If you’ve heard of ketamine, it’s probably because of its history of abuse as a club drug. But it could also be one of the biggest advances in treating severe depression in years.
How can a cure be so promising and dangerous? The answer lies in how it affects your brain.
Ketamine acts like a flash mob, temporarily keeping an eye on a particular chemical “receiver”. In some cases, with professional medical care it can be a good thing. But cross that line and that’s a big problem.
Your doctor will probably not give it to you as an antidepressant yet. Scientists always test it for that. But if ketamine brings people back from the depths of depression, it might be the last thing you expect from a drug that can get you out of hand.
Lower doses can help relieve pain. Ketamine helps sedatives to work and can help people who have less addictive painkillers, such as morphine after surgery or when treating burns.
When misused, ketamine can change your eyesight and sound. You can have hallucinations and feel in touch with your surroundings – and even with yourself. It can make speech and movement difficult, and is misused as a drug of rape.
“Outside the clinic, ketamine can cause tragedies, but the miracle is in good hands,” said John Abenstein, MD, president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.
Ketamine is used by doctors and veterinarians as an anesthetic. People sometimes use it illegally to stand up. Ketamine can produce psychedelic effects, causing a person to see, hear, smell, smell, or taste things that are not really there or different from the real
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Ketamine affects everyone differently, based on:
- size, weight and health
- whether the person is used to taking it
- whether other drugs are taken around the same time
- the amount taken
- the strength of the drug (varies from batch to batch).
The following effects may be experienced:
- feeling happy and relaxed
- feeling detached from your body (‘falling into a k-hole’)
- confusion and clumsiness
- increased heart rate and blood pressure
- slurred speech and blurred vision
- anxiety, panic and violence
- lowered sensitivity to pain.2,3,5
If you take a large amount or have a strong batch, you could overdose. Call an ambulance straight away by dialling triple zero (000) if you have any of these symptoms (ambulance officers don’t need to involve the police):
- inability to move, rigid muscles
- high body temperature, fast heartbeat
- coma and ‘near death’ experiences
In the day following ketamine use, you may be experience:
- memory loss
- impaired judgement, disorientation
- aches and pains
Regular use of ketamine may eventually cause:
- poor sense of smell (from snorting)
- mood and personality changes, depression
- poor memory, thinking and concentration
- ketamine bladder syndrome (see below)
- abdominal pain
- needing to use more to get the same effect
- dependence on ketamine
- financial, work and social problems.2,3,5
Large, repeated doses of ketamine may eventually cause ‘ketamine bladder syndrome’, a painful condition needing ongoing treatment. Symptoms include difficulty holding in urine, incontinence, which can cause ulceration in the bladder. Anyone suffering from ketamine bladder syndrome needs to stop using ketamine and see a health professional.2,5
The effects of taking ketamine with other drugs– including over-the-counter or prescribed medications – can be unpredictable and dangerous, and could cause:
- Ketamine + alcohol or opiates: lack of awareness of effects of the depressant drugs, which may lead to taking too much and vomiting, slowed breathing, coma and death.5
- Ketamine + amphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine: enormous strain on the body, which can lead to fast heart rate.2
Giving up ketamine after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Withdrawal symptoms usually last for 4-6 days. These symptoms can include:
- cravings for ketamine
- no appetite
- chills, sweating
- restlessness, tremors
- nightmares, anxiety, depression