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Sold as a white or tan grainy powder and called ketamine or also ketamine. It looks similar to cocaine but is a very different substance. Its effect varies from person to person. How might it feel? Aloof, happy, relaxed and/or anxious, confused, 'tripped out'.

And the effects?

Memory loss, nausea, depression, numbness from feeling pain. The effects are felt within 15 to 20 minutes on average, and last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. Warning: Because you don't feel pain well when you've taken ketamine, you can injure yourself without knowing it. Mixing with alcohol, benzodiazepines or opiates is dangerous. Never use without being with other people you trust.

In this article we will learn more about ketamine, its effects and its possible applications.

  1. What does it look like?

    A clear liquid when used medicinally;
    A powder of white or brown crystals when sold as a drug;
    Tablets, although in this version it is less common.

  2. How does it taste?

    Ketamine has a bitter, unpleasant taste.

  3. What is its use?

    Ketamine is used medicinally as an anesthetic for both people and animals.
    In powder
    Most people get it by snorting it.
    By injecting it
    People who use ketamine regularly inject it intramuscularly to enhance the effect.
    In tablets
    It's the least common use, but some people swallow it in pill form.
    With bombing
    That is, by swallowing it wrapped in cigarette paper.

  4. The effects

    Ketamine is an anesthetic, so it dulls physical sensations. Its effect may last for a few hours, and may include:
    · Feeling detached, like in a dream;
    · Feel relaxed and happy;
    · Feeling confused and nauseous;
    · Be slower and think irrationally.
    Ketamine can also alter perceptions of time and space, and make you feel pain. Excessive intake also leads to an effect called the k-hole where you have the sensation of being outside your body.
    Regular use can also cause agitation, memory impairment, panic attacks and depression.

  5. Duration

    The effects arrive within 15 minutes and last from half an hour to two hours, however, it depends on how much you take. Once the effects have passed, one may feel depressed for a few days. Furthermore, the substance can be detected in the urine for several days after intake.

  6. The risks

    Ketamine is a very powerful anesthetic, which can cause everything from tachycardia to detachment from reality, and affect memory. You also risk getting hurt, as you don't feel the pain. It is also possible to develop incontinence phenomena, but also abdominal cramps and liver damage.
    From a mental health perspective, there are long-term effects that include flashbacks, memory loss, and problems concentrating. However, at the same time there are studies that are evaluating its effects on the treatment of depression.

  7. Mixing with other substances

    Mixing ketamine with other substances, and mixing substances in general, is always risky. Combined with alcohol, benzodiazepines and opiates, they risk collapse to death. Combined with stimulants, you risk all the serious effects associated with high blood pressure.

  8. Dependence

    Ketamine can cause addiction and more, as those who use it regularly can develop a tolerance that leads to using more and more. However, it is a psychological dependence, as ketamine does not cause phenomena of dependence on the body as occurs with other substances.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine got its start in Belgium in the 1960s as an anesthetic medicine for animals. The FDA approved it as an anesthetic for people in 1970. It was used to treat wounded soldiers on battlefields in the Vietnam War. Unlike other anesthetics, ketamine doesn't slow breathing or heart rate, so patients don't need to be on a ventilator to receive it.

Emergency responders can give it to an agitated patient whom, for example, they have saved from a suicide attempt.

Ketamine causes what doctors call a "dissociative experience" and what most others would call a "trip." This is how it became a club drug, called K, Special K, Super K, and Vitamin K among others. Revelers inject it, put it in drinks, snort it, or add it to joints or cigarettes.

Ketamine effects

The journey takes approximately 2 hours. But there are risks in casual use. The most serious are unconsciousness, high blood pressure and dangerously slow breathing. The drug could also cause long-term problems, such as ulcers and bladder pain; kidney problems; stomach pain; depression and poor memory. Ketamine is not like the hallucinogenic, sometimes also used for purposes therapeuticbut could be fatal for people who abuse alcohol or if they take it while intoxicated.

But the drug's potential as a treatment for depression and an antidote to suicidal thoughts has caught the attention of researchers. They studied it and administered it in controlled clinical settings to help with treatment-resistant depression and other conditions.

To be clear: using Casual is not a treatment for depression. But doctors have developed a protocol for medically supervised use that can help people who don't get relief from other drugs.

Doctors who administer intravenous ketamine tend to recommend patients continue with their regular antidepressant regimen, too. As for the nasal spray, it's only approved for use alongside an oral antidepressant.

Other effects on the brain

Ketamine can work in other ways in the brain as well. Certain nerve cells (neurons) in the brain involved in mood use a chemical (neurotransmitter) called glutamate to communicate with each other. Nerve cells need glutamate receptors – think of them as glutamate gloves – to participate in this communication.

In the brains of some people with depression, these nerve cells are no longer as excited by glutamate. It is as if the glutamate receptors – the catcher's mitts – are deactivated or weakened.

But after people with this particular problem are given ketamine, those nerve cell connections are supplied with new glutamate receptors. It's as if ketamine helps make new glutamate glove boxes, so that nerve cells can respond again.

Research suggests that even though ketamine's main action is at glutamate receptors, it needs opioid receptors to have its antidepressant effects. For psychiatrist Alan Shatzberg, MD, who did some of the research that uncovered this, this is troubling.

“It may not matter, but it worries me, personally, that ketamine works through an opioid mechanism,” he says. The concern, which other researchers have mentioned in ketamine studies, is that people may require larger and larger doses of ketamine over time to feel its effects — as is the case with opioid pain relievers. Increasing and decreasing treatments over time should help reduce this risk.

Of course, any comparison with opioids raises the question of the risk of addiction.

Because it's an off-label treatment, it may be too early to tell whether the risk of addiction or tolerance outweighs the possible benefits. It's important to note though that some recommendations suggest it may not be safe for people who have a history of substance abuse. Many clinical studies have excluded people with substance use problems.

Regarding the drug's action on glutamate receptors: Regrowing and reactivating synapses helps the brain's ability to change, which can help get out of depression. This may also explain why antidepressants or psychotherapy that didn't help before ketamine may help after.