12 September 2006


Ketamine hydrochloride is a dissociative anaesthetic developed in the early 1960s. It is now mostly used as a veterinary anaesthetic.

Alternative names:
K, Special-k, vitamin K, jet, cat Valium, cat tranquilliser

Ketamine hydrochloride is a dissociative anaesthetic developed in the early 1960s. It has the advantage of inhibiting breathing to a lesser degree than other anaesthetics, but is now rarely used in humans due to side effects, including psychedelic episodes (visions).

Today the drug is mostly used as a veterinary anaesthetic.

Ketamine is usually sold as a tablet, a white powder, or a clear liquid. It is snorted, smoked, dissolved in a liquid or injected intramuscularly.

Depending on how the drug is taken, its effects will be felt in anything from one minute to half an hour. When injected, the effects will be felt very quickly and last for less than an hour. When taken orally, it may take longer, but the effects could last for as long as two hours.

At low doses, effects include inebriation, clumsiness, delayed or reduced sensations and increased sociability.

At higher doses, effects may include nausea, difficulty moving, blackouts, delirium, depression, high blood pressure, respiratory problems, and so-called near death experiences (also known as "K-Hole").

Use of the drug has also been linked to amnesia, depression, and long-term memory and cognition problems. It can be both physically and psychologically addictive.

Due to its dissociative qualities (i.e. it has the effect of reducing the user’s awareness of what is happening to them and around them), users can be taken advantage of. Ketamine has been used as a rape drug.

Ketamine should not be used with alcohol or any other respiratory depressants.

US Drug Enforcement Administration
US National Institute on Drug Abuse

Reviewed by Peter Powis, Stepping Stones Addiction Centre


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Lifestyle »

E-cigarettes: Here are five things to know

E-cigarettes have become hugely popular in the past decade, but a rash of vaping-linked deaths and illnesses in the US is feeding caution about a product that's already banned in some places.

Allergy »

Ditch the itch: Researchers find new drug to fight hives

A new drug works by targeting an immune system antibody called immunoglobulin E, which is responsible for the allergic reaction that causes hives.