Ketamine and Alcohol
The severity of the interaction between alcohol and ketamine depends upon the dose of ketamine taken and the amount of alcohol consumed.
It is common knowledge that mixing drugs with alcohol can be dangerous. This is especially true with ketamine, a dissociative anesthetic that causes powerful hallucinations and delirium. The interaction of alcohol and ketamine poses serious risks and, in some cases, can be fatal.1,2
Ketamine (street names: Special K, Vitamin K) is a dissociative anesthetic used as a pre-surgical induction agent, but is more commonly used in veterinary medicine. In recent years, its abuse has gained popularity in the club/rave scene.
The effects of the drug are dose-dependent, meaning different doses produce different effects. Lower doses of ketamine can induce mild hallucinations, stimulation, dissociation, and a floating sensation. Larger doses can put the user in what is commonly referred to as a “k-hole”—a state of consciousness similar to an out-of-body or near-death experience, which is produced when a person is on the verge of a profound, general sedation. The effects can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.2,3
More research needs to be conducted on ketamine, but some studies suggest that tolerance and dependence can occur after long-term use. Ketamine dependence typically consists of repeated binges where the user consumes excessive amounts of the drug in a short period of time. Research is also limited on the physical withdrawal symptoms of ketamine. As of now, only personal accounts of withdrawal have been documented, but research is ongoing.2,3
Side Effects of Taking Ketamine with Alcoholic Drinks
The severity of the interaction between alcohol and ketamine depends upon the dose of ketamine taken and the amount of alcohol consumed, but any combination of the two can be dangerous. Both ketamine and alcohol can lead to overdose, coma, and death in large doses, and combining the two increases these risks considerably.1,2
The exact effects of mixing ketamine with alcohol can be difficult to pinpoint. Both substances have similar sedating effects, so there is a considerable amount of overlap. Some of the potential side effects that may occur from mixing the two substances include:1,2,4
- Slowed breathing rate/respiratory problems.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Slurred speech.
- Impaired vision.
- Impaired motor skills.
- Distorted perception of time.
- Out-of-body experiences.
- Psychosis and hallucinations.
- Violent/aggressive behavior.
- Elevated heart rate.
- Increased urination.
- Chest pain.
There also are long-term health risks associated with the use of ketamine in combination with alcohol over a long period of time, including:1,2,4
- Heart problems (high blood pressure, stroke, enlarged or weakened heart muscle).
- Liver problems (cirrhosis, alcoholic hepatitis, fatty liver, liver cancer).
- Cancer (mouth, throat, breast).
Risks Associated with Alcohol and Ketamine Abuse
In addition to health problems, there are several other dangers of taking ketamine with alcohol. Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of either ketamine or alcohol alone is incredibly dangerous, and mixing the two compounds that danger.1,3,4
Combining alcohol with ketamine also can make a person extremely vulnerable. Because ketamine can produce unconsciousness, confusion, loss of control, and amnesia, it is not uncommon for it to be used as a date rape drug, making women particularly vulnerable.5
Treatment for Addiction to Ketamine and Alcohol
Treatment is available for those struggling with ketamine and alcohol addiction. As in all cases of polysubstance abuse, individual treatment programs may vary depending on the severity of the addiction as well as the person’s age, overall health or the existence of co-morbid (simultaneously occurring) mental health disorders. In terms of recovery, what works for one person may not work for another. A typical treatment program for ketamine and alcohol addiction may include the following:
- Medically assisted detox if needed (this is usually necessary in severe cases of alcoholism)
- Individual/group/family therapy and counseling
- 12-step programs
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
- Art/recreation therapy
- Relapse prevention
- Aftercare planning
Treatment is available on both an inpatient and outpatient basis. Inpatient treatment takes place in a residential facility where those in recovery stay 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a period of time, usually ranging from 30 to 90 days. These programs are the best option for severe addictions since they provide supervised care in an environment free of outside distractions.
Outpatient treatment occurs on a part-time basis and is best suited for those who wish to continue with their daily lives (personal life, work, school). Some treatment centers provide dual-diagnosis care, specializing in the treatment of co-occurring drug addictions and mental health disorders. It is possible to find a center providing this type of care for alcohol and ketamine addiction.3,4,6
If you’re concerned that the co-abuse of alcohol and ketamine is impacting your health, or that of someone close to you, substance abuse treatment programs can help. Call us at 1-888-919-3845 to speak with a treatment support advisor about your recovery options.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2014). Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines.
- Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Ketamine.
- Drug Enforcement Administration. (2012). Drug Fact Sheet: Ketamine.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Fact Sheets: Alcohol Use and Your Health.
- Student Well-Being, McDonald Center: University of Notre Dame. (2016). Date Rape Drugs: XTC, Rohypnol, Ketamine.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction.