First tested on prisoners in 1964, Ketamine was approved by the FDA in 1970. Vietnam soldiers were first to experience its effects when being put under anesthesia. It quickly became the most used drug on the battlefield during the war.
Ketamine now ranks on the World Health Organization’s Essential Drugs List. It is considered a core medicine and fundamental to meet the needs of people in a rudimentary healthcare system. It is necessary for surgical procedures as other sedative hypnotics can cause serious complications. Its discovery and use replaces its predecessor, PCP, for use as a dissociative anesthetic. PCP has a much longer half-life than Ketamine, and can cause more severe adverse effects.
Despite Ketamine’s practical uses, it’s fame comes from its popularity for recreational use. As early as its approval from the FDA in 1970, reports of nonmedical use of Ketamine exist. Some suggest that Ketamine use began on the West Coast of the United States with underground raves and parties.
Ketamine use increased steadily over the next several decades, quickly becoming a sought-after club drug. Worldwide popularity was on the rapid rise, especially in Asia and Europe. Its prominence was partially due to its relative ease of access. Until 1999, Ketamine was not federally controlled; people could purchase pure Ketamine in bulk from chemical companies with no significant licensing necessary.
Ketamine use has increased to present day. Use of this drug is particularly problematic for several reasons. In high doses, Ketamine induces a “K-hole,” which is a state of such profound dissociation and hallucinations that the user may lose memory of one or more days after ingestion. This state of extreme separation from reality and self can spell horrendous consequences for the individual.
Ketamine causes dissociative state where one feels detached from his or her body, known as depersonalization. It also causes derealization, a state of altered perception and experience of the world around the person. In small doses, it creates a sense of euphoria, pain suppression and hallucinogenic effects. Essentially, the person will feel happy, pain free and experience delightful hallucinations such as colors and sensations.
Given the unknown aspect of all illegal and street drugs, however, the actual dosage and compounds being consumed is unpredictable. Dosing appropriate amounts requires training and a medical setting. A little too much can mean the difference between euphoria and a life-threatening coma.
Due to its effects of sedation, memory loss and confusion, Ketamine is a popular date rape drug. Users of Ketamine can easily use too much or accidentally take the drug and find themselves in exceptionally vulnerable situations. More than a few instances of Ketamine being sold as other drugs have been reported.
Imagine being at a club. You’re out with new friends in a new city and are eager to find your niche. You’re offered some Cocaine, which you have done before at friends’ parties and had a lot of fun. Your snort a line and head to the dance floor. Instead of experiencing that burst of energy, however, reality sort of tunnels out of view. You wake up in a strange place, strange bed, and sore. The last thing you remember is a few days ago. This is what Ketamine can do.
In addition to its dangers as a date rape drug, Ketamine poses significant risk to all its users. Some of the original recreational users of Ketamine who documented their drug escapades died while on the drug. One drowned in a pool while another died of hypothermia. Additionally, in an eight-year span in the UK, 90 people died after taking Ketamine. The deaths included accidents, drownings, suicides, poisonings and other fatal experiences. In response, the UK tightened regulations surrounding the drug.
It’s not surprising that someone who takes a drug meant to sedation large animals would be at significant risk. After all, minor differences in body chemistry, tolerance and other factors can mean the difference between consciousness and unconsciousness, life and death. Any drug that causes a person to be sedated and unable to differentiate the real from delusion is an extremely risky drug.
Ketamine’s bizarre and unpredictable effects can also lead people to make uncharacteristic decisions. Drugs are often willfully used as a motivator and helper to act in certain situations. Many people use Alcohol to overcome shyness. People use Ecstasy to connect to others and enhance sexual experiences. And Ketamine will remove reality altogether.
The problem with removing reality and self is that eventually you return to normal consciousness and must face the consequences of what happened. Disease is a huge problem for many drug users. Unprotected sex and needle sharing have dramatically altered people’s lives. One bad decision can mean a life-time of medication and maintenance, and that’s for the lucky ones. For some it means an untimely, painful and slow death.