Can You Overdose On Ketamine?

Written by Robert Hammell

With all drugs, there is a threshold that is too much for the human body to bear. The same is true with ketamine, which is a depressive and is very possible to overdose on. For a Ketamine overdose, there are some potentially disastrous consequences that may come as a result.[1] As the worldwide trend continues to rise towards ketamine recreational use (and misuse), it is important to know the risks involved and how to avoid the worst possible outcomes.[2]

What happens with a Ketamine Overdose?

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic that was originally intended to be used by horses.[3] When taken in small doses, Ketamine can bring on a sense of relaxation, hallucinations, dizziness, and a feeling of detachment from one’s own body. But because of its strength, ketamine holds a lot of potential risks when taken in large amounts.[4] Physically, Ketamine can cause seizures, impair motor functions, or lead to respiratory shutdown. Depending on the context, each of these side effects can potentially be fatal. Ketamine might affect mental health too. Some of the psychological effects include the risk of addiction or depression. If an individual uses ketamine and becomes unconscious and his heart rate or breathing slows, it may well be a sign of an overdose, and emergency medical care should be sought.


Limiting the Risks of Ketamine Overdoses
When taken on its own, ketamine overdoses can be quite rare.[5] Usually, the overdose comes when ketamine is paired with some other substance. This is because the effects of ketamine are compounded with the other substance, creating an overwhelming effect that leads
to an overdose. A prime example of this is alcohol.[6] When taken together, these two depressives can compound into a dangerous mixture. It may also be risky to combine ketamine with drugs that have opposing effects. Not only do the drugs have the potential to work against each other, making it more difficult to tell when the safe threshold has been reached, but some evidence indicates that combining stimulants with ketamine can lead to increased psychotic symptoms.[7] With this in mind, it is generally better to avoid mixing ketamine with any other substances, whether they are legal or illegal.


Reference List
1. Ketamine Overdose Symptoms, Treatment & Long-Term Outlook. (2022, November 10). American Addiction Centers.

2. Joseph J. Palamar, Caroline Rutherford, and Katherine M. Keyes, 2021: Trends in Ketamine Use, Exposures, and Seizures in the United States up to 2019. American Journal of Public Health 111, 2046_2049,

3. Fielding, C. L., Brumbaugh, G. W., Matthews, N. S., Peck, K. E., & Roussel, A. J. (2006). Pharmacokinetics and clinical effects of a subanesthetic continuous rate infusion of ketamine in awake horses. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 67(9), 1484–1490.

4. Orhurhu VJ, Vashisht R, Claus LE, Cohen SP. Ketamine Toxicity. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing, Treasure Island (FL); 2022. PMID: 31082131.

5. Dinis-Oliveira RJ. Metabolism and metabolomics of ketamine: a toxicological approach. Forensic Sci Res. 2017 Feb 20;2(1):2-10. doi: 10.1080/20961790.2017.1285219. PMID: 30483613; PMCID: PMC6197107.

6. Krystal JH, Petrakis IL, Webb E, Cooney NL, Karper LP, Namanworth S, Stetson P, Trevisan LA, Charney DS. Dose-related ethanol-like effects of the NMDA antagonist, ketamine, in recently detoxified alcoholics. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1998 Apr;55(4):354-60. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.55.4.354. PMID: 9554431.

7. Liu XB, Zhang Y, Wang XY, Hao W. The synergistic effect of dual use of amphetamine-type stimulants and ketamine on drug-induced psychotic symptoms in Chinese synthetic drug users. Oncotarget. 2017 Mar 22;8(39):66569-66575. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.16474. PMID: 29029537; PMCID: PMC5630437.

About the author

Robert Hammell