Management of complications of ketamine abuse: 10 years' experience in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Med J. 2018 Apr;24(2):175-181. doi: 10.12809/hkmj177086. Epub 2018 Apr 6.


Ketamine is an N-methyl-d-aspartate receptor antagonist, a dissociative anaesthetic agent and a treatment option for major depression, treatment-resistant depression, and bipolar disorder. Its strong psychostimulant properties and easy absorption make it a favourable candidate for substance abuse. Ketamine entered Hong Kong as a club drug in 2000 and the first local report of ketamine-associated urinary cystitis was published in 2007. Ketamine-associated lower-urinary tract symptoms include frequency, urgency, nocturia, dysuria, urge incontinence, and occasionally painful haematuria. The exact prevalence of ketamine-associated urinary cystitis is difficult to assess because the abuse itself and many of the associated symptoms often go unnoticed until a very late stage. Additionally, upper-urinary tract pathology, such as hydronephrosis, and other complications involving neuropsychiatric, hepatobiliary, and gastrointestinal systems have also been reported. Gradual improvement can be expected after abstinence from ketamine use. Sustained abstinence is the key to recovery, as relapse usually leads to recurrence of symptoms. Both medical and surgical management can be used. The Youth Urological Treatment Centre at the Prince of Wales Hospital, Hong Kong, has developed a four-tier treatment protocol with initial non-invasive investigation and management for these patients. Multidisciplinary care is essential given the complex and diverse psychological factors and sociological background that underlie ketamine abuse and abstinence status.

Keywords: Gastroenterology; Ketamine; Long term adverse effects; Lower urinary tract symptoms; Neuropsychiatry.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Gastrointestinal Diseases / chemically induced
  • Humans
  • Ketamine / adverse effects*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy*
  • Urologic Diseases / chemically induced


  • Ketamine