Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic developed in 1963 to replace PCP and currently used in human anesthesia and veterinary medicine. Much of the ketamine sold on the street has been diverted from veterinarians’ offices. Ketamine’s chemical structure and mechanism of action are similar to those of PCP.
What does it look like?
Although it is manufactured as an injectable liquid, in illicit use ketamine is generally evaporated to form a powder.
How is it used?
Snorted or swallowed. Ketamine is odorless and tasteless, so it can be added to beverages without being detected, and it induces amnesia. Because of these properties, the drug is sometimes given to unsuspecting victims and used in the commission of sexual assaults referred to as “drug rape.
In either its powder or liquid forms, ketamine is mixed with beverages or added to smokable materials such as marijuana or tobacco. As a powder the drug is snorted or pressed into tablets--often in combination with other drugs such as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, also known as ecstasy). As a liquid, ketamine is injected; it often is injected intramuscularly.
Who uses ketamine?
Teenagers and young adults represent the majority of ketamine users. According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network, individuals aged 12 to 25 accounted for 74 percent of the ketamine emergency department mentions in the United States in 2000.
Ketamine use among high school students is a particular concern. Nearly 3 percent of high school seniors in the United States used the drug at least once in the past year, according to the University of Michigan's Monitoring the Future Survey.
What are the risks?
Ketamine causes users to have distorted perceptions of sight and sound and to feel disconnected and out of control. Use of the drug can impair an individual's senses, judgment, and coordination for up to 24 hours after the drug is taken even though the drug's hallucinogenic effects usually last for only 45 to 90 minutes.
Use of ketamine has been associated with serious problems--both mental and physical. Ketamine can cause depression, delirium, amnesia, impaired motor function, high blood pressure, and potentially fatal respiratory problems.
What is ketamine called?
The most common names for ketamine are K, special K, cat valium, and vitamin K.