Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

MiQ/Shutterstock

Ketamine

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a medication originally developed as a human and veterinary anesthetic. Unlike other anesthetics, it does not depress breathing or blood pressure, though unpleasant side effects, including hallucinations and confusion, may occur. Due to its low cost, it remains widely used in medical procedures around the world. It is also found on the street, known as Special K, and is listed as a Schedule III drug, with moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.

Can it be used for depression?

The drug has also gained popularity in recent years as a fast-acting antidepressant medication. Unlike other antidepressants, which can take weeks or months to work, patients who take ketamine often see improvements within just a few hours. Ketamine also appears to sharply decrease thoughts of suicide. But the effects are short-lived, and the long-term outcomes of regular ketamine treatment are unknown. And research from Yale University found that ketamine improved symptoms significantly in teens who suffer treatment-resistant depression

article continues after advertisement

Can it be used for anxiety?

A small study that appeared in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that subjects who suffered anxiety responded positively to weekly doses of ketamine over a three-month period. The patients improved in their function in both social and professional areas of life. Ketamine may also be effective for people with PTSD and or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Can ketamine be used for alcoholism?

Studies have looked into ketamine’s effect on depressed people who have a family history of alcoholism. In research that appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry, people with problem drinking were administered ketamine along with motivational enhancement therapy, compared with a control group, the ketamine plus therapy group drank less and did not relapse as much.

Can ketamine be used for PTSD?

A study that appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that repeated doses of ketamine can help reduce the symptoms of people who suffer from PTSD. Over a two-week period, patients received six infusions of ketamine. Further research must be done to assess ketamine’s efficacy over longer periods of time.

How is it used?

When used for depression or chronic pain, ketamine is often applied intravenously in specialized clinics. A round of ketamine infusions typically comprises several sessions spread over a few weeks and may cost several thousand dollars. Patients typically pay out-of-pocket; some patients may struggle to afford or even access the drug. This drug can also be administered through nasal spray or taken orally.

What’s the difference between ketamine and esketamine?

Ketamine itself is not FDA-approved to treat depression, but a derivative of ketamine, esketamine, is. The drug is delivered by nasal spray and is designed to be administered alongside a traditional antidepressant. It was approved specifically for treatment-resistant depression, or depression that has failed to respond to other antidepressant medications.

Is esketamine covered by insurance?

Because the drug is FDA-approved, it can be covered by insurance. But the drug must be administered under a doctor’s supervision, leading some experts to worry that patients could have problems accessing it, as they do with intravenous ketamine.

What are the side effects of esketamine?

Side effects of esketamine can include dissociation, dizziness, anxiety, nausea, numbness, sedation, a spinning sensation or vertigo, lethargy, and hallucinations. It can also cause bladder damage and has been linked to ulcerative cystitis; the chemical is toxic to the lining of the bladder.

Is ketamine sometimes known as Special K?

While ketamine is used for more than sedation, the medication has gained a reputation as a cheap and addictive street drug, known as ”Special K,” which triggers hallucinations and feelings of dissociation. Though fatal overdoses are rare, tolerance can build up quickly. Repeated exposure to high doses of ketamine has been shown to have severe psychological and physical consequences.

How can I tell if my child is using ketamine?

Special K is easy for kids to access on the street in powder, liquid, or pill or capsule forms. They may get it from their friends or over the DarkNet. Relatively cheap, Special K is found in urban areas as well as rural. There is no smell or visible signs when a person takes it; it can be ingested, injected, or smoked. This drug is similar to any other, your child may seem withdrawn and zoned out with a zombie-like expression. This drug gives the user a hallucinogenic effect, or sometimes a feeling of near-death, one referred to as K-Hole or K-Holing.

What are some slang terms for street ketamine?

According to a Drug Enforcement Administration report, street ketamine is also known as Barry Farrell, Blind Squid, Cat Food, Cat Valium, Donkey; Green, Honey Oil, Jet, Keller, Kelly’s Day, Ket, Kit Kat, Kitty Flip, Purple, Special La Coke, Super Acid, Super C, Vitamin K, Wobble, Wonk, or simply the letter K.

Where do I find help?

If you or someone you know is abusing drugs, contact National Helpline at 800-662-HELP (4357) or the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine 800-950-NAMI (6264).

Essential Reads

Recent Posts