What are Club Drugs?
Club drugs (also sometimes called Dance Drugs or Designer Drugs) are drugs which at one time were found most frequently in night clubs and at raves, but have since become some of the fastest growing drugs used by college students. These drugs include MDMA (ecstasy, E, or X), ketamine (special K), GHB, and crystal methamphetamine (speed, crank, crystal, tina).

What is ketamine?
Ketamine, known as Special K, Vitamin K or Cat Valiums, is an injectable anesthetic. It is most commonly used by veterinarians on large animals today. In the 1980s it began to be used recreationally as an intoxicant.

How is ketamine used?
Ketamine is either sold as a dry white powder or a clear liquid (in its original pharmaceutical packaging). The powder is made by drying the liquid. The residue from this drying process is then crushed and snorted in small doses (called bumps). In rare cases ketamine is injected intramuscularly or smoked with tobacco or marijuana. Whether smoked or snorted, the effects begin in a few minutes and lasts less than an hour.

Why do people take ketamine?
In large doses ketamine produces effects in humans similar to phencyclidine (PCP) such as dream-like dissociative states and hallucinations. It has a number of contradictory effects, including stimulant, sedative, anesthetic, and hallucinogenic properties. Users describe feeling like they are drunk, stoned, and tripping all at once.

What are the short-term dangers of taking ketamine?
Ketamine blocks the neurotransmitter glutamate at one of its receptors, causing a user to feel distanced from his/her environment. But ketamine also causes the user to feel euphoric and insensitive to physical pain. When ketamine is used as an anesthetic in humans, it is used with another drug to prevent hallucinations.

As with PCP, people can have bad reactions to ketamine. It impairs a person’s ability to drive and can cause violent paranoia, agitation, or confusion. Ketamine can also put users in a state called a “k-hole” where they become unable to move or communicate and feel very far away from their body. Some users seek this state, which they consider to simulate a near-death experience, while others find it frightening and disturbing. Because it can render the user unable to move, ketamine has also been used as a date rape drug.

It is difficult to regulate a “dose” of ketamine, and there is only a slight difference in dose between the desired effects and an overdose. Ketamine is a depressant at higher doses and can dangerously reduce heart rate and respiratory function. Combining ketamine with other depressants, like alcohol, valium, or GHB, can lead to serious medical consequences. It can also produce delirium, amnesia, impaired motor function or depression at high doses. Ketamine was associated with 46 deaths between 1994 and 1998.

Are there long-term consequences to taking ketamine?
Because ketamine has only recently been used as a recreational drug, there are no studies available on its long-term effects. However, there is some anecdotal evidence that low-dose intoxication can impair learning ability, attention, and memory. Like other hallucinogens, ketamine can also cause severe flashbacks. Frequent use and higher doses can cause disruptions in consciousness, leading to neurosis or other mental disorders.

How do I recognize a problem with ketamine?
Some of the signs of problem use are:

More frequent use.
Needing more and more to get the same high.
Spending time thinking about ketamine.
Spending more money than you have on the drug.
Missing class, work, or failing to finish assignments because of ketamine use.
Making new friends who do it and neglecting old friends who don’t.
Finding it’s hard to be happy without it.
If you find that you can’t stop using ketamine, remember there’s help available.

Is ketamine addictive?
While no studies have been done to measure ketamine’s physically addictive properties, it is acknowledged, even by its proponents, to be psychologically addictive. Timothy Leary himself has described ketamine as the most powerful of psychedelic drugs. For people who want to feel dissociated from their environment, this drug can be dangerously appealing and there are many reported cases of addiction.

Is ketamine illegal?
Yes, taking ketamine is illegal and its possession, use, and sale carry heavy prison sentences and fines and disciplinary consequences at UCSC.

How do I help a friend who’s having trouble with drugs or alcohol?
If you are concerned about a friend’s drug or alcohol use, this page contains information about different ways to help them.

ketamine hcl

Dose and onset

How? How Much? When? For how Long?

As with any drug, the correct dose for you depends on factors such as weight, gender, metabolism, whether you have taken the drug recently or not, amongst many others.

Read our section on dosing and tolerance in ME for more information.

How you take it matters…

Snorting

Snorting is the most common way of using it. People usually divide the powder out into lines with a card and snort it with a straw or a piece of paper. Snorting through one nostril over a long time can lead to nasal ulcers or damage the septum.

Oral

Ingesting ketamine results in slightly different effects to snorting or injecting. If taken as a ‘bomb” (wrapping a dose in a cigarette paper) the effects take longer to feel and the experience will last longer. Taking ketamine orally usually results in a less intense experience.

Gumming is another way of doing it. A small amount is applied on the inside of the lips or gum. This can damage your gums and lips. Gumming is not a common way of taking ketamine as most users find the taste very unpleasant.

Intramuscular injection

Injection is the most harmful way to take it. Like all other substances mentioned on our website- it’s recommended that you do not inject ketamine. Injecting also increases the likelihood of becoming addicted to a substance.

How much?

Snorting

  • Light dose: 15-30mg
  • Common dose: 30-75mg
  • Strong dose: 60-125mg
  • Heavy (“K-hole”): 100-250mg

Oral

  • Light dose: 50-100mg
  • Medium dose: 75-300mg
  • Strong dose: 200-450mg
  • Heavy (“K-hole”): 500mg+

Intramuscular injection

  • Light dose: 15-30mg
  • Medium dose: 25-50mg
  • Strong dose: 40-100mg
  • Heavy (“K-hole”): 60-125mg

Source: Erowid

When do the effects kick in and for how long?

The START time below is when you will usually begin to feel the effects of ketamine from the time when you first take it. The DURATION is roughly the length of time you will experience the effects, after which the effects will start to wind off and you might start to feel the calm-down/comedown down effects.

Timeline for snorted ketamine:

  • START: 5-15 minutes
  • DURATION: 40-60 minutes
  • AFTER-EFFECTS: 1-3 hours

Timeline for ketamine taken orally:

  • START: 5-20 minutes
  • DURATION: 90 minutes
  • AFTER-EFFECTS: 40-80 minutes

Timeline for injected ketamine:

  • START: 1-5 minutes
  • DURATION: 1-2 hours
  • AFTER-EFFECTS: 2-4 hours

Ketamine may have an anti-depressive effect in low doses (20-30mg), and there are currently a number of ongoing research trials looking into this.