What does it look like?
- A clear liquid, when used in medicine
- A grainy white or brown crystalline powder when sold on the street
- Tablets, although this is less common
What does it taste/smell like?
Ketamine tastes bitter and unpleasant.
Ketamine is used in medicine as an anesthetic for humans and animals.
By snorting it as a powder
Most people who take powder ketamine will snort it. Users often talk of taking a ‘bump’, meaning they snort a small amount of ketamine. In the UK, snorting is the most common way to take ketamine.
By injecting it
People who regularly use ketamine sometimes inject it to get a bigger hit. They usually inject ketamine into a muscle.
By swallowing it as a tablet
Some people swallow it in tablet form, but this is less common.
Some people ‘bomb’ it, which is swallowing the powder wrapped in a cigarette paper.
How does it make you feel?
Ketamine is a general anaesthetic so it reduces sensations in the body. Trips can last for a couple of hours.
Taking ketamine can make you feel:
- dream-like and detached
- chilled, relaxed and happy
- confused and nauseated
Ketamine can also:
- alter your perception of time and space and make you hallucinate (see or hear things that aren't there)
- stop you feeling pain, putting you at risk of hurting yourself and not realising it
If you take too much ketamine you may lose the ability to move and go into a ‘k-hole’. This feels like your mind and body have separated and you can't to do anything about it – which can be a very scary experience.
Regular ketamine use can cause:
- panic attacks
- damage to short- and long-term memory
- depression, if taken frequently
How does it make people behave?
It can make people seem slower, more relaxed and chilled out, but it can also stop people from being able to move properly and from making sense.
How long the effects last and the drug stays in your system depends on how much you’ve taken, your size, whether you’ve eaten and what other drugs you may have also taken.
To kick in
When snorted, ketamine normally takes about 15 minutes to take effect. When taken orally, it will take longer, around 20 minutes to an hour.
How long it lasts
The buzz can last around for 30 minutes to an hour, but the effects really depend on how much you take.
People may feel down and low in mood for a few days after using ketamine.
How long will it be detectable?
Ketamine can be detected in a urine test for several days after taking it.
How long a drug can be detected for depends on how much is taken and which testing kit is used. This is only a general guide.
Physical health risks
- Ketamine is a very powerful anesthetic that can cause serious harm. Taking ketamine can be fatal, particularly if it is mixed with other drugs.
- Ketamine can increase your heart rate and blood pressure. It can make you confused, agitated, delirious and disconnected from reality.
- It can make you feel sick, and it can cause damage to your short- and long-term memory.
- Because of the body’s loss of feelings, paralysis of the muscles and the mind’s loss of touch with reality, you can be left vulnerable to hurting yourself or being hurt by others.
- Because you don't feel pain properly when you've recently taken ketamine, you can injure yourself and not know you've done it.
- Ketamine can cause serious bladder problems, with the urgent and frequent need to pee. This can be very painful and the pee can be blood-stained. Although stopping using ketamine can help, sometimes the damage can be so serious that the bladder needs surgical repair or even removal.
- The urinary tract, from the kidneys down to the bladder, can also be affected and incontinence (uncontrolled peeing) may also develop.
- Abdominal pain, sometimes called ‘K cramps’, have been reported by people who have taken ketamine for a long time.
- Evidence of liver damage due to regular, heavy ketamine use is emerging. The liver has a range of important functions, such as cleaning your blood and removing toxic substances.
Mental health risks
- The longer term effects of ketamine use can include flashbacks, memory loss and problems with concentration.
- Regular use can cause depression and, occasionally, psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations. Ketamine can also make existing mental health problems worse.
- Interestingly, medical grade ketamine is now being researched as a potential treatment for severe depression, but it is too early to know the results of this research.
What is ketamine cut with?
Street ketamine is usually sold as a white/beige crystalised powder and is sometimes cut with other powders to add weight and improve the dealer’s profits.
It’s impossible to tell whether the ketamine you buy has been cut with other substances by looking at it.
Is it dangerous to mix with other drugs?
Yes, every time you mix drugs you take on new risks.
If you mix ketamine with other drugs, particularly depressant drugs like alcohol, benzodiazepines or opiates, you risk collapsing, passing out and/or seriously injuring yourself. You could also choke, especially if you vomit.
If you take lots of ketamine and mix it with other drugs you could die.
Can you get addicted?
Yes. People who become addicted to ketamine will keep taking it – whether they’re aware of the health risks or not. Others will attend drug treatment services to help them stop.
People who use ketamine regularly can develop a tolerance to it, which could lead to them taking even more to get the effects they’re looking for.
There are no physical withdrawal symptoms with ketamine, so ketamine addiction is sometimes called a psychological dependence.
This is a Class B drug, which means it’s illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell.
Possession can get you up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
Supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
Like drink-driving, driving when high is dangerous and illegal. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you may receive a heavy fine, driving ban, or prison sentence.
If the police catch people supplying illegal drugs in a home, club, bar or hostel, they can potentially prosecute the landlord, club owner or any other person concerned in the management of the premises.