What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a club drug, identified as such due to its popularity at dance clubs and raves. The prevalence of ketamine among users in grades 8, 10 and 12 in 2008, according to the 2009 Monitoring the Future Report from The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, was 1.2 percent, 1.0 percent, and 1.5 percent, respectively.

According to data from the National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), teenagers and young adults represent the majority of ketamine users. Statics from the Drug Abuse Warning Network show that young people between the ages of 12 and 25 accounted for 74 percent of the ketamine emergency mentions in the U.S. in 2000.

What it is

Ketamine, or ketamine hydrochloride, is a central nervous system depressant, a dissociative anesthetic originally developed in 1963 to replace PCP. Today, ketamine is used in both anesthesias in humans and in veterinary medicine. In fact, most of the ketamine on the street has been “diverted” from veterinary offices.

Common street names

On the street, you’ll hear various names for ketamine, including: blind squib, breakfast cereal, bump, cat valium, green, honey oil, jet, K, keller, keller’s day, ket, ketaject, ketalar, kit kat, new ecstasy, psychedelic heroin, purple, special K, special la coke, super acid, super C, super K, Vitamin K and vit K.

How to identify ketamine

Manufactured as an injectable, clear liquid, ketamine is used illegally in an evaporated form, a white power that is either compressed into pills or snorted. Due to its appearance, ketamine is often mistaken for crystal methamphetamine or cocaine. On the street, it is sometimes sold as ecstasy (MDMA), and mixed with other drugs or substances such as ephedrine and caffeine.

How ketamine is used

The drug is swallowed, snorted, smoked, or injected into the muscles or veins. Reports of “cafeteria use” – where a mix of sedative/hypnotic and hallucinogenic drugs are used, including MDMA, LSD, GHB, and illegally used prescription drugs – are occurring all across America, especially on the rave/club dance scene.

Effects of ketamine

Ketamine’s effects are similar to those of PCP, although in ketamine, the effects are less potent and last a shorter period of time. A ketamine “high” usually lasts about an hour, but can last 4 to 6 hours. It usually takes between 24 to 48 hours before the user feels back to normal again. Low doses, about 24 to 100 mg, can quickly bring on psychedelic effects. Users of ketamine report various sensations, everything from a pleasant floating feeling to rapture to the feeling of being separated from their bodies. A really bad ketamine trip involved frightening and nearly complete sensory detachment that some describe as a “near-death experience.” These bad trips are called the “K-hole.”

Other slang terms for trips on ketamine include K-land, baby food, and God.

Why ketamine is bad for you

Odorless and tasteless, ketamine can be added to beverages without detection. The drug induces amnesia. It is sometimes given to unsuspecting victims in order to commit sexual assaults called “drug rape.”

Other negative and potentially fatal effects of ketamine abuse include:

• Exaggerated sense of strength

• Large doses can result in coma, seizures, respiratory arrest and death (1 gram can cause death)

• Long-term use can cause memory impairment and damage to other brain functions

• Muscle rigidity, numbness, loss of coordination, sense of invulnerability

• Personality and mood changes, sometimes aggressive, violent behavior

• Psychosis, induced by the drug, can occur and last for hours

• Risk of accidents while under the influence of the drug

• Vomiting and convulsions

Addicting?

The effects of chronic ketamine use may take several months to a couple of years to wear off. Long-term abuse involves a tolerance to the drug, requiring larger and more frequent amounts to achieve the same high, and issues of dependence (both physical and psychological). Flashback episodes can occur as much as a year after use.

Ketamine is classified as a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Although Schedule III drugs, which include anabolic steroids and codeine, have less potential for abuse than drugs such as heroin (Schedule I) or cocaine (Schedule II), abuse of Schedule III drugs can lead to dependence. Abuse of ketamine is also illegal.

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