Ketamine facts

Gail Evans, Alphabiolabs

By Gail Evans, Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 15/03/2023

In this article, we take a closer look at ketamine, what it is, how it is used, the side effects of ketamine use and more.
Table of contents
  • What is ketamine?
  • What are the street names for ketamine?
  • What does ketamine look like?
  • How is ketamine used?
  • How do people behave when they take ketamine?
  • What are the side effects of ketamine use?
  • What happens when you use ketamine with other drugs?
  • Which legislation covers ketamine use?
  • Is ketamine used in medicine?
  • How long does it take for ketamine to show up in a drug test?
  • Where can I buy a drug test?

What is ketamine?

Ketamine is an anaesthetic used by medical practitioners to treat humans, and by veterinarians to treat animals. It can also be used to control pain that has not responded to standard treatment.

As an anaesthetic, it acts on chemicals in the brain and alters a person’s perception of time and space, causing hallucinations, and a feeling of detachment from reality.

This feeling can last for up to a few hours and prevents the user from feeling pain, which can put people at risk of hurting themselves without realising it.

What are the street names for ketamine?

Some of the most common street names for ketamine include:

  • Donkey Dust
  • K
  • Special K
  • Ket
  • Vitamin K

What does ketamine look like?

When used as an anaesthetic, ketamine comes in the form of a clear liquid.

However, when bought on the street, it is usually a grainy white or brown crystalline powder. It can also be made into pills or dissolved in a liquid, but this is less common.

How is ketamine used?

Ketamine is snorted in powder form, swallowed as a tablet, or injected in liquid form.

Some people also smoke it with cannabis or tobacco.

How do people behave when they take ketamine?

The effects of ketamine are usually experienced within minutes if the drug is injected, within 15 minutes if snorted, and in up to 30 minutes if swallowed.

For some people, ketamine can make them feel happy, relaxed, and chilled out. However, it can also make others feel anxious, confused, and nauseous.

Because ketamine is an anaesthetic, it can also cause people to become incoherent, and stop them from being able to move properly. It also prevents feelings of pain, putting users at risk of hurting themselves without realising it.

What are the side effects of ketamine use?

Some common side effects of ketamine include:

  • Nightmares
  • Mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • High blood pressure
  • Fast pulse rate

Regular ketamine use can lead to:

  • Agitation
  • Panic attacks
  • Damage to short and long-term memory
  • Depression
  • Abnormal liver or kidney function
  • A need to use more to get the same effect

What happens when you use ketamine with other drugs?

The effects of mixing ketamine with other drugs, including prescription medication, can be unpredictable and very dangerous.

Mixing ketamine with depressant drugs such as alcohol, opiates or benzodiazepines can be particularly dangerous, and may cause the heart or lungs to slow or stop working, which can result in death.

There is also a high risk of choking, especially if the person vomits.

When ketamine is mixed with amphetamines, ecstasy, or cocaine, this puts a great strain on the body and can cause high blood pressure and a fast heart rate.

Which legislation covers ketamine use?

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971

Under UK law, ketamine is classified as a Class B drug.

Controlled drugs refer to any substances that are tightly controlled by the government, because they pose a risk of addiction or misuse.

It is an offence for a person to have controlled drugs in their possession, unless in exceptional circumstances, such as when they have been prescribed by a doctor. This also covers activities relating to the production, supply or preparation of controlled drugs.

SENTENCING FOR OFFENCES
Possession Up to 5 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both
Supply Up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both

Drug Driving Road Traffic Act 2015

SENTENCING FOR OFFENCES
Drug driving Up to 6 months in prison, an unlimited fine or both
Criminal record
Driving licence endorsement for 11 years
One-year driving ban
Causing death by dangerous driving Up to 14 years in prison

Is ketamine used in medicine?

Ketamine is used in medical settings as an anaesthetic for humans and animals.

It can also be used to control pain that has not responded to standard treatment and is prescribed on the advice of a pain care consultant.

How long does it take for ketamine to show up in a drug test?

The drug testing detection windows for ketamine are as follows:

  • Oral fluid (saliva) – up to 48 hours
  • Urine – up to 4 days
  • Hair – up to 12 months (depending on the length of hair available)
  • Nails – up to 12 months (up to 6 months for fingernails and up to 12 months for toenails)

Oral fluid and urine drug testing are known as ‘narrow-window’ forms of testing and can be used to detect drug use from 30 minutes after consumption, up to a few days. This can vary depending on the type of substance and how much was used.

The rate at which hair and nails grow means that both hair drug testing and nail drug testing can provide a ‘wide-window’ of detection for drugs and their metabolites (up to 12 months).

Where can I buy a drug test?

AlphaBiolabs offers two types of home drug tests, designed to give you peace of mind or enable you to seek support for a friend or loved one who is struggling with substance misuse.

  • Home Urine Drug Test Kit (£18) – this easy-to-use home drug testing kit can detect drugs and their metabolites in a urine sample. The self-contained screening kit includes built-in test strips, allowing you to read the results in just 5 minutes
  • Drug and Alcohol Nail Test (from £99) – this test can detect drug use for a period of up to 12 months prior to samples being collected, with only a sample of fingernail clippings or toenail clippings required. Simply follow the instructions included in your test kit to collect your nail clipping samples and return them to our accredited laboratory for testing

Please be aware that our home drug test kits are for peace of mind only, and the results cannot be used in court. If you require a drug test for official matters, you will need a legally-instructed drug test.

For confidential advice about which test might best suit your needs, you can also call our Customer Services team on 0333 600 1300 or email info@alphabiolabs.com.

Home drug tests

Explore our range of at-home drug tests.

Gail Evans, AlphaBiolabs

Gail Evans

Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs

A professionally-trained forensic scientist, Gail joined AlphaBiolabs in 2012 and holds the role of Technical Trainer.

Her day-to-day responsibilities include delivering in-depth training sessions both internally and externally, covering DNA, drug, and alcohol testing.

Before joining the company, Gail was a practicing forensic scientist with 25 years’ experience working for the Forensic Science Service, attending scenes of crime, and analysing physical and biological material with potential evidential value.

Gail also holds qualifications in chemistry and is a Lead Auditor for the ISO 9001 standard, the international standard for quality management.

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