[History of Ketamine: An ancient molecule that is still popular today]

Ann Pharm Fr. 2022 Jan;80(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pharma.2021.04.005. Epub 2021 Apr 26.
[Article in French]


The history of ketamine begins in 1962, when Calvin Stevens of the pharmaceutical laboratory Parke-Davis synthesizes it from phencyclidine, a molecule with psychodysleptic, hallucinogenic and dissociative properties. Following the first administration of ketamine to humans in 1964 in Jackson prison (Michigan, USA), its dissociative effects associated with short anaesthesia were reported, and a patent for its human use was filed in 1966. In the 1990s, the discovery of opioid-induced hyperalgesia sparked interest in ketamine as an analgesic. In recent years, the human use of ketamine, and in particular its esketamine enantiomer, has shifted towards the treatment of depression. The first cases of ketamine abuse were reported in 1992 in France, leading to special surveillance by the health authorities, and its inclusion in the list of narcotic drugs in 1997. Today, ketamine has become an attractive substance for recreational use, gradually emerging from alternative techno circles to spread to more commercial party scenes. These elements represent a public health concern, associated with the risk of developing new chemically synthesized analogues, the harmful effects of which are still little known.

Keywords: Analgesia; Analgésie; Anesthesia; Anesthésie; Depression; Dépression; Ketamine; Kétamine; Recreational use; Usage récréatif.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, Dissociative / adverse effects
  • Anesthetics, Dissociative / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Ketamine* / adverse effects
  • Ketamine* / history
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Substance-Related Disorders


  • Anesthetics, Dissociative
  • Ketamine