What is Ketamine and How Does It Work?

Ketamine is a drug which binds to mu opioid receptors in the brain, and is used in both medical and veterinary practices. Ketamine is an NMDA (N-Methyl-D-Aspartate) receptor antagonist, which is used as a type of anesthetic on both humans and animals. It produces a dissociative state, euphoria and hallucinations.

What is an NMDA receptor antagonist?

An NMDA receptor is ionotropic and facilitates the transfer of electrical signaling between neurons in the spinal column and the brain. In other words, this receptor helps communication, including sensory communication, travel between your mind and the rest of your body. An NMDA receptor antagonist blocks this communication and therefore acts as a euphoric or anesthetic agent. [1]

What are the side effects of Ketamine abuse?

Ketamine reacts with the body similarly to PCP (phencyclidine) and DXM (dextromethorphan), except that it is very quick acting and does not last as long as PCP or DXM. In strong doses, Ketamine only affects the physiology for approximately two hours. Because of the heavy neurological activity, long-term abuse is correlated with partial or heavy memory loss. Short-term abuse is correlated with confusion, disorientation, spiritual experiences, numbness, dissociation, euphoria, and altered perception of reality. Physiological side effects include respiratory depression, increased heart rate, loss of coordination, hypertension and sedation. [2]

Where did Ketamine originate?

In 1962, PCP was causing seizures and neurotoxicity, so the pharmaceutical company, Parke-Davis, developed Ketamine in order to find a safer anesthesia. The recreational use of Ketamine increased toward the end of the twentieth-century, and was especially popular in raves. Ketamine-based pharmaceutical brands include Ketalar, Ketmex, Astrapin, Imalgen, Ketaset, and Ketotal. [3]

How Do I Know if Someone is Abusing Ketamine?

The neurological side effects of Ketamine are fairly obvious, dissociative mental states, loss of sensory perception and loss of motor coordination being the primary indicators of abuse. If an individual has overdosed on any drug, your first step must be to call your local medical services. While you are waiting for their arrival, you must monitor the individual carefully to determine breathing and heart rate. Keep them warm and perform any emergency medical procedures which you know, such as CPR, in order to stabilize them as best you can. [4]

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1. Pender J (1971). “Dissociative anesthesia”. JAMA 215 (7): 1126–30.

2. Giannini AJ, Loiselle RH, Giannini MC, Price WA (1985). “Phencyclidine and the dissociatives”. Psychiatric Medicine 3 (3): 197–217.

3. Bonanno FG (May 2002). “Ketamine in war/tropical surgery (a final tribute to the racemic mixture)”. Injury 33 (4): 323–7.

4. “Ketamine: An Introduction for the Pain and Palliative Medicine Physician A Case Based Review.” The Official Journal of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 May 2011. http://www.painphysicianjournal.com/linkout_vw.php?issn=1533-3159&vol=10&page=493.

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