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Is Ketamine Dangerous?

is ketamine dangerous

Initially developed as an anesthetic and proving beneficial in numerous studies, ketamine has found its way into recreational circles. This has led to a surge in ketamine abuse and addiction. The dissociative effects of this drug, coupled with its relatively easy accessibility, make it attractive to those seeking to enter an altered state of consciousness. However, behind ketamine’s allure lies a perilous path that can have severe consequences on the user’s psychological and physical well-being. For those wondering, “Is ketamine dangerous?” the answer might surprise you.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that operates by blocking the brain’s N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors. These receptors help transmit signals related to learning, memory, and emotions. Hence, blocking them induces a dissociative state, separating the mind from sensory input and instilling in the user a sense of detachment from reality.

Ketamine usually comes in a clear liquid or a white powder that is packaged in small glass vials, plastic bags, or capsules. The clear liquid can be swallowed while the powder can be snorted or smoked. Some common street names for ketamine include Special K, Kit Kat, and Super Acid.

Ketamine is often mistaken for or lumped in with psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, since both kinds of substances induce altered states of consciousness and offers hallucinogenic effects.

The Therapeutic Benefits of Ketamine

One of the reasons why ketamine has grown popular among medical experts in recent years is the body of evidence related to its benefits in mental health treatment. For example, a five-year clinical trial conducted by Columbia University researchers in 2021 showed that ketamine improved thinking and reasoning among people who had expressed thoughts of killing themselves.

In fact, just one dose of ketamine not only reduced the severity of depression in people with suicidal ideation (many of whom had not responded to other antidepressants) but made them feel less likely to harm themselves within 24 hours.

Is Ketamine Addictive?

As is often the case with psychoactive drugs, ketamine addiction is mainly psychological, not physical. Still, an unhealthy dependency can develop. Frequent users of ketamine may experience strong cravings and other withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug. Also, ketamine tolerance can build quickly, causing frequent users to increase their dosage, which leads to ketamine abuse.

The Motivations Behind Ketamine Abuse

In addition to its increased acceptance within medical circles, ketamine has become a hot-button subject in the media in recent years, due to its popularity as a recreational drug among the Silicon Valley set.

Elon Musk, one of the world’s richest people, has publicly endorsed ketamine, in prescribed form to treat depression, though reports of his using the drug recreationally have been published in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Zappos founder Tony Hsieh struggled with ketamine addiction for years leading up to his drug-related death in 2020, and the autopsy report on the December 2023 death of Friends star Matthew Perry strongly suggested an overdose of ketamine.

Why anyone would be motivated to use or abuse ketamine comes down to a handful of commonalities.


When used recreationally, ketamine offers the user a unique and intense experience, inducing vivid hallucinations and altered states of consciousness. Plus, while the effects of psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms can last for hours, the effects of ketamine usually wear off inside of one hour.


Some people turn to ketamine as a form of self-medication for underlying mental health issues like depression and anxiety. The temporary relief from uncomfortable feelings that ketamine offers may lead to a cycle of dependence.

Social Influence and Peer Pressure

As with all drug abuse, social settings and peer influences play a significant role in the abuse of ketamine. People may get introduced to ketamine in social circles, so its use becomes common.

The Dangers of Ketamine

When considering the question, “Is ketamine dangerous?” one might be well served in considering its possible dangers from both a psychological and a physical perspective. Taken together, the dangers of ketamine become varied and serious.

Psychological Dangers of Ketamine

  • Psychosis and Delusions. Prolonged ketamine abuse has been associated with the development of psychotic symptoms and delusions. Users may lose touch with reality, experiencing vivid and often distressing hallucinations that can be mistaken for actual events.
  • Depression and Anxiety. Ketamine’s impact on neurotransmitters can lead to mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Chronic ketamine abuse can exacerbate pre-existing mental health conditions or trigger new ones.
  • Cognitive Impairment. The drug’s interference with NMDA receptors can impair cognitive function, negatively affecting attention, memory, and problem-solving. Prolonged ketamine abuse may lead to long-term cognitive deficits that persist even after one stops using.

Physical Dangers of Ketamine

  • Bladder and kidney problems. Ketamine users increased their risk of developing urinary tract issues, including cystitis and ulcerative bladder conditions. Chronic ketamine use can lead to irreversible damage to the bladder and kidneys, causing pain and difficulty urinating.
  • Cardiovascular complications. Ketamine can elevate heart rate and blood pressure, straining the user’s cardiovascular system. People with pre-existing heart conditions may be at an increased risk of adverse health events like heart attack or stroke while using ketamine.
  • Respiratory distress. Ketamine abuse can lead to respiratory depression, where breathing becomes slow and shallow. In high doses, it may even result in respiratory failure, posing a serious risk.
  • The “K-Hole.” Ketamine has been known to send even first-time recreational users down the “K-Hole,” a sort of trance-like state that renders the user unable to move.
  • Ketamine is a common date rape drug. Often odorless and tasteless, and sporting strong sedative and amnestic effects, ketamine has seen increasing use as a date rape drug. Victims may experience impaired motor function, slurred speech, and loss of coordination, rendering them unable to defend themselves against sexual assault.

While ketamine has proven effective in treating several common mental health disorders, its dangers are equally evident. Recognizing the risks associated with ketamine use and abuse is crucial for implementing effective prevention and intervention strategies.

Reach Out to Northpoint Today for Addiction Treatment in Colorado

If you or a loved one needs treatment for an addiction to ketamine or any other psychoactive substance, please consider Northpoint Colorado your source for professional advice on getting treatment. We support your recovery with multiple options for outpatient and inpatient care. Call us at 888.231.1281 or contact us via our brief online form to start your recovery journey.