KetamineThe College Tribune is running a series of articles giving information about drugs that students may or may not come across during their tenure at university. While we don’t promote the consumption of illegal drugs, we accept that a number of people will try such substances regardless of the law. In this series we seek to provide advice to those people, with the aim of hopefully reducing the harm they face.

This issue we are looking at Ketamine, a dissociative psychedelic which is best known as an animal tranquiliser and sedative often used in equine veterinary medicine.

Ketamine has a history of human use in the field of anaesthesia, first developed in 1962 and marketed as a fast acting general anaesthetic, it became unpopular in this capacity in western medicine due to the development of other drugs with lesser side effects. Ketamine is however still used in medicine, often in developing nations.

The substance is listed on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines under the heading of injectable anaesthetics, though in Ireland it is classed as a schedule 3 substance which means it is considered to be a controlled medicinal product which has a high likelihood of being abused.

The vast majority of Ketamine found in Ireland is in powder form. This powder is obtained by boiling off liquid ketamine which is typically diverted from legitimate sources. The effects of Ketamine can vary wildly depending on dosage.

At lower doses, stimulation not unlike that felt under the influence of cocaine can occur with an increase in energy and sensations of euphoria reported by users. At higher doses, the dissociative effects of the drug become more pronounced. Dissociation is described as “a wide array of experiences from mild detachment from immediate surroundings to more severe detachment from physical and emotional experience. The major characteristic of all dissociative phenomena involves a detachment from reality.”

At its most extreme, dissociation leaves the user incapable of manipulating their physical body, leaving them immobile until the effects of the drug wear off. For a small number of users, this effect is sought out but for beginners extreme dissociation can be very frightening. Extreme dissociation is often referred to as ‘the K hole’.

The effects of Ketamine depend heavily on body weight and the route of ingestion. If insufflated (snorted), doses range from 30-50mg. Orally, 75-100mg depending on stomach contents. The effects of Ketamine are typically felt between 30 minutes and an hour after ingestion with a duration of 30 to 60 minutes. As with all substances, it is best to start at the lower end and wait before consuming again.

Ketamine is known to be psychologically addictive, with a high risk of dependency compared to other substances. Ketamine also acts as a depressant on the central nervous system and its use in combination with other depressants such as alcohol should be avoided.