Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Ketamine and mental health

3-minute read

Ketamine is a medicine used by doctors and vets for anaesthesia and pain relief. It is also used illegally for its hallucinogenic ‘high’ effect. Illegal users can develop serious mental health problems including depression, psychosis and flashbacks.

Ketamine comes as a white powder that can be swallowed, snorted or injected, or smoked with cannabis or tobacco. It’s also known as special K, K, ket, kitkat, super K and horse trank.

Ketamine effects

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 is taken. The immediate effects of ketamine can last for about 45 to 90 minutes. In the day after taking the drug, people can lose their memories, feel clumsy and feel down.

Find out more about party drugs, including where to find help and support.

Mental health issues

Ketamine can cause a lot of mental health issues.

When using it, people can:

  • feel disorientated and drowsy
  • have hallucinations
  • feel numb
  • feel uncoordinated
  • become panicked, confused and anxious
  • have a near-death experience

Regular users can have:

  • flashbacks
  • mood and personality changes
  • depression
  • problems with memory and concentration
  • psychosis
  • psychological dependence

Regular users are also more likely to have social, work and financial problems.

Not sure what to do next?

If you or someone you know are finding it difficult to manage mental health issues as a result of drug use, try healthdirect’s Symptom Checker and get advice on when to seek professional help.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Ketamine can be fatal if it’s used with alcohol, heroin or tranquillisers. Learn about the physical health effects of ketamine.

Kicking the habit

People who use ketamine regularly can become dependent on it.

Coming off it can last up to a week. People coming off ketamine:

  • have cravings
  • don’t want to eat
  • feel lethargic
  • have chills and sweats
  • have nightmares
  • feel anxious, restless and depressed
  • get the shakes
  • have a fast and irregular heartbeat

Find help on the Alcohol and Drug Foundation website.

You can also call Lifeline on 13 11 14, DrugInfo on 1300 85 85 84 or the National Alcohol and Other Drug Hotline on 1800 250 015 if you need to talk to someone about drugs.

Find out more about drug abuse generally.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2019

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Ketamine Effects, Addiction, Overdose & FAQs | Your Room

Ketamine comes with many short and long term side effects. Find out what to do in the case of addiction, overdose and answers to other common questions.

Read more on NSW Health website

Hallucinogens - Better Health Channel

Hallucinogens target specific centres of the brain to alter its understanding of sensory input.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Ketamine - Alcohol and Drug Foundation

Ketamine is used by medical practitioners and veterinarians as an anaesthetic. It is sometimes used illegally by people to get high.

Read more on Alcohol and Drug Foundation website

Ketamine | ReachOut Australia

Ketamine is a dissociative painkiller used by medical professionals. It is used illegally to get high as it can make you feel detached (a K-hole). Read more here.

Read more on ReachOut.com website

Types of drugs | Australian Government Department of Health

Drugs can be grouped together in different ways by the way they affect the body or by how or where they are used. Find out which drugs we are focused on reducing in Australia.

Read more on Department of Health website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo