Ketamine is referred to as Horse Tranquilizer, K, or Special K. It was once used solely as anesthesia in humans and animals. When used legally, it is injected with a dose that is appropriate for the person receiving it, depending on their height, weight, and medical history.
Effects of ketamine can last different amounts of time depending on how much ketamine was taken and how it was administered (snorting, injection, or swallowing).
Ketamine has a half-life of 45 minutes in adults. After this point, the body has to change it into metabolites so that ketamine can exit the body.
Ketamine induces feelings of detachment between the body and mind. It alters the way sound and sight are processed, and it allows the nervous system to stop sending messages about pain in the body. Because of this, ketamine has been used as a date rape drug.
An August 2018 essay on Tonic mentions that ketamine is used as a psychedelic and that its recreational use is a major issue.
Currently, ketamine is more popular in the United Kingdom and Asia, but it is making strides in the U.S. If taken at very high doses, it could lead to derealization — a dangerous state of mind that cause some people to make reckless decisions.
Some people report falling into a K-hole, a high that is so intense a person may not be able to move or respond to external events. A person in this state may also:
The World Health Organization says people can start feeling the effects of ketamine within these periods:
Five to 15 minutes.
About 20 minutes.
About 30 minutes.
These estimates are for the legal administration of ketamine, and the timelines could be different when it is used recreationally. When ketamine is used under medical supervision, it is administered in a way that allows it to affect a person in increments, per a paper published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Doctors also have protocols they use so that patients can be safe when they need ketamine as an anesthetic.
With recreational use, the results of ketamine use start to affect a person much faster because most people do not know how much is too much. Ketamine that is purchased illicitly could also be contaminated with other substances.
Effects of ketamine are known to last an hour, but they could last for as long as one day depending on dosage.
Even people who do not use ketamine consistently may be concerned about whether or not it can show up in drug tests. These types of tests are often used by government agencies, by employers who require a drug test before making a job offer, or in industries that subject employees to random drug testing to make sure they can do their job safely. Even one-time experimental use could have dire consequences if a person tests positive for ketamine on such a test.
The good news is that ketamine is not yet known to be addictive. Once a person takes it, the liver will metabolize it and work to get rid of it. The experience, however, can trigger the person to want to use it again, and this can lead to a kind of psychological dependence.
WHO says the body turns ketamine into two chemicals. About 90 percent of a ketamine dose is eliminated from the body through urine, but about 2 percent of a dose stays behind.
Most often, people who undergo drug testing are not likely to take a test that detects ketamine. Most drug tests look for more common drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, or heroin. If a person suspects someone is using ketamine, they may opt for a specialized test that can detect it, however.
The length of time it stays in the body is one of the main reasons ketamine can cause so many health issues. Here are some estimates of how long a drug test might be able to recognize ketamine:
Ketamine can be detected in urine for about two weeks. Tonic mentions that most common urine tests will not find ketamine in one’s system. However, if a person’s urine sample is sent to a lab, there is a higher chance they could get caught.
Ketamine can be detected in the blood for up to four days. Although 90 percent of ketamine is gone because of urine, the remaining dose stays in the body a bit longer.
Ketamine can be detected in hair follicles for up to 90 days. The Richmond Journal of Law & Technology explains that hair follicle tests actually use the first inch and half of a person’s hair to check for drugs. The reason they can find drugs taken within the past 90 days is that all drugs create metabolites so that the body can get rid of them. These metabolites later become part of the hair and blend with it as it grows out.
Many saliva tests currently do not search for the presence of ketamine after a long period has passed. What is known is that mouth swabs can check for recent consumption of ketamine.
(August 2018) Everything You Should Know About Taking Ketamine. Tonic. from https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/bjbdg8/how-to-take-ketamine-risks-side-effects-drug-test
(January 2016) This is how long it will take each drug you smashed at Glastonbury to leave your system. The Tab. from https://thetab.com/uk/2016/07/08/found-long-drug-takes-leave-system-7526
(November 2015) Ketamine Update Review Report. World Health Organization. from https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/6_1_Ketamine_Update_Review.pdf
(November 2018) Ketamine. Government of Canada. from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/substance-use/controlled-illegal-drugs/ketamine.html
(October 2018) Ketamine. NCBI. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470357/
(May 2012) Ketamine Parenteral and Oral Dose Recommendations. University of Rochester Medicine. from https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/medialibraries/urmcmedia/medicine/palliative-care/patientcare/documents/ketaminedoseguidelines2012.pdf
(August 2018) Issues With Hair-Follicle Drug-Testing. Richmond Journal of Law & Technology. from https://jolt.richmond.edu/2018/08/13/issues-with-hair-follicle-drug-testing/