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This FAQ is a work in progress. The information comes from the FAQ Ketamine Dangers, written by PuristLove. Note that the speculation about the implications of White's research is now out-of-date, as White retracted his claims subsequent to PuristLove's creation of the original FAQ. This area needs further research from Bluelighters.

See also Wikipedia: Ketamine and Erowid's Ketamine vault.

The Basics

Ketamine is a drug used in human and veterinarian medicine as an anasthetic. It is used recreationally to induce hallucinations and a dissociative state, characterised by a sense of detachment from one's physical body and the external world. In higher doses, this produces a state known as the K-hole.

Uses for Drug


Methods of Administration



The drug: Ketamine, K, Special K, Kitty. The experience: the K-Hole.


Contraindications and Overdose

Addiction Issues

Unlike most other psychedelics drugs, ketamine can produce an uncomfortable dependency.

The ketamine experience often gives the user a sense of being "on the verge" of discovering enlightenment, contacting an alien race, meeting God, breaking through, etc. Because this feeling can be quite strong, users are often compelled to go back "one more time." This can quickly result in using more in a sitting or more often than intended.

While ketamine is not physically addictive, it does produce similar effects to some of the addictive drugs, notably amphetamines and opiates. Someone using a low dose on a regular basis may quickly find they need it to feel normal.

A ketamine trip can be the ultimate escape; taking one to fantasy landscapes, other dimensions, beyond death, out of the body, or into oblivion. Its easy to see how this could quickly become a problem for someone with escapist/chemically dependent tendencies.

After many uses ketamine begins to exhibit different effects on its users. It may become more physical and less psychedelic, and the user may develop more and more difficulty remembering the experience. This can drive some people to use more often and/or in larger doses.

A few pointers in avoiding dependency: don't buy large quantities, set limits on how often you will use and stick to them, watch for dependent behavior and if you experience it quit using.

Withdrawal Issues

Physical Injury

Always use ketamine in the company of a sober person.

Because ketamine is a dissociative it can cause the user to lose control of their body and perform actions that they are unaware of. One can fall over, get up and walk around, fall into water, etc. D.M. Turner, one of ketamine's biggest advocates, drowned in his bathtub while on ketamine alone. John Lilly had several incidents on ketamine, one of which involved falling in his swimming pool and having to be resuscitated.

Do not drive on ketamine! (That shouldn't need to be said but I will say it anyways.)

A note about injecting ketamine - Injecting it is much more powerful than snorting it. It comes on quicker and stronger. If you decide to inject, go intramuscularly or subcutaneous. I.V. ketamine can take you by surprise and you may not even have time to remove the needle or remove the tourniquet. This can cause a variety of injury. I.V. ketamine has been known to cause the breathing to stop for up to one minute when administered to small children. This is unusual and shouldn't occur at psychedelic doses but is important to be aware of.

Mental Impairment

Many users have reported mental impairment, in a variety of forms, that they believe to be the result of their ketamine use [links to TDS, Erowid, Trip Reports, etc?].

This could be caused by a number of issues. Psychological ones, like post traumatic stress syndrome, genetic ones, pre-existing conditions, some function of the c-Fos protein, Olney's Lesions or something undiscovered. It could also be placebo. Currently there is not enough research to assume ketamine is safe, but at the same time, it isn't a drug to be feared.

If mental impairment is a result of ketamine use then it would be increased by duration, intensity and the number of times used. Play it safe and use moderately. Use the smallest dosage required to gain the effect desired, and use it rarely.

Harm Reduction

Legal Issues

Background and Chemistry




Mechanism of Action

Ketamine and the Brain

Perhaps the most debated of all are the effects ketamine can have on the brain. In its defense, ketamine has been used medically for the last thirty years and is still used to this day.

Dopamine Systems

In psychedelic doses ketamine can act as a stimulant and indirectly affect the dopamine system producing changes similar to those caused by cocaine and amphetamine. It is unknown to what extent it does this, or what effect this may have on the individual. Theoretically it could make it more difficult to experience pleasure and cause cravings for the drug.

c-Fos Protein

Ketamine triggers genes to produce the protein c-Fos. This protein goes on to signal the activation of other genes and the production and release of other proteins and hormones. It is unknown what effect this has on the individual.

Olney's Lesions

John Olney reported [cite needed] that at a dosage of 40 mg/kg ketamine produced fluid-filled vacoules in the brains of rats. These disappeared in several days; however, when PCP and MK-801 (related chemicals) were given, some permanent cell death/damage occured.

Researchers have been unable to produce Olney Vacuoules in primates or human beings. The brain of primates has a metabolism half the speed of that in rodents [cite needed]. It is plausible that damage is prevented or reduced by this factor. Unfortunately, the studies that have been done have not been published, and nowhere near enough of them have been performed to be conclusive.

Misc, trip reports and links

Further Reading

Essay: This is Your Brain on Dissociatives: The Bad News is Finally In William White, 1998 (note, this has now been retracted, see Response to "The Bad News Isn't In" by William White (2004). Book: Ketamine: Dreams and Realities by Karl Jansen M.D. Ph.D.