Long-term effects of ketamine: evidence for a persisting impairment of source memory in recreational users

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2004 Sep 6;75(3):301-8. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2004.03.006.


Rationale: Ketamine is an N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA)-receptor antagonist that is increasingly being used as a recreational drug. Previous research has shown gross generalised verbal memory impairments persisting 3 days after ketamine use in chronic users, however episodic memory has not specifically investigated in this population.

Objective: To determine whether ketamine, on the night of drug use (day 0) and 3 days later, is associated with impaired episodic memory as assessed by a source memory task.

Methods: Twenty ketamine users and 20 poly-drug controls were compared on a source memory task both on day 0 and 3. Participants also completed questionnaires on both days indexing schizophrenic-like and dissociative symptoms.

Results: On day 0, ketamine abusers were impaired on both source memory and item recognition and scored more highly on schizophrenic and dissociative symptom scales compared to poly-drug controls. On day 3 ketamine abusers only displayed source memory impairments and these positively correlated with the level of schizophrenic-like symptoms on day 0. No differences on day 3 in schizophrenic-like or dissociative symptoms were observed.

Conclusions: Ketamine abusers exhibit a persisting deficit in source memory on day 3 but not in item recognition. These findings suggest that repeated use of ketamine produces chronic impairments to episodic memory.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Ketamine / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Memory / drug effects*
  • Memory / physiology
  • Memory Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Memory Disorders / psychology
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Time Factors


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Ketamine