Addictive Potential: Low
Emergency Room Visits Yearly: Unknown
Mandatory Minimum Sentence: Not more than 5 years
Mechanism of Action: NMDA receptor antagonist
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic for human and veterinary use. Its hydrochloride salt is sold as Ketanest, Ketaset, and Ketalar, or on the street as Special K. Pharmacologically, ketamine is classified as an NMDA receptor antagonist, and like other drugs of this class such as tiletamine, memantine, and phencyclidine (PCP), induces a state referred to as “dissociative anesthesia.” As with other pharmaceuticals of this type, ketamine is used illicitly as a recreational drug.
Ketamine has a wide range of effects in humans, including analgesia, anesthesia, hallucinations, arterial hypertension, and bronchodilation. It is primarily used for the induction and maintenance of general anesthesia, usually in combination with some sedative drug. Other uses include sedation in intensive care, analgesia (particularly in emergency medicine), and treatment of bronchospasm. It is also a popular anesthetic in veterinary medicine.
Ketamine was first reported in 1962 as part of an effort to find a safer anaesthetic alternative to Phencyclidine (PCP), which was more likely to cause hallucinations and seizures. The drug was first given to American soldiers during the Vietnam War, but today in the developed world its use on humans has been dramatically curtailed because of concern about its potential to cause emergence phenomena because of the drug’s possible psychotomimetic effects. However, it is still used widely in veterinary medicine, or as a battlefield anaesthetic in developing nations.
Ketamine’s side effects eventually made it a popular psychedelic in 1965. The drug was used in psychiatric and other academic research through the 1970s, culminating in 1978 with the publishing of John Lilly’s The Scientist, a book documenting the author’s ketamine, LSD, and isolation tank experiments. The incidence of recreational ketamine use increased through the end of the century, especially in the context of raves and other parties. The increase in illicit use prompted ketamine’s placement in Schedule III of the United States Controlled Substance Act in August 1999.
General Ketamine Information
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