Drugs A to Z

This resource has undergone expert review.

Resource Overview

Time Allocated

Partial lesson (under 45mins)





Ketamine: Factsheet

Year: Year 9–10, Year 11–12
Targeted Drugs:

What is it?

Ketamine is also known as K, special K, Vitamin K, or horse tranquilizer.

Ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride) is a white powder, usually sold in ‘bumps’ or grams. A ‘bump’ is a small amount of powder which is snorted through a small glass inhaler called a bumper. Ketamine can also be swallowed, smoked, or injected. Ketamine may also be sold ‘cut’ (mixed) with other white powder substances which may or may not be harmful. Users can never be 100% sure of what they’re getting.


What are the effects?

If snorted or ‘bumped’, ketamine takes effect within 5–10 minutes (longer if swallowed). Its effects can last for a couple of hours.

Effects of ketamine vary but may include:


  • Increased heart rate and body temperature
  • Drowsiness
  • Feeling of euphoria (a ‘high’)
  • Loss of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Feeling dizzy or faint
  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Numbness and a feeling of paralysis
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there)
  • Paranoia (feeling extremely suspicious and frightened)
  • Psychosis (see glossary)
  • An experience known as the ‘K-hole’ which is the feeling of being trapped in a state of detachment. This can be frightening
  • Overdose.


  • Dependence (addiction)
  • Problems with memory, attention, and decision making
  • Mental health problems
  • Ulcerative cystitis – symptoms include frequent and painful urination, cramps and involuntary urination.
  • Intense abdominal pains known as ‘K-cramps’
  • Kidney problems.

Evidence Base

This factsheet was developed following expert review by researchers at the Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use, The University of Sydney, the National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW. See detailed attachment for a list of sources for this information. 

Page last reviewed: 8 May 2019.