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What Does Ketamine Feel Like?

Written by Robert Hammell

While the medical benefits are still being investigated, ketamine use has spiked in recent years as a recreational drug.[1] Ketamine is an anesthetic with dissociative principles, but what does that really mean?[2] For many potential ketamine users, it is not enough to understand what the drug does, it is more important to evaluate how it feels. This provides a better sense of what the experience is really like, and whether it is something they really want to pursue.


Ketamine’s Objective Facts

 Every drug is different, and every user’s response is different. In fact, many people may even report different sensations when using the same drug more than once. However, when it comes to ketamine, there are few commonalities that tend to overlap for most users. Ketamine has a wide variety of effects that fall into the realms of sedatives, stimulants, and psychedelics.[3] This is due to how Ketamine affects various complex neural networks within the brain, including dopamine receptors, opioid receptors and NDMA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptors.[4] Ultimately, what this translates to is that the individual, the potency, and the amount taken all can have dramatically different effects on what the experience entails, not to mention external factors like the environment. Once into the experience, that’s things start getting wild.


What to Expect on a Ketamine Trip

The drug itself takes approximately 20 minutes to take effect, and typically lasts between 30 minutes to one hour. These depend on how ketamine is ingested, though. Snorting it accelerates the timeline compared to oral consumption, but not by very much. Ketamine has strong dissociative principles, so many users say they feel a numbing effect or a disconnection from their surroundings.[5] This often leads to a warped sense of reality, where users describe a slowing of time or feeling as though they are viewing the world through a fish-eye lens. Others describe it as though feeling they are underwater or walking with a “tilt” where they feel like they are constantly walking uphill. All of this is associated with feelings of pleasure and carefree attitudes that may manifest in other ways. While most users report a relaxed, tranquil feeling, some users report increased sensitivity to music and visual stimulation.[6]


The Downsides of Ketamine Use

Because ketamine has both a numbing and disorientating feeling, it is possible for users to injure themselves without realizing it while inebriated. Additionally, large doses can lead to strong hallucinations and disassociation that many users refer to as a “K-Hole.”[7] This experience is often described as a feeling of being completely disconnected from reality, and can be associated with intense anxiety or paranoia. Following the initial euphoric phase, Ketamine does have a comedown, equivalent to a hangover, however most users described it as being milder than other drugs, and often nonexistent.[8] In approximately a third of cases, users have reported strong psychological symptoms during the comedown period, including agitation, aggression, and feelings of “near death.”

There is also a risk of overdosing on Ketamine, especially when taken with other substances, like alcohol for instance.


Reference List

  1. Morgan, Celia JA, H. Valerie Curran, and Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD). “Ketamine use: a review.” Addiction 107.1 (2012): 27-38.

  2. Wood, Dan, et al. “Recreational ketamine: from pleasure to pain.” BJU international 107.12 (2011): 1881-1884.

  3. Wolff, Kim, and Adam R. Winstock. “Ketamine.” CNS drugs 20.3 (2006): 199-218.

  4. Kocsis, B., Brown, R. E., McCarley, R. W., & Hajos, M. (2013). Impact of Ketamine on Neuronal Network Dynamics: Translational Modeling of Schizophrenia-Relevant Deficits. CNS Neuroscience &Amp; Therapeutics, 19(6), 437–447.

  5. Wood, Dan, et al. “Recreational ketamine: from pleasure to pain.” BJU international 107.12 (2011): 1881-1884.

  6. Lim, D. K. “Ketamine associated psychedelic effects and dependence.” Singapore Med J 44.1 (2003): 31-34. Simon, E. (2019). Ketamine: Safe Until It’s Not – A Terrifying Trip to the K-Hole. The Journal of Emergency Medicine, 57(4), 587–588.

About the author

Robert Hammell