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Ketamine: effects and risks of this drug

Ketamine: effects and risks of this drug

July 18, 2024

Throughout history there have been many substances that have been used in medicine as an anesthetic and analgesic. Many of these substances have subsequently been extracted from the medical field to be used recreationally.

One of these substances is ketamine, or "special K", element used in medicine and veterinary that is known for its ability to generate dissociated states of consciousness.

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Ketamine as a psychoactive element

Ketamine is a psychoactive substance initially used in medicine and veterinary (currently its main legal use is given in veterinary practice) as a general anesthetic. It is a drug or drug derived from phencyclidine, which has characteristics that make it belong to the group of psychodysleptic substances. As such, it generates an alteration in the functioning of the nervous system that tends to cause perceptual alterations such as hallucinations.


This drug acts on the nervous system as a substance of depressant characteristics, generating sedation and analgesia effectively reducing brain activity in the brain.

Also known as Kit-kat drug , it is also consumed recreationally due to its powerful hallucinogenic effects, which are characterized by causing dissociative pictures in which individuals perceive that their mind is separated from their body and even that they are able to observe their body from the outside, such and as it happens with some near-death experiences.

On the other hand, ketamine usually applied intravenously at a medical and veterinary level, although recreationally it is usually made in the form of powder to inhale or of tablet or tablet to be consumed orally. This substance causes some level of amnesia after consumption and in general has no smell or taste.


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Effects of ketamine

Ketamine has a wide variety of effects , which you can see below.

1. Physical relaxation

With relatively low doses, the effects of this substance are relaxing and anesthetic. Numbness is often noticed in different parts of the body , as the extremities, as well as sensations of placidity.

2. Amplification of sensory perception

Although it is a depressant substance, in its recreational use it has been seen that ketamine generates an amplified sensory perception . Colors and sounds look brighter and louder. This effect is especially noticeable in the first moments after administration.

3. Alterations of conscience

Ketamine generates alterations of consciousness that usually cause the subject is confused, disoriented and with loss of the notion of time.


4. Hallucinations and K-Hole

It is understood as K-hole the dissociative experience generated by the consumption of ketamine in which the user perceives floating sensation and get out of the body. This hallucinatory experience can be experienced as positive and spiritual or as aversive and terrifying to the feeling that the body is being abandoned (the "bad trip"). Apart from this experience, it can also generate other hallucinations.

5. Amnesia

Ketamine causes a powerful amnesia of what happened after its administration, which is why it is used in medical practice as a general anesthetic. However, this characteristic, together with its sedative action, makes the use of ketamine has been linked to several cases of rape .

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6. Analgesia

The administration of ketamine causes a powerful analgesic effect, something used at the medicinal and veterinary level in the different processes in which it is used. However, in its recreational use there is a risk of committing risky acts with consequences that can be serious due to the absence of perceived pain, such as throwing oneself down the stairs, starting fights or making certain types of jumps.

7. Disinhibition

This substance usually causes a disinhibitory effect on the user, which can lead to the performance of acts that generally would not perform or fail to take precautions with respect to specific behaviors.

8. Incoordination and reduction of movement capacity

Ketamine generates in the individual a state of poor coordination capacity in what refers to the movement, which is reduced.

9. Physiological effects

The use of ketamine causes different alterations at the physiological level. Generates bronchodilation and increases blood pressure to and the heart rate. It also usually causes an increase in the level of salivation.It can cause respiratory depression.

Mechanism of action

The mechanism of action through which ketamine affects our nervous system is not yet entirely clear, although it is based on its performance as NMDA receptor antagonist , blocking the action of glutamate as excitatory agent of the nervous system. It also influences from its interaction with endogenous opioid receptors.

The dissociative effects seem to be due to the alteration of the functioning of the limbic system while the depression of the thalamic-neocortical connection is generated. As well causes depression of the somatosensory cortex , which partly explains the sensations of analgesia.

Risks and associated side effects

The consumption of ketamine It has serious health risks if done in an uncontrolled manner , as when used recreationally. Some of the risks are the following.

1. Dependence

Ketamine is a highly addictive substance, which makes it relatively easy generate tolerance and dependence (especially psychic) ​​towards her.

2. Intoxication

It is not complicated to generate intoxication due to the abuse of this substance. The most common symptoms are the presence of anxiety, hallucinatory experiences such as those mentioned above, Aggressiveness, seizures and gastrointestinal disorders in the form of nausea and vomiting.

3. Cognitive impairment and memory alterations

As we have said, the consumption of ketamine produces amnesia after consumption. However, this effect seems to be enhanced and stay in the body long-term if consumption is frequent , since with the passage of time the destruction of a high number of neurons is caused.

It is especially visible short-term memory loss . Cognitive performance is greatly diminished.

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4. Depression

Although in low doses has antidepressant effects, used continuously over time and in high doses this substance can generate depression in the person who consumes it.

5. Anxiety

The long-term consumption of ketamine causes an anxiogenic effect, especially when withdrawal syndrome occurs .

6. Cardiorespiratory alterations

Another effect of ketamine is the alteration it causes in the cardiorespiratory system. The increase in blood pressure it causes can lead to severe cardiovascular disorders, arrhythmias and tachycardia. On the other hand, ketamine depresses the respiratory system, which can generate a stop in high doses . It can also lead to cardiorespiratory failure.

7. Destruction of genitourinary epithelium

Numerous cases of individuals suffering from pain in the genitourinary system derived from the consumption of ketamine have been found. This pain comes from the action of ketamine in the urine, which generates a destruction of the internal epithelial cells of the bladder .

New indications

Although it has been used mainly as an anesthetic, several investigations have shown that ketamine seems to have a positive effect in cases of depression, with a rapid action to combat its symptoms. Apparently, this is because that this substance helps regenerate neuronal connections that depression alters.

It is necessary to carry out a much more exhaustive investigation in this regard since the side effects of this substance can be very serious, but this fact could contribute in the near future to generate new antidepressant drugs of more rapid action than the current ones.

Bibliographic references:

  • Dickenson, A.H. (1997). NMDA receptor antagonists: interactions with opioids. Scandinávica Anaesthesiologica Act. 41: 112-115.
  • Morgan, C.J.A .; Muetzelfeldt, L; Curran, H. V. (2009). Consequences of chronic ketamine self-administration upon neurocognitive function and psychological wellbeing: a 1-year longitudinal study. Addiction105 (1): 121.
  • Autry, A.E .; Adachi, M .; Nosyreva, E .; Na, E.S .; Los, M.F .; Chengm P.F .; Kavalali, E.T .; Monteggia L.M. (2010). NMDA receptor blockade at rest triggers rapid behavioral antidepressant responses. Nature, 475. 91-95.

Ketamine: What You Need To Know (July 2024).


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