Ketamine is a dissociative drug mainly used as an anesthetic in humans and as a tranquilizer in animals such as dogs and cats. It is also used recreationally, especially in night clubs. The main modes of administration of the drug are either orally where it is swallowed, through inhalation where it is snorted or through an intramuscular injection.
The side effects of the drug and the length of time they last will depend on the mode of administration and the dose that is given. When used in large doses, as is the case in hospitals where it is used as an anesthetic, it acts as a sedative. In smaller doses, used for recreational purposes – typically 20% of the dosage used in hospitals – it acts as a stimulant.
The side effects of Ketamine can be categorized as either psychological or physical. Some of the physical signs include an elevated heart rate, numbness of fingers and toes, feeling of paralysis, catatonia (inability to move), slurring of speech, nausea, damage to the kidneys and bladder, reduced attention span and learning ability, loss of memory (amnesia), deliriums, hypertension and respiratory distress.
The psychological and emotional side effects include: schizophrenia; feeling of dissociation from the body also described as a “floaty feeling”; bouts of irritability and rage; paranoia.
The side effects associated with abusing Ketamine (known as Special K on the streets) are also commonly referred to as the “K effect”. When taken in small doses, the user begins to feel like they are floating outside their body. The hands and legs also feel numb. There is a marked reduction in the ability to move after 20 minutes.
At the peak of the effect, the user experiences hallucinations and feels like they are communicating with outside forces. During the hallucinations, the user feels the sensation of flying. The effects wear off in about 45-90 minutes in most people but even faster for addicts who have developed a tolerance for the drug.
The social side effects of Ketamine addiction are more profound than the physical effects described above. As with most other drug addicts, Ketamine addicts spend large amounts of money on Special K, and this can have severe implications on their ability to meet their financial obligations. The addicts also sometimes resort to theft or pilfering of household items which they then sell to get the money for their next fix.
Due to the emotional side effects, the user also experiences marital disharmony, if married, since they tend to be irritable and prone to anger. If the abuser is of school-going age, they are bound to experience problems with the school administration and fellow students due to their unpredictable mood swings. They are also likely to experience learning difficulties caused by the effects of the drug on the brain.
The lifestyles associated with drug addicts, especially injecting drug users, put them at a higher risk of acquiring STDs and HIV/AIDS. Regular users of the drug claim that its full effects can only be experienced through an intramuscular injection but doctors are strongly against this practice and warn that severe repercussions can be encountered if the user injects the drug intravenously.