Ketamine Drug Use Statistics and Facts Among Teens

What Parents Should Know About Teen Use of the Drug Special K

Ketamine drug molecule. Credit: Science Photo Library - PASIEKA / Getty Images

Ketamine is a club drug that has begun to show up in drug use statistics as a problem among teens who attend club parties and raves. Like many club drugs, it known by a variety of names, including K, Special K, Ket, Kitkat, Dorothy, Vitamin K, Cat Valium, Super K or Horse Trank.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine (brand name Ketalar) is a schedule III drug that can lead to psychological and physical addiction.

It is a tranquilizer and hallucinogenic drug that produces euphoria. Users can experience extreme relaxation and altered sensations of sight, smell, sound, touch and even taste — often sensations that are not actually present.

What Ketamine Does

Users who take high doses can experience a complete dissociation from reality, often described as being out-of-body or even near-death experiences. The slang term for this state is a "K-hole."

Because Ketamine is an anesthetic, users can feel numb when taking it, which can lead to serious injury. The leading cause of death from Ketamine overdose is respiratory failure, an especially risky outcome when it is combined with other depressants substances such as alcohol. Ketamine use is unpredictable so there is no safe amount, as its interactions with and effects on individuals can vary greatly—again, and especially, when combined with other club or party substances.

Ketamine comes in several forms, including pill, white crystalline powder and a liquid. It is used as a date rape drug because it is odorless and tasteless, and can be slipped into a drink without the drinker realizing it.

The after effects of Ketamine use include depression, memory loss, disorientation, personality changes, headachesflashbacks, and aches or pains in the body.

Ketamine addiction is difficult to overcome.

Ketamine Teen Use Statistics

Here are some statistics on teen ketamine use from the 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH):

  • An estimated 2.3 million teens and adults aged 12 or older used ketamine in their lifetime and 203,000 were users within the past year.
  • Young adults aged 18 to 25 were more likely than adults aged 26 or older to have used ketamine in the past year

The Scope of Teen Ketamine Use Today

The Monitoring the Future Study reported Ketamine was used in the previous year by:

  • 1.0 percent of 8th-graders,
  • 1.3 percent of 10th-graders,
  • and 1.7 percent of 12th-graders.

The significance of these numbers is in the decrease of use by teens, pointing to peak use years:

  • 2000 for 8th-graders at 1.6 percent,
  • 2002 for 10th-graders at 2.2 percent,
  • and 2002 for 12th- graders at 2.6 percent.

For all age groups, law enforcement has been seeing a decline in numbers of items for ketamine use confiscated between the years 2007 and 2008. In 2007, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) laboratories reported 377 ketamine items while only 181 items in 2008. And according to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System (NFLIS), law enforcement officials submitted 2,319 ketamine items to state and local laboratories in 2007 and 1,538 items in 2008.

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