Ketamine Abuse and Addiction: 14 Fast Facts

Ketamine abuse is dangerous, learn about the side effects and treatment

Ketamine is used in medical settings as an anesthetic, but it has also become popular as a recreational psychoactive drug. Though it is considered very safe at medical doses, it is usually abused at much larger doses and can become dangerous at that level, particularly if mixed with other illicit substances. While ketamine abuse may not be discussed as much as drugs like heroin and meth, it is a very serious problem.

Is ketamine addictive? It can be. The following fast facts are among the most important things to know about this drug, which is particularly popular among teenagers and in the electronic dance music (EDM) scene.

1) The dangers of ketamine include death by respiratory depression, arrhythmia, tachycardia and low blood pressure. It also has a wide variety of negative interactions with other types of psychoactive substances and is particularly dangerous when mixed with depressants.

2) Though ketamine has risen in popularity as a drug used at clubs and raves in recent years, it has been commonly used to cut impure ecstasy for much longer.

3) Due to the difficulty and expense of synthesizing ketamine, most of the illicit supply on the streets has been diverted from legitimate medical settings. Animal tranquilizers are a popular source among drug dealers.

4) The DEA considers ketamine a Schedule III controlled substance, meaning it is illegal to possess without a prescription or medical license. State penalties vary, but federal penalties for possession range up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine for a first offense.

5) Ketamine highs are relatively short, meaning that users not only have to take high doses but will also take them frequently. It is also possible to build up a tolerance to ketamine over time, requiring larger doses to get the same effect.

6) As sold on the street, pure ketamine is a white powder. It may also come in a rockier or “chunkier” form. Discolored powders indicate it has been cut with other substances. In clinical settings, it is used as a liquid, with drug dealers generally drying it out into powder form before selling it on the street. Items it is frequently cut with include monosodium glutamate (MSG), methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), sugar and salt.

7) According to the Department of Justice, ketamine doses are also sometimes used as a date rape drug to incapacitate victims, usually by slipping it into their drinks.

8) Ketamine is usually snorted or injected, but can also be taken orally with a reduced effect.

9) People who are high on ketamine experience powerful disassociative states and may temporarily lose the ability to move or to distinguish fantasy from reality. They also frequently experience hallucinations.

10) Common street names often include some variation of the letter “K”, like Super K or Vitamin K. Other names include Kit Kat, LA Coke, Green, Purple, or a reference to cats (as it was originally mostly derived from cat tranquilizers).

11) Though the mind-altering effects of ketamine generally last for less than one hour, users may experience negative symptoms like loss of coordination and confused thoughts for as much as a full day after taking it.

12) There have been some cases of ketamine addiction with prolonged use. Tolerance develops quickly, and patients presenting with withdrawal symptoms have reported strong cravings. Physical withdrawal symptoms are rare and still unclear to medical science, however.

13) Though physical withdrawal symptoms are rare, regular ketamine abusers frequently develop serious bladder problems. This causes painful and bloody urination, and damage to the bladder can become so bad that it has to be surgically removed. Damage to the kidneys and urinary tract has also been seen in regular users.

14) In addition to the physical effects described above, long-term ketamine abusers have been known to develop chronic depression and problems with their memory.


If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

is a proud alumni member of WhiteSands Treatment. After living a life of chaos, destruction and constant let downs, Mark was able to make a complete turnaround that sparked a new way of life. He is serious about his recovery along with helping others. At WhiteSands Treatment, we offer support to you in your homes or when you are out living in your daily lives.