Tox Tuesday: Ketamine

needle-vaccine-syringe-vial_blogGrowing more popular among teens and young adults at dance clubs, ketamine usage has risen in recent years.

Ketamine is considered a club drug, and is a dissociative anesthetic, meaning it gives users the sensation of being detached from their surroundings and pain. Ketamine causes hallucinations or delirium (and sometimes, flashbacks many weeks after taking ketamine), immobility and amnesia. Similar to other club drugs, ketamine has been used in drug-facilitated sexual assault.

Like many other medically-used drugs, ketamine has a legitimate, legal purpose but often is misused. Ketamine was created in the 1960s in a lab in Detroit, Mich. It was first marketed in 1970 as U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved anesthetic for human and animal use. By the 1990s, instances of ketamine abuse were reported in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe (Harun and others). These reports led to ketamine, along with its salts, isomers, and isomer salts, being listed as schedule III non-narcotic substances in the U.S., meaning it has an accepted medical use but has potential for abuse that could led to physical and psychological dependence, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

In the U.S., emergency room visits linked to ketamine has increased. In 2003, 303 ER visits were attributed to the drug. By 2011, ER visits had jumped to more than 1,500 visits. Additionally, high levels of alcohol were found in 71.5 percent of ketamine-related ER visits in 2011 as compared to only 30 percent for all illicit drugs, according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  It also often is used in conjuction with other drugs, such as MDMA (ecstasy), cocaine, amphetamine or methamphetamine.

Ketamine abuse can cause impaired motor function, high blood pressure and even potentially fatal respiratory problems.


Harun N, Anderson R, Miller E. Validation of an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay screening method and a liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry confirmation method for the identification and quantification of ketamine and norketamine in urine samples from Malaysia. Journal of Analytical Toxicology 2009 July/August; 33: 310-321

Comments are closed.