What is Ketamine? - Rehab Guide

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine; effects and treatments

Ketamine is a Class B controlled drug in the UK and has been used as a pharmaceutical medicine for over twenty years. However, due to its powerful hallucinogenic, sedative and analgesic properties, it is also a popular choice for drug abusers. 

According to a report from ONS, there were 12 deaths where ketamine was mentioned on the death certificate in England and Wales, registered in 2015.

Ketamine is a sedative, analgesic medication primarily used in hospital settings for inducing and maintaining anaesthesia.

For certain types of procedures, Ketamine tends to be favoured over other anaesthesia medications as it does not compromise the airways.

Due to the drugs powerful amnesic and dissociative properties, this pharmaceutical drug is most commonly used during short but extremely painful surgical procedures, such as realigning a broken bone or putting a dislocated joint back into its socket. Not only does ketamine provide very effective pain relief through dissociation, but once its effects wear off, patients have no recollection of events that took place.

Also known as ‘the horse tranquiliser’ due to its use in equine veterinary medicine, ketamine is also used to facilitate chemsex. It is a popular choice for drug abuse within the UK party scene.

Street names

Street Names of Ketamine include:

  • Kit Kat
  • Cat Valium
  • Purple
  • Special K
  • Cat Tranquiliser
  • Special La Coke
  • Super Acid
  • Super K
  • Vitamin K
  • Ket

How long the effects of Ketamine last

Depending on the dose and route of administration, once ketamine’s effects kick in, they typically last for 45 to 90 minutes. However, for some people that are particularly sensitive to ketamine, the effects can last for several hours or even days after taking it.

The effects of ketamine can distort the outside world, making it difficult, if not impossible, for a user under its influence to navigate their way safely in the world.

How long does ketamine stay in your system?

Ketamine has been known to be detectable in urine samples from 3-5 days after the drug is consumed. It can be identified by saliva tests up to 24 hours after it is taken. A blood test can pinpoint any traces of the drug for up to 2 weeks after consumption. Hair tests can identify any signs of this drug in the human body for up to 3 months after last taken.

What is a K-hole?

Those that have experienced a k-hole often describe having a ‘near death’ or ‘out of body experience.

Ketamine in high doses causes a person to feel detached from their body and the world around them. Under the powerful mind-altering influence, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to determine what is real and what is not.

The effects of a k-hole can feel extremely frightening as a person who falls into one will have no control over what they see, hear, feel and think; the drug takes over.

During a k-hole, the brains activity becomes very chaotic, entering a state between full consciousness and subconsciousness, producing very vivid, trippy and tangible hallucinations.

The risks of a k-hole

One of the main dangers of falling into a k-hole is that you may not come fully out of it, causing you to suffer long term psychological effects.

Whilst experiencing ket side effects, you will be in a state of acute dissociation, unable to connect or communicate with the world and people around you. These effects can linger for some time to a lesser or greater degree and permanently remain for some people.

The more a person abuses ketamine, to the point of repeating the experience of a k-hole, the higher the risk of suffering long term psychosis, dissociation and other psychiatric problems.

Frequent abuse of ketamine is also associated with kidney, bladder and urea problems, gastrointestinal changes, and brain function changes.

What are the side effects of ketamine?

  • Extreme agitation
  • Increased heart rate & blood pressure
  • Loss of coordination
  • Inability to move or speak
  • Short term memory loss
  • Reduced awareness of surroundings
  • Dissociation
  • Disorientation
  • Feeling out of control
  • Hallucinations (auditory & visual)
  • Altered perception of senses and time
  • Out of body experience
  • Psychosis
  • Seizures
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Overdose & death.

The long term side effects of ketamine abuse include:

  • Addiction
  • Bladder issues – shrinkage of bladder & cystitis
  • Psychiatric illness
  • Impaired cognitive ability
  • Continued dissociation
  • Heart & kidney damage
  • Hepatic dysfunction (changes in the brains function)
  • Impaired gallbladder function
  • Renal failure
  • Epigastric pain (pain in the upper part of the abdomen)

Taking large doses blocks the neurotransmitter glutamate in the brain, separating the conscious mind from the physical self. The effects of this are numbness, sometimes to the point where a person cannot speak or move. Those that can move are at high risk of injury due to falling and feeling dissociated from the physical world.

Symptoms of a ketamine overdose

The dangers of overdosing are very real. Whilst you are experiencing symptoms of an overdose, you may not be able to relay this to someone or ask for help. This is why purposely seeking to experience a k-hole is very dangerous and risky!

If you spot the following signs of an overdose in someone else, you should immediately contact the emergency services for help.

Signs of a ketamine overdose include:

  • Vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Slowed and shallow breathing
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Chest pain
  • Showing signs of acute distress

Acting quickly if you suspect someone has overdosed, could save that person’s life.

Overdosing can be fatal. Therefore, if you encounter someone experiencing a “bad trip”, you should contact emergency medical services ASAP. The speed at which you do this can mean the difference between life and death for the affected individual.

Ketamine addiction & treatment

While some people find the effects of ketamine extremely uncomfortable and terrifying, others who enjoy the effects may seek to repeat the experience repeatedly.

Repeated abuse can lead to addiction. In addition, once a person becomes tolerant of a certain dosage of ketamine, they will need to take more and more to feel the sought after effects. This can lead to long term changes in the brain and addiction developing as a result.

The more a person abuses ketamine, the greater the risks of long term damage to the body and the brain. The risk of overdose, coma and death is also increased.

Addiction is a chronic disorder of the brain and cannot be cured. Ketamine abuse and addiction can and does kill. Thankfully, whilst addiction cannot be cured, it can be successfully treated, and recovery can be maintained.

If you or someone you love abuses ketamine or is suffering from addiction, you must seek the appropriate help and treatment without delay.

For a free and confidential assessment and information on our private ketamine treatment and addiction rehab programmes, call Rehab Guide today. We are a leading authority in addiction treatment and can ensure you access the correct treatment swiftly to enable a full recovery.

Sources and references:

What is ketamine? – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketamine


Bokor G, et al. (2014). Ketamine: An update on its abuse. DOI: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0897190014525754


Ketamine & chemsex – https://www.drugwise.org.uk/chemsex/

Author 'John


Trained in addictionology in the Johnson Model, and specializing in substance abuse for individual and couple counselling. John's personal experience has given him a wealth of insights, which he integrates into practice. His extensive training has allowed him to gain expertise in individual and group counselling, concurrent disorders, case management, executing treatment plans and relapse prevention. He started this free helpline as a result of a life change and to help others get sober and live a life free from drugs and alcohol. John covers a variety of topics relating to addiction and recovery in his articles.


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