California Detox & Rehab
Call California Detox today


(844) 427-6002

Ketamine: What is Special K?

Table of Contents

Ketamine is a prescription medication that physicians use as a general anesthetic to trigger loss of consciousness.

When used in a clinical setting, the effects of ketamine include:

  • Sedation
  • Reduced sensitivity to pain

Ketamine is a Schedule III non-narcotic. The drug is only approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) for use as a general anesthetic. Some doctors prescribe ketamine off-label for the treatment of depression.

Although ketamine is safe to use in a controlled medical setting, abusing ketamine for recreational purposes can be dangerous.

Request a call.

We want to help, let’s setup a call and figure out the best treatment options for you or your loved one. Our detox specialists will get back to you immediately.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine, available in the United States as Ketalar, is a dissociative anesthetic used by doctors to induce general anesthesia when a medical procedure does not require muscle relaxation. 

As a dissociative anesthetic, ketamine brings about a sleep-like state and feelings of disconnectedness. 

Ketamine has been available in the United States by prescription since the 1970s for both human uses and veterinary uses. Prescription ketamine comes in the following forms: 

  • Transparent liquid
  • Off-white powder
  • Nasal spray
  • Intravenous injectable

People also abuse ketamine for its dissociative properties. Like other drugs in this class, ketamine can lead to distortion of: 

  • Self
  • Sounds
  • Sights
  • Colors
  • Environment

Whether ketamine is smoked, snorted, or injected, the substance can trigger hallucinations similar to those induced by drugs like LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) and PCP (angel dust).

When abused, ketamine is known as:

  • Special K
  • Ket
  • Vitamin K
  • Cat Valium
  • Jet K

People have reported having near-death experiences after taking extremely high doses of ketamine.

Esketamine, marketed as Spravato, was approved by the FDA in 2019 to treat adult patients with TRD (treatment-resistant depression) who are experiencing acute suicidal ideation. The medication must be administered under controlled conditions. 

Ketamine is also marketed as Ketaset, a surgical anesthetic used by veterinarians. 

Although the DEA (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) classifies ketamine as a Schedule III drug, it is not considered a narcotic or a barbiturate. 

What Does Ketamine Do?

Doctors use ketamine to induce general anesthesia. The drug is used alone or in combination with other general anesthetics like nitrous oxide. Ketamine rapidly induces short-term sedation. 

When abused, ketamine acts as a dissociative hallucinogenic tranquilizer. Ingesting the substance in any form brings on a strong sense of relation, with the ketamine high lasting for an hour or so. 

Taking higher doses of ketamine leads many people to experience an effect informally known as the K-hole. Individuals entering a K-hole will find themselves temporarily unable to interact with others. Both bodily control and environmental awareness will be radically impaired. This intense dissociation leads many people to feel disconnected from their bodies, unable to speak, and unable to control their bodies. Ketamine in higher doses also induces a sense of numbness, potentially leading to accidents and injuries. 

Many people accidentally overdose on ketamine in an attempt to enter a K-hole. As a tranquilizer, ketamine can cause a complete loss of mobility and respiratory failure. 

The primary adverse Ketamine side effects are: 

  • High blood pressure levels
  • Increased heart rate
  • Respiratory issues
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Flashbacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Long-term cognitive issues


The physical effects triggered by ketamine occur even if the drug is taken in small doses for short periods and can last for up to one day after the last dose. The most common sustained side effects of ketamine are:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Stumbling
  • Loss of coordination

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?

Depending on the route of administration, the effects of ketamine can last from five to thirty minutes. 

After ingestion, the liver rapidly metabolizes ketamine. 90% of the drug is excreted as metabolites in the urine. 

Ketamine has a half-life of two to three hours in adults. This means that most ketamine will be removed from the system after ten to twelve hours. 

This study indicates that a single dose of ketamine can be detected in the hair for up to four months.

Ketamine Effects

These are the most common ketamine side effects when the drug is taken at prescribed doses: 

  • Double vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • General unease

Ketamine can also trigger myriad other symptoms that impact various parts of the body. These side effects are less common. 

Abusing ketamine can produce visual and auditory hallucinations. Unlike the hallucinatory effects of LSD, those brought on by ketamine are briefer in duration, lasting for between thirty minutes and one hour. 

Using ketamine may also cause: 

  • Depression
  • Amnesia
  • Agitation
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Unconsciousness

Is Ketamine Addictive?

The CSA (Controlled Substances Act) classifies ketamine as a non-narcotic drug under Schedule III. Non-narcotics are drugs outside of the opioid class. 

The drug induces pain-relieving and mental effects and can potentially lead to tolerance, dependence, and addiction. 

Ketamine addiction can create a strong bond and completely take control of your control. While there is no cure for ketamine addiction, it typically responds positively to treatment with behavioral interventions. 

Some common indicators of ketamine addiction include: 

  • Problems with focus and concentration
  • Frequent state of distraction
  • Persistent drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Reduced sensitivity to physical pain
  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Bladder pain
  • Incontinence
  • Redness of the skin
  • Insomnia

Like all addictions, ketamine addiction is characterized by a preoccupation with the substance and the compulsive use of the substance in the face of obviously negative outcomes. We can help you fight back here at California Detox.

Overcome Ketamine Addiction at California Detox

If you have been abusing ketamine to the extent of addiction setting in, it is advisable to seek professional treatment. We can help you with this here at California Detox in Orange County. 

We understand that all addictions are unique and that everyone has different needs in their recovery. Accordingly, we provide treatment programs for addiction, mental health disorders, and co-occurring disorders at all levels of intensity. Choose from the following programs: 

  • Residential rehab (inpatient programs)
  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • OPs (outpatient programs)
  • Dual diagnosis (addictions with co-occurring mental health disorders)
  • Supervised clinical detoxification
  • Remote rehab

Whether you require the support and structure of residential rehab here in Huntington Beach, or you prefer the flexibility and affordability of outpatient addiction treatment, we’ll help you address the physical and psychological aspects of ketamine addiction. Your treatment team will personalize your treatment plan, drawing from these interventions: 

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Psychotherapies (talk therapies like CBT and DBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapy

When you complete your treatment program, you can step down to a less intensive form of treatment, or you can transition directly back into day-to-day life. Either way, you will be equipped with coping skills, relapse prevention strategies, and a comprehensive aftercare plan. 

To move beyond ketamine abuse, reach out for help today by calling 949.390.5377.


Scientists label ketamine a dirty drug for the way it targets dozens of systems in the brain rather than just one system. Ketamine targets glutamate, the most common of the brain’s excitatory neurotransmitters (chemical messengers). Ketamine can also activate opiate receptors in the brain.
Ketamine is used as a general anesthetic in animals and in humans. People also abuse this drug for its dissociative properties. Dissociative drugs can produce auditory and visual hallucinations, and can also trigger feelings of detachment and a sense of floating.