Updated on February 15, 2024
5 min read

Ketamine Statistics On Use & Abuse

Once strictly reserved for use in medical settings, ketamine has found itself popping up at parties and among young adults. Users consume this versatile drug recreationally, and its misuse can lead to serious consequences.

Here is a look at some ketamine statistics and myths surrounding it to help you better understand the drug.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic most commonly used for medical purposes, such as treating severe pain or sedating patients before surgery. Others also use it as a recreational drug.

At low doses, ketamine can cause euphoria, stimulation, and a sense of detachment from reality. Higher doses can cause hallucinations, distorted perceptions of sight and sound, and out-of-body experiences.

Ketamine Street Names

Ketamine's street names include: 

  • special K
  • horse tank
  • ket
  • super k
  • K

It's also usually in a powder, pill, or liquid form.

Ketamine Usage Statistics

  1. Although ketamine use among high school seniors was 0.9% in 2021, those who did were more likely to have problems with depression than those consuming other drugs like cannabis.3
  2. Those who consumed it three to nine times were 65% more at risk, and those who took it over ten times were 70% more prone to severe depression.3
  3. Depending on where you live, ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP) comes with a price tag of $700 to $1,200.3
  4. Only 0.13% of adults experimented with ketamine in 2021, with men likelier to give it a try than women.7
risk percentage of ketamine consumption
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Ketamine Abuse & Addiction Statistics

  1. Less than 1% of Americans indulge in the recreational use of ketamine.3
  2. Reported cases of ketamine poisonings in the U.S. skyrocketed by 81% between 2019 and 2021.5 
  3. The use of nonmedical ketamine grew from 2006 and 2014 as well as 2015 to 2019, spiking to a concerning 0.9% in late 2019.6
  4. The rate of poisonings continuously rose from 1991 to 2019. In 2014, the situation reached a critical point as the rate hit 1.1 per 1,000,000 population. Then, cases remained worryingly stable from then until 2019.6
  5. Police seizures of ketamine skyrocketed from 2000 to 2019, hitting an all-time high of 3.2 per 1,000 confiscations in 2019.6
ketamine poisoning reported cases 2019 2021

What is Ketamine Prescribed for?

Ketamine is a low-cost anesthetic that can be used as an alternative to more expensive types of general anesthesia. It's primarily found in medical settings as an intravenous (IV) anesthetic injected directly into the bloodstream. It can also be administered as a topical anesthetic on the skin or inside the nose and mouth.

Ketamine is also used off-label (not approved by the Food and Drug Administration) to treat certain psychiatric conditions. Unfortunately, it may be most popular among recreational users. The safety and effectiveness of this treatment are also still being studied.

Why is Ketamine Abused?

Users abuse ketamine for its dissociative, hallucinogenic, and stimulant effects. As mentioned, it produces euphoria and relaxation and can even give users a sense of detachment from reality.

This makes ketamine attractive to users looking to escape their everyday lives. It's also popular among clubgoers and partygoers seeking to enhance their experiences.

People often take this dissociative anesthetic with other drugs, such as alcohol, marijuana, and opioids. Its effects can manifest between 5 to 30 minutes after entering the body, generally lasting between 30 minutes and an hour.

Why is Ketamine Being Used for Therapy?

Researchers uncovered evidence suggesting ketamine could treat:1

  • Substance use disorder (SUD)
  • Depression
  • PTSD
  • Suicidal thinking

Ketamine has demonstrated a significant reduction in depression symptoms and suicidal thoughts with rapid effectiveness.

Esketamine, ketamine’s nasal spray version, also alleviates symptoms in people with treatment-resistant depression.2

Ketamine may also be key to managing SUD due to its impressive results in curtailing cravings, boosting abstinence, and reducing relapses.

However, when it comes to PTSD, studies provide mixed results. Some studies show its success, while others don’t.

Overall, this psychedelic compound is showing promise in treating mental health issues. However, more research is needed to discover how it could offer hope to patients with other psychiatric comorbidities like anxiety and bipolar disorder.

Unlocking ketamine's full potential for PTSD treatment also requires more extensive exploration. Studies on the best treatment duration, administration routes, and dosages are necessary for future well-informed recommendations.

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Ketamine Myths

The following are the most common misconceptions about this drug:

Myth: Ketamine is safe to use.

Fact: It's safe to use in therapeutic settings when administered by a reputable provider. However, it's dangerous to use recreationally as its effects are unpredictable and can be harmful or fatal. 

Ketamine has side effects like drowsiness, confusion, impaired coordination and judgment, bladder problems, and more.

Myth: Ketamine is not addictive.

Fact: Though this drug isn't considered physiologically addictive, it still carries a risk of psychological dependence. Those who use it repeatedly can develop a tolerance, requiring them to increase their dosage to achieve the same results. This increases the risk of ketamine-related harms, such as bladder problems and potentially fatal respiratory depression.

Myth: Ketamine is legal.

Fact: It's classified as a controlled substance and is illegal to possess without a prescription. It's also illegal to buy, sell, or distribute ketamine without legal authorization. Those who use this drug without a prescription risk facing criminal charges.

Myth: Ketamine is made for veterinary use only.

Fact: This drug was given the green light for human use before being used on animals. It was first used as an anesthetic in humans in the early 1960s and has been used in a medical setting ever since.

Myth: Ketamine produces a “high.”

Fact: It produces mind-altering effects and can make people feel out of control. However, it's not considered a “high” traditionally. Ketamine has a more dissociative effect and can cause feelings of detachment from reality. It also has sedative properties and can cause sleepiness or even unconsciousness in some users.

Ketamine Drug Interactions

Mixing ketamine with other drugs poses a serious threat to life. Alcohol and benzodiazepines, for example, can increase the risk of respiratory depression.

Drugs like opioid painkillers and stimulants can also cause unconsciousness, extreme drowsiness, severe respiratory issues, or even death.8

That's why it's essential to be cautious and avoid mixing ketamine with other substances that could magnify its effects.

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Updated on February 15, 2024

Related Articles

8 sources cited
Updated on February 15, 2024
  1. Grinspoon, P. “Ketamine for treatment-resistant depression: When and where is it safe?” Harvard Health Publishing, 2022.
  2. Ramos, C. S, et. al. “The Therapeutic Effects of Ketamine in Mental Health Disorders: A Narrative Review.” Cureus, 2022.
  3. D'arrigo, T. “Ketamine Use Linked to Depressive Symptoms in Youth.American Psychiatric Association Publishing, 2022.
  4. Burton, K. W. “ U.S. ketamine poisonings up 81%.” MDedge Internal Medicine, 2023.
  5. Palamar, J. J, et. al. “Trends in Ketamine Use, Exposures, and Seizures in the United States up to 2019.” American Journal of Public Health, 2021.
  6. New York University. “Recreational Ketamine Use Has Increased in Recent Years, But Remains Rare.” NYU, 2021.
  7. Yockey, R. A. “Past-Year Ketamine Use: Evidence from a United States Population, 2015-2019.” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2022.
  8. Pfizer. “Ketamine hydrochloride injection, USP Drug Interactions.” Pfizer. n.d.