Ketamine is a medicine used by doctors and vets. Some people use it illegally to get high.
It’s also known as special K, ket, kitkat, super K and horse trank.
People who use ketamine can damage their health badly, and can die from an overdose. Ketamine is very dangerous if it’s taken with other drugs.
What is ketamine
Doctors and vets use ketamine for anaesthesia and pain relief.
If bought illegally, it comes as a white powder that can be made into tablets or dissolved in a liquid. It can be swallowed, snorted, injected or smoked.
People who take ketamine can have hallucinations. It alters their perception of reality. They can see, hear, smell or taste things that don’t exist, or can perceive them differently to how they really are. They can also feel detached from their body, known as ‘falling into a K-hole’.
The drug takes effect within 30 seconds to 20 minutes, depending on how it’s taken. Users experience a high about 30 seconds after the drug is injected, 5–10 minutes after it’s snorted, and 20 minutes after it’s swallowed. The high can last up to 90 minutes.
While the high might feel good, there are downsides too. While using ketamine, people can have blurred vision, slurred speech, become physically uncoordinated, sweat, have a raised temperature and heart rate, feel nauseous and vomit.
It takes about a day to come down. During this time, people using ketamine can lose their memories, feel clumsy and feel down.
People who use ketamine regularly can become dependent. They can develop headaches, stomach pain and what is known as ketamine bladder syndrome. This is a painful condition with incontinence and ulcers in the bladder. It needs long term treatment.
If people overdose, they can have convulsions, go into a coma and die.
Find out about ketamine's effect on mental health.
Last reviewed: March 2017