LSD (acid) and magic mushrooms (psilocybin) are well known for their psychedelic properties, but they aren’t the only such drugs that people use recreationally to “trip.” Ketamine, also known as “Special K” or “Vitamin K,” has emerged over the last few decades to become an increasingly popular drug that produces a psychedelic experience. This drug, however, is prescribed by doctors and veterinarians as an aesthetic and has recently been used to treat drug-resistant depression in humans with success. In medical settings, ketamine is highly supervised owing to its temporary mind-altering properties and to ensure safety. When abused, ketamine is quite dangerous and a high dose comes with various risks that some users refer to as “falling into a K hole.”
What Is Meant by “Falling into a K-Hole”?
Increasingly abused as a club or party drug, ketamine produces psychedelic trips where users experience changes in their perceptions of reality. At a high dose, these trips can intensify, leaving users experiencing vivid psychedelic highs but also physically unresponsive and unable to function. A k-hole isn’t a sought-after experience but it typically occurs accidentally because of an elevated dose.
People who experience falling into a k-hole often experience:
- Intense feelings of distress or panic
- Feeling helpless or overwhelmed
- Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t there)
- Feeling confused and disoriented
- Loss of coordination
- Increased blood pressure and heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Short-term memory loss
- Ongoing psychosis (in some cases)
Ketamine can cause a person to feel numb and unable to speak or move, which is not inconsistent with its role as an aesthetic; however, in non-medical settings, the risks associated with losing mobility and other functions mean that a person can easily become injured and be unable to help themselves or call for help.
People who abuse ketamine for a long period of time can develop heart problems, reduced cognitive function, seizures, and bladder dysfunction. Ketamine is also addictive and can be fatal. The risks of fatality increase when the drug is used with alcohol or other drugs.
What Are the Properties of Ketamine That Lead to Its Dissociative Effects?
Ketamine functions as a dissociative anesthetic. In medical settings, where the drug is used as an anesthetic, this functionality is helpful as it allows the patients to feel detached from themselves and what’s going on around them while experiencing some sedation.
Ketamine is FDA-approved for use in hospitals or veterinary clinics where its use is highly controlled and, therefore, regarded as safe. However, outside of the medical setting, this drug is unsafe and comes with serious risks to both physical and mental health.
What Is Research Saying about Regulated Doses of Ketamine in Controlled Settings for Treatment?
Although ketamine is approved for medical use in hospitals to treat people, it is most frequently used in veterinary practices. However, that may be changing as new therapeutic uses for ketamine are developed.
Like opioids and other prescription drugs that are widely abused, ketamine offers benefits to people when prescribed by doctors as a medical treatment. Its role in anesthesia is important, particularly for patients who don’t require or can’t tolerate a stronger anesthetic. Ketamine can be prescribed before, during, or even after surgical procedures to provide its sedative effects.
When prescribing ketamine as an anesthetic, healthcare providers will inject the drug into a muscle or may administer it via an intravenous line. Many surgeons favor the use of ketamine because it doesn’t require the patient to be administered oxygen. Ketamine doesn’t decrease blood pressure or lower a person’s breathing rate, which makes it a safer type of anesthetic than stronger options.
Ketamine is often favored as an anesthetic for humans for surgeries and procedures such as:
- Skin grafts
- Burn treatments
- Cardiac catheterization
- Ear, nose, or throat procedures
Other Therapeutic Uses of Ketamine
However, ketamine’s use as an anesthetic isn’t the drug’s only use in the medical setting. Patients who have a severe form of epilepsy known as epilepticus SE, which may cause brain damage or death, may be prescribed ketamine to control their seizures. The drug is administered in the hospital setting. While not the first drug choice for this type of treatment, it’s often resorted to after several other drugs have been unsuccessful.
With its dissociative properties, ketamine is sometimes prescribed in low doses as an analgesic. Ketamine appears to offer pain relief, which makes it a good choice for post-surgical care in some cases, particularly after minor surgical procedures.
Ketamine has also been used successfully to treat depression, reduce symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, alleviate suicidal thoughts, and even to treat some substance use disorders. While its use in some areas of mental health treatment is largely controversial (especially as a substance abuse therapy), it is garnering increasing medical support, especially for its role in treating depression.
Many people suffer from treatment-resistant depression. Roughly 7.1 percent of Americans are diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MMD). Of these, anywhere from 12-55 percent may not respond to treatment like antidepressant medications, but research has found that many patients prescribed ketamine have experienced relief from their depression or suicidal thoughts.
Today, in fact, many medical professionals prescribe ketamine to patients with depression when antidepressants do not offer relief. The ketamine is administered as a nasal spray or intravenously in various medical settings. (Learn more about ketamine infusions at FHE Health.)
Ketamine has proved itself to be a powerful option in the treatment of depression when other medications aren’t working. Usually, patients begin to experience relief from their depression after three ketamine infusions. Even so, studies are still ongoing and doctors who prescribe ketamine for depression will still continue to prescribe antidepressants for the patient and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Ketamine is a helpful drug in the medical arena with its various therapeutic uses. In time, more uses may be found as researchers continue to study the drug’s effects on the brain and body. However, ketamine isn’t right for every patient, and for some patients over the age of 65, ketamine may not be recommended. On the other hand, ketamine is only regarded as a safe therapeutic option when delivered by qualified healthcare providers in medical settings.
When used recreationally, ketamine is associated with health risks, including death. Users who fall into a K hole may not come out as they went in. Ketamine has also been implicated as a date rape drug owing to the paralyzing effects that it can produce. The drug also has addictive properties. Someone who abuses ketamine can become addicted to it and is unlikely to stop using it without formal addiction treatment.
If you are abusing ketamine or suspect you may have become addicted to this drug, contact FHE Health to get help right away. Drugs like ketamine can alter the brain’s chemistry, making it difficult to stop using the drug without treatment.