About Alcohol and Ketamine
Ketamine (also called Special K, Kit-kat, Vitamin K, Super Acid and, simply, K) is a dissociative anesthetic that – as a legitimate pharmaceutical agent – continues to be manufactured for both veterinary and human medical use. Dissociative drugs like ketamine, however, are abused for their ability to disconnect individuals from reality—causing profound auditory and visual distortions.
Ketamine first gained popularity as a recreational drug in the 1970s. Today, it continues to be commonly abused in club or rave settings. Due to the challenging nature of chemically manufacturing the anesthetic, most illicit users obtain ketamine through theft from veterinary offices or diversion of a prescription.
Ketamine – obtained as a crystalline powdered product, or as a liquid solution allowed to dry into a powder – is typically snorted. The solution form may also be injected, and this route of administration may be gaining in popularity. Recreational doses of ketamine can be 5 to 10 times that of therapeutic doses, with users typically taking the drug in a binge pattern in order to maintain the desired effects. At high doses, ketamine users can fall into what is known as a K-hole—a phenomenon described as a debilitatingly intense out-of-body or near-death experience.
Pharmaceutical ketamine comes in either an aqueous (liquid) or white powder form. It has a strong, bitter taste and is sometimes diluted in drinks for use as a date rape drug due to its rapid onset of effects.
It is often used concurrently with other intoxicating substances, particularly alcohol. Mixing ketamine and alcohol is dangerous and can lead to an overdose brought on by breathing difficulties. Ketamine users will often build a tolerance to the drug and eventually begin experiencing cravings for it.
Alcohol and Ketamine Facts
- Both substances build tolerance over time.
- Both are popular party drugs.
- Both drugs impair judgment and motor skills.
- Both ketamine and alcohol can result in a similar level of subjective ‘intoxication’, and therefore compound the effects of the other.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol with Ketamine
While the signs of alcohol abuse are fairly consistent, there is a relatively wider range of signs and symptoms of ketamine abuse, some of which overlap with, or resemble drunkenness. Signs and symptoms of concurrent ketamine and alcohol abuse might include:
- Unsteady gait.
- Impaired coordination.
- Slurred speech.
- Uncontrolled eye movements.
- Attention problems.
- Distorted sense of time.
- Out of body experiences.
- Life-threatening respiratory depression.
- Impaired motor functioning.
- Increased body temperature.
- Hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Chest pain.
Combined Effects of Ketamine and Alcohol Abuse
Combined with alcohol, ketamine may slow the breathing of the user to a fatal rate.
The effects of ketamine combined with alcohol are difficult to distinguish because there is a significant amount of overlap. For example, both alcohol and ketamine have the potential to significantly impair coordination, thought processes, and memory.
Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic with pronounced depressant effects and alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, causing sedation and slowed brain activity. Combined with alcohol, ketamine may slow the breathing of the user to a fatal rate. Problems that may arise from mixing alcohol with ketamine include:
- Out-of-body experiences.
- Increased urination.
- Increased heart rate.
- Extreme salivation.
- Flashbacks days or weeks after use.
- Symptoms of psychosis.
How can alcohol and ketamine affect the body over time?
Risks associated with long-term abuse of these substances are many and include a weakened immune system as well as:
- Fatty liver.
- Alcoholic hepatitis.
- Weakened heart muscle.
- Irregular heart beat.
- High blood pressure.
- Mouth and throat cancer.
- Breast cancer.
Treatment for Co-occurring Alcohol and Ketamine Addiction
If addiction to alcohol or ketamine is affecting you or someone you care about, there are many different treatment options available in order to achieve and maintain sobriety. Recovery is a personal and individualized experience; what works best for one patient may not work best for another, which is why it’s important that you educate yourself on the numerous options out there. Below is a list of different recovery programs used to treat co-occurring alcohol and ketamine addiction:
- Inpatient treatment: This option is often sought by those suffering from more severe addictions, as it provides one of the most immersive treatment environment available. Residential/inpatient programs require that you live at the treatment facility for the duration of the recovery program. These supervised programs offer around the clock care and a monitored environment free from substances and the temptations inherent to the everyday environment of someone in active addiction.
- Outpatient treatment: If you have home, school, or work responsibilities to tend to, this option allows you to schedule treatment when it’s convenient for you. It is a good option for those suffering from relatively milder addictions.
- 12-step programs: Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are two popular 12-step programs. Members of these programs admit powerlessness over addiction, give themselves over to a “higher power” (as defined by the individual in recovery), and offer support to other members in recovery.
- Individual therapy: Your therapist will meet with you one-on-one and address any underlying mental health or behavioral health issues associated with your addictions as well as develop and build coping skills.
- Group counseling: Allows you to meet with a group in a session facilitated by a mental health professional. It focuses on growth through interaction and sharing of experiences associated with ketamine and alcohol addiction.
- Dual diagnosis: Some treatment centers specialize in treating co-occurring substance addiction and mental health disorders (conditions that can fuel and worsen each other). These facilities create unique and comprehensive treatment plans designed to address both issues.
Statistics for Alcohol and Ketamine
Below are statistics for ketamine and alcohol use:
- The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 2.7 million people over the age of 12 had used ketamine at some point in their lives.
- The Substance abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that in 2011, nearly 75% of emergency room visits associated with ketamine also involved alcohol.
- In that same year, SAMHSA found that about 1,500 emergency room visits concerned ketamine use, which was 3 times that of 2009.
- In 2013, more than 85% of American adults reported having consumed alcohol at some point in their lives, per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
- Roughly 38 million adults in the United States engage in binge drinking 4 times per month, and a startling 6 people die every day from alcohol poisoning in the US.
Teen Drinking and Ketamine Abuse
Alcohol and ketamine are both party drugs popular among teens. They are routinely used in groups at raves, outdoor concerts, bars, house parties, and other large-scale recreational events popular among young adults. Since these social situations typically involve alcohol as well, teens may end up engaging in concurrent alcohol and ketamine abuse without being aware of the dangers. Ketamine and alcohol can both elicit life-threatening effects when abused independently, but the dangers increase dramatically when the two are mixed.
Nearly 4% of adolescents from 8th to 12th grade abused ketamine in 2011 according to the DEA, and the CDC reports that in 2013, almost 70% of high school seniors had consumed alcohol. According to the CDC, teens who drink alcohol have an increased risk of:
- Experiencing social, school, legal, and physical problems.
- Having unprotected sex.
- Being the victim of assault (physical or sexual).
- Experiencing memory problems.
- Disrupted brain development.
- Getting into car crashes.
- Using other drugs.
- Alcohol poisoning.
If you or someone you know abuses alcohol and ketamine, call 1-888-744-0069 to speak to an addiction treatment advisor about how to seek help.
Resources, Articles, and More Information
- Maxwell, J. C. (2015). Implications of Research for Treatment: Ketamine.
The Center for Excellence in Drug Epidemiology,1-4. Retrieved February 1, 2016, from
- Weir, E. (2000). Raves: A review of the culture, the drugs and the prevention of harm. [Abstract]. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 162(13), 1843-1848. Retrieved February 1, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=10906922
- What Are the Effects of Common Dissociative Drugs on the Brain and Body? (2015, February). Retrieved February 01, 2016, from http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/hallucinogens-dissociative-drugs/what-are-effects-common-dissociative-drugs-brain-body
- Date Rape Drugs: XTC, Rohypnol, Ketamine // Rev. James E. McDonald, C.S.C., Center for Student Well-Being // University of Notre Dame. (n.d.). Retrieved February 01, 2016, from http://mcwell.nd.edu/your-well-being/physical-well-being/drugs/rohypnol-flunitrazepam/
- Date Rape Drug Facts Sheet. (2012, July 16). Retrieved February 01, 2016, from http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/date-rape-drugs.html
- Mixing Alcohol with Other Drugs. (2016). Retrieved February 01, 2016, from https://www.scu.edu/wellness/resources-for-students/alcohol-and-other-drugs/mixing-alcohol-with-other-drugs/
- Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (2013). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.
- Alcohol’s Effects on the Body. (2015). Retrieved February 01, 2016, from http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body
- Drugs and Human Performance FACT SHEETS – Ketamine. (n.d.). Retrieved February 01, 2016, from http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/ketamine.htm
- (2013, August). Retrieved February 1, 2016, from http://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/ketamine.pdf
- Results from the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. (2013). Retrieved February 1, 2016, from http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs2013/NSDUH-DetTabs2013.htm#tab7.26a
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2011: National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-4760, DAWN Series D-39. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2013.
- Alcohol Facts and Statistics. (2015, March). Retrieved February 01, 2016, from http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
- Alcohol Poisoning Deaths. (2015). Retrieved February 01, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/media/dpk/2015/dpk-vs-alcohol-poisoning.html
- Fact Sheets – Underage Drinking. (2015). Retrieved February 01, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm