Depress Anxiety. 2016 Aug;33(8):718-27. doi: 10.1002/da.22536. Epub 2016 Jun 22.


Ketamine was discovered in the 1960s and released for public use in 1970. Originally developed as a safer alternative to phencyclidine, ketamine is primarily used in clinical settings for analgesia and sedation. In recent years, other uses have been developed, including pain management and treatment of asthma and depression. Clinical use of ketamine causes dissociation and emergence delirium. These effects have led to recreational abuse. Although death from direct pharmacologic effects appears rare, the disinhibition and altered sensory perceptions caused by ketamine puts users at risk of environmental harm. Ketamine has also been implicated in nonconsensual sexual intercourse. Data continue to build that chronic ketamine use may lead to morbidity. Impairment of memory and persistent dissociative, depressive, and delusional thinking has also been reported with long-term use. Lower urinary tract symptoms, including cystitis have been described. Gastric and hepatic pathology have also been noted, including abnormal liver function tests, choledochal cysts and dilations of the common bile duct. S-ketamine, an enantiomer in racemic ketamine, has been shown to be hepatotoxic in vitro. Abstinence from ketamine may reduce the adverse effects of chronic use and is considered the mainstay of treatment. Specialized urine drug testing may be required to detect use, as not all point of care urine drug screens include ketamine.

Keywords: delirium; depression; dissociative disorders; ketamine; phencyclidine; substance-related disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, Dissociative / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Ketamine / adverse effects*
  • Prescription Drug Diversion*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*


  • Anesthetics, Dissociative
  • Ketamine