ABOUT KETAMINE The use of Ketamine, one of the more popular club drugs, is increasing among teenagers and young adults throughout the United States. Because of its anesthetic properties, Ketamine is considered to be one of the date rape drugs, substances that can be slipped into a person's drink to render him or her unconscious.
The 1997 Monitoring the Future Study found that increased Ketamine use has been reported in many cities, including Miami, New York, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Detroit (NIDA, 2000). In the spring of 1997, Congress classified Ketamine as a drug with a high abuse potential and the possibility of creating severe physical or psychological dependence (NCADI, 2000).
WHAT IS KETAMINE? Ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride; a non-barbiturate) is a central nervous system depressant that produces a rapid-acting dissociative effect. It was developed in the 1970s as a medical anesthetic for both humans and animals. Ketamine is often mistaken for cocaine or crystal methamphetamine because of a similarity in appearance (NCADI, 2000). It also has been used in human medicine for pediatric burn cases and dentistry, and in experimental psychotherapy. It is being abused by an increasing number of young people as a "club drug," and is often distributed at "raves" and parties.
Also known as K, Special K, Vitamin K, Kit Kat, Keller, Super Acid, and Super C, Ketamine is available in tablet, powder, and liquid form. So powerful is the drug that, when injected, there is a risk of losing motor control before the injection is completed. In powder form, the drug can be snorted or sprinkled on tobacco or marijuana and smoked (Partnership for a Drug-Free America, 2000). The effects of Ketamine last from 1 to 6 hours, and it is usually 48 hours before the user feels completely "normal" again.
WHAT ARE THE SIDE EFFECTS OF KETAMINE? Ketamine produces a dissociative state in a user. Effects can range from rapture to paranoia to boredom. The user feels its hallucinogenic effects and experiences impaired perception. Ketamine commonly elicits an out-of-body or near-death experience; it can render the user comatose. Physically it prodcues slurred speech, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, lack of coordination, muscle rigidity, bronchodilation, respiratory distress, paralysis, increased cardiac output (leading to risk of heart attack or stroke), coma, and death.
Ketamine is similar molecularly to phencyclidine (PCP--or "Angel Dust") and thus creates similar effects including numbness, loss of coordination, sense of invulnerability, muscle rigidity, aggressive/violent behavior, slurred or blocked speech, exaggerated sense of strength, and a blank stare. There is depression of respiratory function but not of the central nervous system, and cardiovascular function is maintained. Since ketamine is an anesthetic, it stops the user from feeling pain, which could lead the user to inadvertantly cause injury to himself/herself. Ketamine may relieve tension and anxiety, is purported to be a sexual stimulant, and intensifies colors and sounds.
The effects of a ketamine 'high' usually last an hour but they can last for 4-6 hours, and 24-48 hours are generally required before the user will feel completely "normal" again. Effects of chronic use of ketamine may take from several months to two years to wear off completely. Low doses (25-100mg) produce psychedelic effects quickly. Large doses (1 gram or more) can produce vomiting and convulsions and may lead to oxygen starvation to the brain and muscles; one gram can cause death (NCADI, 2000). As with most anesthetics, eating or drinking before taking Ketamine can produce vomiting. Flashbacks may even occur one year after use. Long-term effects include tolerance and possible physical and/or psychological dependence.
HOW IS IT BEING ABUSED? Ketamine is a liquid and the most potent ways of using it are by injecting it intramuscularly or intravenously. There is the risk of losing motor control before injection is completed. Ketamine also can be made into a tablet, or a powder by evaporating the liquid and reducing it to a fine white powder that can be smoked or snorted. Because of its appearance, Ketamine is often mistaken for cocaine or crystal methamphetamine. Some reports indicate it is sometimes sold as MDMA (Ecstasy) and mixed with other drugs such as ephedrine and caffeine. "Cafeteria use" -- the use of a number of hallucinogenic and sedative/hypnotic club drugs such as MDMA, GHB, LSD, and illegally used prescription drugs -- is reported almost everywhere in the U.S.
IS KETAMINE LEGAL? Yes, but only for medical uses. It is marketed as Ketalar, or Ketaset, to veterinarians and medical personnel and considered a controlled substance only in California, Connecticut, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. A bill was introduced in Congress in the spring of 1997 to schedule ketamine as a Schedule II drug, having a high abuse potential with severe psychic or physical dependence liability. Cocaine and methamphetamine are other examples of Schedule II drugs.
IS KETAMINE USE SPREADING? According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, ketamine is an emerging drug in San Diego, New York, Miami, Newark (DE). Its use is also being reported in New Jersey, D.C., Florida, and Georgia.
SOURCES 1. Ketamine: A Fact Sheet National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information P.O. Box 2345 Rockville, MD 20847-2345 2. PREVENTIONAlert Volume 3, Number 28 September 1, 2000
OTHER SOURCES Drugs, Insolvents and Intoxicants-Ketamine, http://area51.upsu.plym.ac.uk/~harl/ketamine.aspx, accessed July 2000. National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI), Ketamine: A Fact Sheet, ncadi.samhsa.gov/pubs/qdocs/ketamine/ketafact.aspx, accessed July 2000. National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), Infofax;Club Drugs, www.nida.nih.gov/Infofax/clubdrugs.aspx, accessed July 2000. NIDA, Community Drug Alert Bulletin;Club Drugs, http://22.214.171.124/ClubAlert/Clubdrugalert.aspx, accessed July 2000. Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Drug Information: Ketamine (Special K), www.drugfreeamerica.org/clubdrugs/ketamine.aspx, accessed July 2000. Addiction Research Foundation Addictions and Life Organization Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX Drug Enforcement Administration Encyclopedia of Drug Abuse Federal Drug Administration Internet news groups Office of National Drug Control Policy Time magazine University of Plymouth Student Union Computing Society