people who use the drug heavily over a long period of time may experience strong physical withdrawal symptoms as well.
Some patients who have a severe addiction to ketamine may exhibit rage and violent tendencies, becoming emotionally unstable to the point that they must be isolated in order to protect themselves and other patients around them. It’s important that ketamine users seek a professional rehab facility that offers clinical supervision for withdrawal to ensure a controlled, safe and comfortable recovery process.