Ketamine

Dissociative anaesthetic

Ketamine is a dissociative drug which can make you feel detached from your body or physical environment. It usually looks like a grainy white or light brown crystal-like powder.

Also known as:

  • K
  • Special K
  • Ket
  • Vitamin K
  • Kenny
  • Jet
  • Donkey Dust
  • Wobble

What does ketamine look like?

  • A grainy white or light brown powder that often looks like crystals
  • Liquid (less common)
  • Tablets (less common)

How is ketamine taken?

  • Snorting up the nose 
  • Swallowing tablets or powder wrapped in a cigarette paper (also called ‘bombing’)
  • Orally by drinking it or rubbing it onto the gums
  • Injecting it*

*Injecting is particularly dangerous and increases risks including infection with Blood Borne Viruses (BBVs) like Hepatitis C or HIV. 

How can ketamine make me feel?

Ketamine can make you feel:

  • Dream-like, known as ‘floating’, which can make you feel more ‘connected’ to the world,
  • Energetic or euphoric
  • Detached, known as a ‘k-hole’- which is where your mind and body feel like they are separated 
  • Chilled, relaxed or happy
  • Confused
  • Nauseous

Ketamine can also:

  • Make it hard to move your arms and legs
  • Change how you experience space and time
  • Cause hallucinations 
  • Speed up your heart rate

How long do the effects of ketamine last?

It depends on several factors, including your age, weight and metabolism, what you have already taken, the purity of the drug, and the dose.

Generally speaking, the effects start around 15 minutes after using, and usually last 30 minutes to one hour. However, depending on how much is taken, effects can last much longer. 

What happens to my body if I use ketamine frequently?

Using ketamine frequently can:

  • Bladder problems, including the urgent and frequent need to wee and loss of bladder control - these can become permanent
  • Frequently feeling very anxious, depressed, or getting panic attacks or hallucinations
  • Damage to the inside of the nose
  • Short or long-term memory loss
  • Liver and kidney damage

How to reduce harm while using ketamine

We recognise that some ways of using drugs carry less risk than others, and by providing information which supports people to make informed decisions, we can help people to minimise harm.

Before you start, check:

  • Is now the right time? How you’re feeling when you use ketamine can impact the effects you may experience, so consider checking in with yourself and thinking about whether now is a good time for you.

  • Do I know what I’m taking? Researching what you’re planning to take, what the effects can be and how to reduce harm can help to keep you safe. 

  • Have I contacted a friend or family member? In case you need help while you’re taking ketamine, consider telling someone your plans.

While you're using:

Start low, go slow

Strength can vary between batches, even if you take the drug regularly, starting with a small amount and waiting at least two hours before your next dose can help to reduce the risk of overdose.

Go at your own pace

Everyone responds differently to drugs - trying to keep up with others puts you at greater risk of overdosing. 

Plan and measure doses

If you’re going out, only take what you plan to use with you as this makes it easier to set boundaries and stay in control. It’s easier to lose track of time when using drugs, so taking a screenshot of the time or setting a timer each time you have a dose can help you space out your doses.

Try not to use on your own

It's best not to use ketamine if you’re on your own or if you’re in a position where there is nobody you could call for help. A buddy system - where one person takes their hit first and waits until the peak effects have worn off before the other person uses - makes it more likely that someone can help if anyone overdoses.

Find a safe space

Where you are when you take ketamine can impact the effects you may experience, so try and find a space where you feel safe, comfortable, with people you trust.

Try not to mix

Try to take ketamine on its own, as mixing with other drugs or alcohol can increase your risk of overdose.

Opt for methods that carry less risk

Snorting or swallowing ketamine is less risky than injecting. If you’re snorting ketamine, taking a small amount (bump), finely crushing the powder first, alternating nostrils, and rinsing the nose with clean water after use will help to reduce damage to your nose. 

Use your own equipment

Using your own equipment, including straws and measures, can help to prevent the spread of blood-borne viruses (BBVS) like hep B, hep C and HIV. You can get clean equipment from any drug service and many pharmacies. 

The recovery position

The recovery position helps to prevent someone unconscious from choking on vomit. If someone is unconscious, putting them in the recovery position, getting help if needed, and staying with them will help to reduce the risk of harm.

After using ketamine:

  • Looking after and being kind to yourself is important - get plenty of sleep and rest, and try to avoid taking any other drugs to give your body time to recover

  • Refuelling will help your recovery - this includes drinking plenty of water and eating something nutritious which is soft on your stomach and not too rich

  • If you think you may be at risk of blood-borne viruses (BBVs) like Hep B, Hep C and HIV, you can access free testing from any drug and alcohol service, your GP, or a sexual health centre. You can catch a BBV even if you don’t inject a drug - through unprotected sex or sharing equipment

And always remember - if you’re feeling low and feel you can’t talk to a friend or family member, contact us for help through our webchat or find your local service.

What do I do if I think someone has overdosed on ketamine?

If someone passes out or falls asleep and you can’t wake them up after using ketamine, put them in the recovery position and get help fast by calling 999, telling emergency services what you know.

Symptoms of ketamine overdose include:

  • Increased heartbeat
  • Fits or seizures
  • Falling unconscious or having breathing difficulties
  • Chills or fever
  • Not being able to urinate 
  • Arching of the back or convulsions

If you suspect someone has overdosed, it’s always best to administer naloxone. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioid drugs like heroin, morphine and fentanyl. Drugs bought illicitly can contain a mixture of substances, including opioids, so use naloxone if you have it. If someone hasn’t overdosed on opioids, naloxone won’t harm them. 

You can get a naloxone kit and training on how to use it from your local WithYou service

More information about naloxone, including how to use it.

Ketamine withdrawal signs, symptoms, and what to do

If your body develops a tolerance to ketamine, you may feel you need to take more to get the same effects. 

You can become dependent on ketamine, and regular use can lead to physical withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop or cut back.

Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations 
  • Nausea or sickness
  • Changes to breathing 
  • Poor sleep
  • Hearing loss
  • Fatigue

If you’re dependent on ketamine, we can help you cut down safely, as stopping suddenly can lead to withdrawal complications. 

Find a local service

The law around ketamine

Ketamine is a Class B drug, which means it's illegal to be found carrying or using it. The legal term for this is possession. The maximum sentence for possession of a Class B drug is up to five years in prison, a fine or both. 

It’s also illegal to give away or sell ketamine. This is known as supply, and is a more serious offence than possession.  It can be considered supply if you give your friend some or share some with them, and this could get you time in prison, an unlimited fine or both.

Looking for support?

If you’re concerned about your ketamine use, or if you’re worried about someone you know, we’re WithYou. We provide free, confidential and non-judgemental support and advice. Please don’t hesitate to reach out: