Ketamine facts

Gail Evans, Alphabiolabs

By Gail Evans, Technical Trainer at AlphaBiolabs
Last reviewed: 03/10/2023

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.

What is ketamine?

Ketamine is an anesthetic 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 anesthetic, 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 realizing it.

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What are the street names for ketamine?

Some of the most common street names for ketamine include:

  • Special K
  • Kit Kat
  • Super K
  • Vitamin K

What does ketamine look like?

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

However, when sold illegally, it is usually a white or off-white 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 marijuana 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 anesthetic, 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 realizing it.

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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 strain on the body and can cause high blood pressure and a fast heart rate.

Ketamine is classified as a Schedule III non-narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act.

Is ketamine used in medicine?

Ketamine is used in medical settings as a short-acting anesthetic or sedative for humans and animals.

In 2019, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also approved the ketamine-containing nasal spray, Spravato®, for treatment-resistant depression.

The drug is only available via a certified physician or clinic.

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

Even after the ‘high’ has worn off, and long after the drug was first consumed, ketamine use can be detected by a drug test, depending on the type of test you take.

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).

How long does Ketamine stay in your system?

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 loved one who is struggling with substance misuse.

  • Home Urine Drug Test Kit (pack of 3 – $34.95) – 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 or for legal reasons.

For confidential advice about which test might best suit your needs, you can email our Customer Services team at

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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 practising forensic scientist, attending scenes of crime, and analyzing 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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