Updated on April 1, 2024
4 min read

Ketamine Statistics On Use & Abuse

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic. It has a complex profile encompassing both medical applications and the potential for abuse. 

In this article, we’ll explore the latest statistics on ketamine’s use in medical settings, non-medical abuse trends, emergency department visits, and rehabilitation success rates to provide insights into the multifaceted nature of this substance.

Most Noteworthy Ketamine Statistics

Here’s an overview of some of the most noteworthy ketamine statistics:

  • A 2018 survey found that 98% of emergency physicians used ketamine for procedural sedations, and 73% used it to control agitation.
  • The global ketamine abuse rate is estimated at 0.2% of people aged 15-64.
  • In 2011, there were 1,550 emergency department visits in the United States involving ketamine, with 71.5% of these visits also involving alcohol.

Ketamine Use in Medical Settings

Ketamine has a well-established role in various medical applications. Some of these uses include:

  • Anesthesia: Ketamine has been used as a dissociative anesthetic since the 1970s and is particularly useful in settings where mechanical ventilation is not available, as it does not depress breathing or blood pressure.
  • Pain management: Ketamine is beneficial when pain scores are high, suggesting its primary use for surgery associated with high levels of postoperative pain. It is also used as a third-line adjuvant drug for opioid-resistant pain in palliative care and for intractable chronic noncancer pain.
  • Depression treatment: Ketamine has shown efficacy in treating depression, particularly treatment-resistant depression (TRD). In 2019, the FDA approved a nasal spray version of ketamine (esketamine) for TRD.

Non-medical Ketamine Abuse Trends

Non-medical ketamine use is also a growing concern. There’s an increasing prevalence of non-medical ketamine abuse in some regions and among certain demographics.

  • Between 2015 and 2019, ketamine-related calls to the California Poison Control System increased by 264%, indicating a significant rise in incidents related to ketamine use.
  • In China, a study found that 6.2% of college students had used ketamine, highlighting the drug’s presence in academic settings and among younger populations.
  • Rates of ketamine use in the general populations of France and Spain have been reported as less than 1% among individuals aged 15-64, suggesting lower prevalence rates in these countries compared to others.
risk percentage of ketamine consumption

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Ketamine-Related Emergency Visits

Emergency department visits involving ketamine are a point of concern due to the various implications of ketamine use. These emergency visits are related to both medical and recreational uses of ketamine:

  • According to the Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) 2011 report, there were 1,550 emergency department visits involving ketamine in the United States.
  • A significant portion of ketamine-related emergency department visits involved the use of ketamine in combination with other substances. Specifically, 71.5% of these visits in 2011 involved alcohol.
  • Ketamine misuse can lead to chronic health problems such as ulcerative cystitis, which is often refractory to conventional management and can significantly impact individuals’ quality of life.
ketamine poisoning reported cases 2019 2021

Rehabilitation Success Rates

Ketamine treatment has shown promising results for various conditions, particularly treatment-resistant depression, chronic pain, and certain substance use disorders.

  • Most sources cite a success rate of between 60-70% for patients undergoing IV ketamine therapy for treatment-resistant depression.
  • While specific success rates for chronic pain conditions are less frequently cited, some clinics report a 70-80% response rate in patients undergoing IV ketamine therapy for chronic pain.
  • Ketamine therapy has shown promise in improving abstinence rates and reducing cravings in some patients with substance use disorders, including alcohol and cocaine dependence.

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Ketamine Facts

Ketamine has a complex history and a variety of uses, both medical and recreational. Here are some key facts about the drug:

  1. Ketamine was approved by the US government for use in humans in 1970 after being created in 1962 to quickly induce a loss of consciousness, initially in animals.
  2. It is considered a club drug due to its dissociative and hallucinogenic properties, which can induce a trance-like state and hallucinations.
  3. Ketamine is classified as a Schedule III drug in the United States, indicating a lower potential for abuse compared to Schedule I or II drugs, but still capable of leading to physical or psychological dependence.

Ketamine Myths

Despite its established medical uses, ketamine is often misunderstood, and several myths have emerged surrounding the drug. Here are some common misconceptions about ketamine:

Ketamine is Illegal

Ketamine isn’t illegal when used in a medical setting. It was approved by the FDA in 1970 for anesthesia and is on the World Health Organization’s “essential drug” list.

Ketamine is Only a Horse Tranquilizer

While ketamine is used in veterinary medicine, it’s misleading to refer to it solely as a horse tranquilizer. It’s been used safely and extensively in humans for anesthesia and other medical applications for over 50 years.

Ketamine is Highly Addictive

Ketamine doesn’t typically cause physical dependence. While psychological dependence can occur, especially when abused at high doses, in a supervised medical setting, the risk of addiction is significantly lower.

The statistics presented in this article highlight the complex nature of ketamine. The increasing prevalence of non-medical ketamine use and the associated emergency department visits underscore the need for continued monitoring, public health interventions, and education on the risks of ketamine misuse.

Ketamine’s success for treatment-resistant conditions offers hope for those failing traditional therapies. As ketamine therapy research progresses, safety and risk management are crucial.

Overall, the statistics on ketamine use, abuse, and treatment highlight the need for a nuanced and evidence-based approach to this substance. We must have an approach that recognizes both its potential for harm and its promise as a therapeutic tool.

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Updated on April 1, 2024

Related Articles

16 sources cited
Updated on April 1, 2024
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  2. Linder J. “Must-Know Ketamine Statistics [Recent Analysis].” Gitnux, 2023. 
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