A review of the nonmedical use of ketamine: use, users and consequences

J Psychoactive Drugs. 2000 Oct-Dec;32(4):419-33. doi: 10.1080/02791072.2000.10400244.


Ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic with an accepted place in human medicine. Ketamine also has psychedelic properties, and there has been a recent increase in nonmedical use linked with the growth of the "dance culture." This has attracted little comment in the formal literature but has been the subject of many reports in the media. Myths and misunderstandings are common. The psychedelic properties of ketamine have also led to its use as an adjunct to psychotherapy. This review is intended as a resource for the wide range of persons now requesting accurate information about the nonmedical use of ketamine. It accepts the current necessity of sometimes referring to anecdotal reports while seeking to encourage an increase in formal research. The review includes the history of ketamine, its growing role as a "dance drug," the sought-after effects (including the near-death experience) for which it is taken in a nonmedical context, how these are produced, common mental and physical adverse effects, and the ketamine model of schizophrenia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, Dissociative / adverse effects*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Dancing*
  • Drug Labeling
  • Female
  • Hallucinations / chemically induced*
  • Humans
  • Ketamine / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Movement Disorders / physiopathology
  • Schizophrenia / chemically induced
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / chemically induced*


  • Anesthetics, Dissociative
  • Ketamine