What is Ketamine? Ketamine is classified as a dissociative hallucinogenic — which distorts the perception of sights and sounds, as well as emotions and personal identification of self.

In medicine, ketamine is used as an analgesic. It doesn’t directly block pain signals like an opiate — instead, dissociative analgesics disconnect the thalamus from the cortex. When this happens, the body still feels pain, but the brain simply “doesn’t care.” We don’t actually feel bothered by the pain.

Experts on the use of ketamine, such as Albert Dahan (professor of anesthesiology at The University of Leiden), suggest ketamine to be “one of the best painkillers ever made.”

Beyond its use as a painkiller, ketamine is used as a recreational drug (illegally). The experience changes according to the dose.

Lower doses feel a lot like being drunk on alcohol.

Higher doses are more similar to psychedelics like DMT or salvia.

A high dose of ketamine can lead to an experience called a “K-hole” — which is an extremely intense dissociative hallucination that can be both beautiful and terrifying all at once.

More recently, research has shown that low doses of ketamine offer powerful antidepressant qualities. It works through entirely different mechanisms than conventional antidepressant medications.

Unlike most drugs, ketamine targets many different receptors at once, making it very difficult to understand exactly what’s going on or how it works.

There’s currently one FDA-approved ketamine spray called Spavato® — which is prescribed for treatment-resistant depression (depression that doesn’t improve with conventional medications).

Ketamine: Specs & Technical Details

Active Ingredient(S & R)-2-(2-chlorophenyl)-2-(methylamino) cyclohexanone
Level of RiskModerate To High
Other NamesSpecial K, Cat Tranquilizer, Vitamin K
Most Common Side EffectsDisinhibition, nausea, loss of muscle coordination
Duration of Effects1 – 3 hours
LegalityAvailable by prescription only

What Does Ketamine Feel Like?

The effects of ketamine are dependent on the dose you use, your individual body weight and metabolism, how often you use it, what form you’re using (IV, oral, nasal), and whether you’re using ketamine alone or with other substances.

In lower doses, the effects of ketamine resemble alcohol intoxication. It causes feelings of mild euphoria, as well as visual and auditory perceptual changes. It makes users feel as though they’re floating or operating on autopilot. Low doses are mildly stimulating and can make users feel more social or energetic.

Higher doses of ketamine feel very different. They can make you feel withdrawn and introverted. People often report feeling very light and floaty and often experience intense hallucinations, blurred vision, and out-of-body experiences.

In very high doses, people experience what’s commonly referred to as a K-hole — which involves strong out-of-body hallucinations. This is a demonstration of the dissociative aspect of ketamine to its fullest extent. Users feel as though they’re perpetually falling into blackness. It’s as if the fabric of time, as well as one’s sense of self is dissolving.

Some describe the K-hole experience to be like “peering into the keyhole of existence.”

A K-hole can feel both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. However, most people report the experience to be much more negative than positive.


The effects of ketamine may include:

  • Difficulty thinking logically
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Euphoria
  • Déja Vu
  • Delusions & ego inflation
  • Disinhibition
  • Memory loss
  • Spatial disorientation
  • Altered perception of time & space
  • Sedation or fatigue
  • Spontaneous bodily sensations (tingling, pulsating)
  • A feeling of being light or floating
  • Loss of muscle coordination or control
  • Reduced sensation of pain
  • Increased salivation
  • Lowered libido
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • The feeling of being on “autopilot” or not in control of your body

How Long Do The Effects of Ketamine Last?

Ketamine is not a long-lasting drug. The effects usually take between 30 and 60 minutes to reach their full effect, which lasts about an hour before starting to taper off.

This is part of the reason why some users compulsively use ketamine to continue the trip.

What’s The Dose of Ketamine?

The dose of ketamine can dramatically alter the effects. These doses are for oral tablets. The doses will be different when using ketamine via injection or nasal insufflation. 

The lower dose range (20 mg) of ketamine produces milder hallucinations and feels most similar to GHB or alcohol.

High doses start around the 50 mg mark, which produces much more dissociative and introverted effects.

K-hole dosages begin around the 100 mg mark.

What is Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy?

The field of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy (PAP) is growing at an exponential rate.

So far, the only psychedelic that’s been approved for use in therapy is ketamine, but MDMA-assisted therapy is just around the corner.

Over the last 50 years, there have been over 70 individual Phase II clinical trials exploring the benefits of ketamine for conditions such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), drug addiction, and much more.

There are already dozens of ketamine clinics located around the United States, Canada, and some parts of Europe. Most of these clinics focus on the treatment of depression.

There are even virtual ketamine clinics that provide online meetings and send a dose of ketamine for the session in the mail — such as MindBloom.

There are also in-person psychotherapy clinics specializing in ketamine such as Field Trip.

Is Ketamine Legal?

Ketamine is available via prescription only. It’s mainly reserved for emergency medicine and surgery.

Some doctors may prescribe ketamine for the treatment of pain (usually in combination with an opiate), as well as for depression — but only when other treatments have been attempted first.

There are no countries where ketamine is legal for recreational use. This means any ketamine you order online or in-person without a valid prescription is illegal or black market ketamine. Some of this black market ketamine is stolen from veterinarian supplies — some are made in an illicit lab with varying levels of purity.

While we never condone the use of illicit drugs, we’d like to remind you to always test your drugs before you use them should you choose to do so. One of the biggest risks of taking black market ketamine is the adulteration with other dangerous drugs — such as NBOMes or fentanyl.

There are a few prescription ketamine drugs on the market today, including:

  • Ketalar® — JHP Pharmaceuticals
  • Ketaject® — Phoenix Pharmaceuticals
  • Ketaset® — Zoetis
  • Spravato® — Johnson & Johnson

Is Ketamine Safe? Risks & Side Effects

Ketamine is used every day by doctors performing surgery or treating people with severe traumatic injuries or burns. It’s also used as a treatment for depression in both injection and nasal spray forms.

Overall, this drug is considered to be relatively safe and is unlikely to lead to overdose.

As an analgesic, it’s one of the safest drugs available and isn’t nearly as likely to lead to respiratory or cardiovascular emergencies compared to other analgesics.

While ketamine is addictive, it has a much lower risk of addiction compared to other prescription medications — especially pain medications or antianxiety medications.

With that said, ketamine does come with inherent risks:

  • Ketamine can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke
  • Frequent use has been linked with bladder disease
  • Blackmarket ketamine may be laced with other, more dangerous drugs
  • Ketamine is often used as a date rape drug
  • Ketamine can interfere or interact with other medications or alcohol
  • Ketamine stops you from feeling pain, increasing your risk of developing serious injuries
  • Ketamine can be addictive with more frequent use
  • The psychoactive effects of ketamine can be terrifying and may trigger psychosis in susceptible individuals

It’s important to have a trip sitter around and follow the four pillars of safe psychedelic use if you plan on experiencing the deeper levels of ketamine (K-hole).

This experience will cause you to lose control of your body and can be extremely terrifying. So it’s critical that you have someone you trust nearby, and only take the drug in a safe and comfortable environment.

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