Ketamine (brand name Ketalar) is a dissociative anesthetic (blocks sensory perception) that has been available by prescription in the U.S. since the 1970s for human and veterinary uses. Dissociative drugs can lead to distortion of sights, colors, sounds, self, and one’s environment. It is available in a clear liquid or off-white powder form for intravenous injection.
In surgery, it is used an induction and maintenance agent for sedation and to provide general anesthesia.
It has also been used for pain control in burn therapy, battlefield injuries, and in children who cannot use other anesthetics due to side effects or allergies.
Pharmacology of Ketamine
Pharmacologically, ketamine is a noncompetitive N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonist, but at higher doses may also bind to the opioid mu and sigma receptors. This drug disrupts the neurotransmitter (brain chemical) glutamate. Glutamate is involved with learning, memory, emotion, pain recognition. It can exhibit sympathomimetic activity which can lead to rapid heart rate and elevated blood pressure.
How is Ketamine Abused?
In addition to its legal use as an anesthetic, ketamine has become a drug of abuse and recreational drug and has hallucinogenic properties. Dangerous designer drugs, which are synthesized analogs of the original drug, have been developed as well.