Ketamine in your system

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?

Table of Contents

Ketamine is a drug used in both human and veterinary medical settings to induce loss of consciousness. The anesthetic effects of ketamine help to produce feelings of relaxation and pain relief. Ketamine is classified as a schedule III drug, meaning it has a moderate to low potential for dependence, according to the United States Drug Enforcement Agency.1

This aspect does not mean that ketamine addiction cannot occur if the drug is abused or misused. Other well-known Schedule III drugs include Suboxone, codeine, hydrocodone, and anabolic steroids. Ketamine is similar in structure to PCP (phencyclidine), making it a popular party drug.

In a medical setting under medical supervision, ketamine is safe to use. However, when used recreationally or in a manner other than intended, it can lead to significant mental and physical health effects. Ongoing use of ketamine can lead to tolerance and physical addiction to its effects.

What is Ketamine? 

Ketamine is part of a drug class referred to as dissociative anesthetics. Other drugs that fall within the same category include nitrous oxide (laughing gas), dextromethorphan (DXM), and Phencyclidine or PCP.2 Dissociative drugs are believed to disrupt the chemical glutamine at specific brain receptors. Glutamate is a critical chemical for cognition (learning and memory), emotion, and pain perception.

Street Names for Ketamine

Ketamine is found in either liquid or powder form. The liquid is injected into the vein whereas, the powder is mixed into drinks and smoked. Powdered ketamine is sometimes used as a drug in the commission of sexual assault crimes.3 Common street names for ketamine include Special K, Cat Valium, Kit Kat, K, Super Acid, Super K, Purple, Special La Coke, Jet, and Vitamin K.3

History of Ketamine

In April of 2017, the research from the American Psychological Association indicated some doctors prescribe ketamine nasal spray for depression. The Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved this “off-label” use.4

Currently, there is insufficient evidence to prove ketamine is a safe and effective depression treatment. Some studies supporting its use were found to be lacking in rigorous research ethics practices. Currently, research supported by the National Institutes of Health is working to determine if ketamine is a safe and effective alternative for those with treatment-resistant depression.5

In recent years, the rate of ketamine abuse has increased. Unlike other drugs that drive the current opioid epidemic, ketamine does not receive much in the way of media attention. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the highest rate of ketamine use is among adults ages 18-25.


Is Ketamine Addictive?

In people, ketamine is often used to induce or maintain general anesthesia before, during, or after a surgical procedure. Ketamine is considered effective and safe because, unlike other medications, it does not lead to lower blood pressure or respiratory rate. The use of ketamine in the surgical setting does not dictate the need for oxygen, electricity, or a highly medical staff, making it an excellent alternative in areas where these services are limited.6

Is Ketamine Safe? 

Ketamine toxicity on its own can cause severe reactions and lead to death. However, when mixed with other drugs, ketamine is very dangerous. Ketamine produces significant sedative effects. When combined with other sedatives or drugs with similar action, the effects of these drugs become more powerful, which could lead to ketamine overdose.

How is Ketamine Used? 

In the medical environment, ketamine is either injected into the muscle or given through an IV line as part of a medical procedure. It is used in various medical and surgical procedures, including skin grafts, orthopedic procedures, diagnostic procedures, and minor surgical procedures. In less common cases, it is used as an analgesic to relieve pain (at a far lower dose) or as a means of controlling seizures in hospital patients when other methods have been unsuccessful.

Ketamine produces a high that lasts for about an hour. While “high” on ketamine, feelings such as out-of-body sensations, hallucinations, floating, and euphoria are common. The above sensations make ketamine a popular club drug used at raves and similar dance hall environments. Ketamine can be snorted, smoked, mixed into drinks, or taken intravenously. Regardless of how it is taken, the side effects of ketamine occur within minutes.


Ketamine Side Effects

Dissociative drugs like ketamine can produce hallucinations (both auditory and visual) and make you feel as though you are floating. While users generally “want” to experience the above, the side effects of ketamine use are not always intended.

Examples of unwanted ketamine side effects include:


Impaired coordination

Elevated blood pressure

Difficulty breathing





Long-term effects of ketamine abuse include:

Stomach problems

Bladder and kidney problems

Memory loss

New or worsening mental health problems


The initial effects of ketamine occur within five to thirty minutes, depending on the method of use. Based on how fast your body processes ketamine, the effects can last for around an hour. However, your sense of coordination and some other effects may be impacted for up to 24 hours.

What is the Half-life of Ketamine?  

Roughly 90% of all ketamine is removed from the body in the urine. The half-life of ketamine, or the time it takes for 50% of the drug to leave your body, is about 2.5 hours for adults. The full dose of ketamine should be out of your body within 10-12.5 hours.

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?

A study published in the International Journal of Legal Medicine noted that ketamine could be detected in hair samples up to 4 months after a single dose. The same study indicated ketamine could be found in urine samples for up to 11 days when ketamine infusions are used as anesthesia.7

Treatment for Ketamine addiction

Ketamine has a high potential for addiction. Although ketamine does not always bring about the same physical addiction as alcohol or various other substances, it does impair your physical and psychological functioning, making quitting without professional help such as Arrow Passage Recovery difficult.

When you try to quit ketamine “cold turkey,” you will likely experience a wide range of physical and mental health symptoms that make it challenging to avoid relapse. Additionally, if the roots of your ketamine addiction lie in a previously diagnosed mental health condition, seeking comprehensive and effective dual diagnosis treatment can be even more challenging.

If you currently use ketamine and are ready to quit, know that help is available. Contact us at Arrow Passage Recovery to learn more about your treatment options. Immediately stopping ketamine without the support and guidance of a professional support team may lead to overwhelming ketamine withdrawal symptoms. With the proper help, you can achieve healing and sobriety in a supported and comfortable environment.



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