Ketamine Fact Sheet


  Ketamine Fact Sheet

Coast to Forest Resources

Thank you for exploring our fact sheet series. To learn more about substance use and mental health, check out our other fact sheets. To find local resources, check out the Coast to Forest County-Specific Resource Guides. For a variety of national and state-focused resources, please visit our Helplines & Practical Tools page.

What is Ketamine?

  • Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic, used in human and animal anesthesia1

Common names

  • Special K, K, Cat Valium, Purple, Special la Coke, Vitamin K

Medical Use

  • Used by anesthesiologists for sedative purposes and clinicians to treat pain

  • Recently, evidence has been emerging to support the potential use of ketamine to treat major depression, bipolar disorder, and suicidal ideation


  • White powder, or dissolved to a liquid injectable substance 

How Ketamine works

  • When consumed, ketamine blocks glutamate, which is used in the brain to supports neuron communication throughout the brain. This blockage is why it is used as an anesthetic10 

Short term health effects

  • Disorientation, confusion, loss of motor coordination, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, increased blood pressure and heart rate, increased body temperature, changes in sensory perceptions, including visual and/or auditory hallucinations, detachment from self, surroundings and environment5 

Long term health effects

  • Though not exhaustively studied, the misuse of ketamine is known to be reinforcing, causing one the risk of developing substance use disorder (SUD), as well as developing a tolerance

  • Long term side effects include cognitive impairment, mood disorders, psychotic and dissociative symptoms


  • Cravings
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Shakes
  • Sweating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Elevated body temperature


  • Although an overdose of ketamine alone is relatively rare, when combined with other substances such as alcohol, both drugs impact the heart and lung functions and also show a risk of neurotoxicity, which is the termination of neurons

Addiction treatment

  • Therapeutic interventions include community support groups, inpatient or outpatient programs, group and individual therapy8

  • Inpatient programs are often recommended to best monitor the potentially dangerous detox process8 


  1. Ketamine (Alcohol and Drug Foundation) 

  2. Ketamine (DEA)  

  3. Ketamine Use in Current Clinical Practice  

  4. Ketamine: Drug Fact Sheet  

  5. Ketamine: Short and Long-Term Effects of Ketamine  

  6. Brain Changes Associated With Long-Term Ketamine Abuse, A Systematic Review   

  7. Ketamine Withdrawal Symptoms, Timeline & Detox Treatment  

  8. Ketamine Treatment And Rehab  

  9. Ketamine Overdose Symptoms, Treatment & Long-Term Outlook  

  10. What Ketamine Actually Does to the Brain 


This fact sheet was developed by the Oregon State University Coast to Forest team, a collaboration of the College of Health, OSU Center for Health Innovation and OSU Extension Service Family & Community Health program. We would like to thank the H 310 Health Field Experience students for their contributions.

For more information and to explore local resources, check out the Coast to Forest County-Specific Resource Guides.