Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that produces sensory distortions and reduces a person’s perception of pain. As a derivative of phencyclidine (PCP) – a dissociative drug that produces hallucinations, delirium, confusion and other unpredictable effects – the two drugs produce similar effects. However, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists PCP as a Schedule II substance and ketamine as a schedule III substance.
Dissociative anesthetics such as ketamine are commonly used in hospitals and by veterinarians for their ability to reduce the sensation of pain. Ketamine comes in a pill, powder or liquid form that can be injected, snorted, swallowed or smoked by users.
Ketamine users may also feel as though they are detached from themselves and/or reality, become sedated and have a reduced ability to feel pain (analgesia). They may also experience hallucinations – such as seeing, feeling or hearing things that are not actually there – and other sensory distortions. These qualities also make dissociative anesthetic drugs popular drugs of abuse.
Short-term, ketamine users can experience dream-like states, loss of memory (amnesia) and sedation. For this reason, ketamine is sometimes used as a date rape drug, reported the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). The effects of ketamine typically begin within minutes and may last for an hour or longer.
Ketamine can produce a range of short-term effects, which vary depending on the amount of ketamine that is taken. Higher doses of ketamine can produce more unpredictable effects. Some of the effects of ketamine use include:
- Coordination problems
- Rigid muscles
- Difficulty moving
- Sensory distortions
- Separation from reality
- Altered sight, sound, shapes or time
- Increased heart rate
- Chest pain
- Respiratory depression
Ketamine stimulates the cardiovascular system, which can increase heart rate and blood pressure, and lead to tachycardia (rapid heart rate) in recreational users. Hypertension (high blood pressure) and pulmonary edema (excess fluid in the lungs) can also result when ketamine is used with other drugs – in particular, when combined with drugs such as MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine), cocaine, amphetamine and methamphetamine, reported the DEA.