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What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is defined as a synthetic compound used as an anesthetic and analgesic drug and also (illicitly) as a hallucinogen. The drug was first developed in 1962 and was used as a battlefield anesthetic. However, in later years it became popular as a recreational drug due to its dissociative effects. Although ketamine is not generally considered an addictive substance, there are research studies suggesting that users can develop tolerance and physical dependence to the drug.

Ketamine is a powerful dissociative drug. Dissociative drugs create visual and auditory distortions, as well as a strong feeling of detachment from reality.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Use of dissociative drugs can also cause anxiety, memory loss, and impaired motor function, including body tremors and numbness. These effects, which depend on the amount of the drug taken, are also unpredictable—typically beginning within minutes of ingestion and lasting for several hours, although some users report feeling the drug’s effects for days.” The effects of ketamine vary greatly based on how much of the drug is used.

High doses of ketamine can result in severe respiratory depression, muscle twitches, nausea, and vomiting. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research (CESAR), “One of the most dangerous effects of ketamine is the helpless and/or confused state the user may be put into after use of the drug. This causes the user to have difficulty with balance, combined with numbness, muscle weakness, and impaired vision. The combined effects can leave the user vulnerable to particular forms of crime, especially ‘date rape.’” Other physical side effects include but are not limited to: amnesia; delirium; increased heart rate; impaired motor functioning; loss of coordination; delirium and disorientation; aggressive and violent behavior; and, in some cases, death as a result of overdose.

Another great danger of ketamine use is the risk of laryngospasm. Laryngospasm is an involuntary spasming of the vocal chords that makes it difficult for a person to breathe. Darragh O’Carroll, in a Vice article entitled Why Ketamine is the Brest Drug on Earth, admits the potential dangers of the drug, explaining that laryngospasm as a result of ketamine use “requires immediate and aggressive medical intervention to prevent cardiac arrest. Thankfully it only occurs in roughly 0.4 percent of cases, but this fact alone should strike fear in anyone considering using it without supervision from a medical professional.”

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