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Ketamine Lethal Dose: Can I Overdose on Ketamine?

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The drug ketamine is a sedative used in medical settings for its anesthetic effect, but it has become increasingly popular as a recreational drug due to its hallucinogenic properties. In recent years, there’s been a rise in the number of people using ketamine, and this has led to an increase in the number of reported overdoses. So how dangerous is it to overdose on ketamine? Let’s take a look. 

What Does Ketamine Do? 

Ketamine use, both in medical treatment and recreational drug misuse, has gained a lot of attention lately for having highly promising effects on treating mental health issues through dissociative anesthesia. It belongs to a class of drugs called NMDA antagonists which essentially means it blocks receptors in the brain from responding to glutamate, which is linked to depression and addiction.

While considered controversial at first, due to its past use as a party drug, studies have found that it can be profoundly effective in treating severe depression, PTSD, and other disorders such as OCD.

Ketamine has also shown significant efficacy in treating treatment-resistant depression, including major depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. What’s more surprising is that the relief offered by ketamine may start within hours of taking it, compared with weeks or even months for traditional antidepressant treatments. This makes ketamine a potential breakthrough for people who are suffering from these conditions and for whom other treatment options don’t appear to be working.

Can you overdose on Ketamine? 

The answer, unfortunately, is yes. Ketamine is a synthetic tranquilizer often used by veterinarians to sedate large animals, and as an anesthetic for humans before surgery. However, it has become increasingly popular as a recreational drug due in part to its hallucinogenic effects. Ketamine misuse has been reported in various regions, including Iran and Southeast Asian countries, highlighting the need for patient education, detoxification, and management of ketamine addiction.

Ketamine is also known as a club drug, commonly used in nightlife settings, which increases the risks of misuse and overdose.

Because the drug has such an intense high, users may be tempted to take more in an effort to get a stronger effect. Doing this, however, puts them at risk of overdosing very quickly. Ketamine toxicity can result in severe symptoms such as confusion, agitation, hallucinations, and even unconsciousness. Therefore, it is critical for users of this drug to take precautions regarding dose limits and seek medical help immediately if they experience any symptoms of overdose.

Normal dosage vs. lethal dose?

In the clinical setting, intravenous ketamine is usually administered intravenously or intramuscularly in small doses to produce sedation and analgesia. The recommended ketamine dose depends on the patient’s age and weight; however, the typical dose range for adults is 2-4 mg/kg body weight. When given through intramuscular injection, ketamine produces its effects within 2-3 minutes and can last up to 25 minutes.

Ketamine has the potential to be lethal in high doses. Generally speaking, it would take 10 times the recommended therapeutic dose (20-40 mg/kg) to reach a lethal level of toxicity for an adult.

The median lethal dose of ketamine has been studied to evaluate its safety and toxicity in both animals and humans.

A much smaller dose can cause potentially fatal cardiac arrest if given intravenously with no other medication. Therefore it is highly important to use ketamine responsibly and one should always strictly adhere to recommended dosages when administering this drug to avoid reaching a lethal dose.

Ketamine Overdose | Can I overdose on Ketamine?

Symptoms of Ketamine toxicity?

It’s important to note that a person can overdose on any amount of ketamine; however, the higher the dose taken, the more severe the symptoms tend to be. Adverse effects of ketamine overdose can include psychosis, addiction, amnesia, high blood pressure, impaired motor function, seizures, respiratory complications, impaired coordination and judgment, risk of depression, transient apnea, post-operative nausea and vomiting (PONV), laryngospasm, hallucinations, vivid pleasant dreams, delirium, and a floating sensation.

When someone overdoses on ketamine, they may experience dangerous symptoms such as:

  • Slurred speech
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Difficulty breathing or speaking clearly
  • Impaired vision or hearing loss
  • Chest pain or irregular heartbeat
  • Disorientation
  • Confusion
  • Impaired motor control

Respiratory depression is a severe symptom of ketamine overdose, particularly in cases of high doses or when combined with other drugs, and may require endotracheal intubation.

If you suspect someone has taken too much ketamine or overdosed on the drug, seek immediate medical attention.

What to do in case of Ketamine overdose?

What to do in case of Ketamine overdose?

In the event of a suspected ketamine overdose, contact emergency services immediately and be ready to provide information such as any recent dose taken, the name of the drug, as well as details about the patient’s weight, height, and medical history. 

While waiting for medical assistance to arrive, it is important to ensure that the individual is breathing and has an open airway. If the person is unconscious, you should try to wake them up and keep them awake if possible. 

If they are not breathing, you should begin CPR immediately. It’s also important to remember that if someone is suffering from a ketamine overdose, never induce vomiting, it can lead to a severe worsening of their condition.

Once necessary help arrives on the scene, response personnel would typically perform basic tests to assess heart rate and body temperature – all of which could potentially indicate a ketamine overdose situation.

Who is at risk of Ketamine overdose?

There are a few factors that can increase the risk of Ketamine overdose in an individual. For example, the risk of overdosing on ketamine is higher when it is taken in combination with other drugs or alcohol. The misuse of illicit ketamine significantly increases the risk of addiction and chronic health problems.

Low blood pressure is not typically a symptom associated with ketamine abuse.

It is also important to note that people who have a history of substance abuse are more likely to overdose than those who do not have a history of substance abuse. Additionally, people who take high doses, mix different types of ketamine, or have been taking ketamine over a long period are at greater risk for Ketamine withdrawal and overdose. Ketamine is often used as a club drug, which further elevates the risk of accidental injury and health complications.

Those who are most vulnerable include recreational users, mental health patients, and younger people, who may have less impulse control and may not yet be aware of the dangers of illicit drugs, are especially vulnerable.

Can Ketamine interact with other drugs and cause adverse effects?

Can Ketamine interact with other drugs? 

Yes, Ketamine can interact with other drugs. Different classes of medications can interact with Ketamine in different ways. For example, certain antidepressants and antipsychotics may increase the risk of side effects when taken with Ketamine. Intranasal ketamine, used for analgesia and treatment of depression, also has potential for abuse and toxicity in chronic misuse.

That is why it is important to discuss any other medications you are currently taking with your healthcare provider before taking Ketamine to ensure there are no interactions that could be dangerous or cause adverse reactions. As a psychoactive drug, ketamine can lead to physical, psychiatric, and chronic health complications, emphasizing the importance of patient education and deterrence.

It is especially important to tell your doctor if you are taking any sedatives, tranquilizers, narcotic pain relievers, anesthetics, or chemotherapy drugs since these have been shown to increase the risk of serious side effects when taken in combination with Ketamine.

Lastly, one should also avoid taking recreational stimulants such as MDMA with Ketamine to avoid serious health consequences, as both drugs have completely different effects on our nervous system.

How is Ketamine overdose treated? 

How is Ketamine overdose treated? 

In the event that a person finds themselves in a situation where they have overdosed on ketamine, it is important to keep calm and seek medical attention immediately. Time is of the essence when treating an overdose of ketamine, so seeking medical help as soon as possible is paramount. Ketamine is also commonly used in procedural sedation for its sedative and analgesic effects in medical settings, including emergency departments.

Treatment options for Ketamine overdose may include providing supportive care such as oxygen therapy and intravenous fluids; administering medications such as benzodiazepines to reduce anxiety; or using other drugs to counteract any potential effects from the drug itself. Ketamine has been shown to rapidly reverse behavioral and synaptic deficits caused by chronic stress exposure through its action as a glutamate N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antagonist.

In some cases, dialysis may be required if kidney failure occurs due to prolonged use of the drug. It is also important to provide emotional support during recovery from an overdose since many people who have experienced an overdose suffer from psychological distress afterward.

Final thoughts on Ketamine overdose

Ketamine is a powerful sedative with both medical and recreational uses that can lead to dangerous side effects when abused or taken in high doses—including life-threatening overdoses. 

If you suspect someone has overdosed on ketamine it is important to seek immediate medical attention as treatment options are available that can help reduce the severity of symptoms experienced by those who have overdosed on this drug. 

Education about the dangers associated with abusing this substance can help prevent future incidents involving overdoses from occurring. It is important for anyone considering using Ketamine, to understand all potential risks beforehand to avoid any health complications or a fatal overdose.


Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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Located on the historic peninsula of Charleston, South Carolina, Lantana Recovery takes a modern approach to Substance Use Disorder treatment, offering intensive clinical care while also immersing our clients in local Charleston culture.