The prevalence and natural history of urinary symptoms among recreational ketamine users

BJU Int. 2012 Dec;110(11):1762-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-410X.2012.11028.x. Epub 2012 Mar 14.


Study Type--Symptom prevalence (prospective cohort) Level of Evidence 1b. What's known on the subject? and What does the study add? Case series have described lower urinary tract symptoms associated with ketamine use including severe pain, frequency, haematuria and dysuria. Little is known regarding the frequency of symptoms, relationship of symptoms with dose and frequency of use and natural history of symptoms once the ketamine user has stopped. This study describes the prevalence of ketamine use in a population of recreational drug users in a dance music setting. It shows a dose-frequency relationship with ketamine use. It shows that urinary symptoms associated with recreational ketamine use may lead to a considerable demand on health resources in the primary-, secondary- and emergency-care settings. It shows that symptoms may improve once ketamine use is decreased.

Objective: • To investigate the prevalence and natural history of urinary symptoms in a cohort of recreational ketamine users.

Patients and methods: • A purposeful sampling technique was used. • Between November 2009 and January 2010 participants were invited to undertake an on-line questionnaire promoted by a national dance music magazine and website. • Data regarding demographics and illicit drug-use were collected. • Among respondents reporting recent ketamine use, additional information detailing their ketamine use, experience of urinary symptoms and use of related healthcare services was obtained.

Results: • In all, 3806 surveys were completed, of which 1285 (33.8%) participants reported ketamine use within the last year. • Of the ketamine users, 17% were found to be dependent on the drug; 26.6% (340) of recent ketamine users reported experiencing urinary symptoms. • Urinary symptoms were significantly related to both dose of ketamine used and frequency of ketamine use. • Of 251 users reporting their experience of symptoms over time in relationship to their use of ketamine, 51% reported improvement in urinary symptoms upon cessation of use with only eight (3.8%) reporting deterioration after stopping use.

Conclusions: • Urinary tract symptoms are reported in over a quarter of regular ketamine users. • A dose and frequency response relationship has been shown between ketamine use and urinary symptoms. • Both users and primary-care providers need to be educated about urinary symptoms that may arise in ketamine users. A multi-disciplinary approach promoting harm reduction, cessation and early referral is needed to manage individuals with ketamine-associated urinary tract symptoms to avoid progression to severe and irreversible urological pathologies.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / chemically induced
  • Abdominal Pain / epidemiology
  • Adult
  • Anesthetics, Dissociative / adverse effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cystitis / chemically induced
  • Cystitis / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / adverse effects*
  • Ketamine / adverse effects*
  • Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms / chemically induced*
  • Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Anesthetics, Dissociative
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Ketamine