Substance Use

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?

ketamine blood test

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Ketamine’s effects are generally short-lived when compared to other drugs. Most people will be able to eliminate ketamine from their system within four to eight hours. However, just because the effects of ketamine wear off doesn’t mean your system has eliminated any trace of the drug.

Ketamine itself will normally be completely eliminated in 1-3 days from a persons body, but research has shown that ketamine’s metabolites can be detected for up to two weeks in urine.

This article will give you a general overview of how long ketamine stays in your system and what can influence the length of time.

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How Quickly Will You Feel The Effects of Ketamine?

The onset of effects from taking ketamine is rapid, occurring within minutes of taking the drug.

  • When taken intravenously, the onset of action is around 1-2 minutes, with anesthesia lasting approximately 20-30 minutes
  • When taken orally, the action onset occurs within 20-30 minutes, with the effects lasting between 60 and 90 minutes
  • When administered intramuscularly, sedation hits in around 10-15 minutes, with the effects lasting for 30-120 minutes

A couple of minutes after taking ketamine, users will experience an increase in blood pressure and heart rate. This effect decreases 10-20 minutes after the initial dose is taken.

How Long Does a Ketamine High Last?

The overall noticeable effects of ketamine can last anywhere between 15 minutes and several hours, depending on the dose and the route of administration.

The distortions in sound and sight making a user feel disconnected and experiencing hallucinations are relatively short-term compared to drugs like PCP or LSD. The hallucinatory effects last only around 30 to 60 minutes, compared to several hours.

What Are the Factors that Affect How Long It Will Take to Eliminate Ketamine?

How ketamine affects a user, what effects they might experience, and the risk of toxicity are all primarily dose dependent.

Other factors include:

  • Whether ketamine is combined with other substances
  • The strength of the ketamine dose
  • Whether the user has a history of ketamine use
  • The size and weight of the person
  • The age of the person
  • The overall health of the person

The effects of ketamine are caused by the drug’s interaction with the glutamate receptor, NMDA, and other receptors. This influences brain chemical levels, ranging from GABA (which produces a calming effect) to serotonin (which is a mood booster).

There is emerging evidence that regular, repeated use can impair aspects of cognition and memory. Those who use ketamine regularly can experience flashbacks, which can occur days, weeks, or months after a person has used the drug.

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How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Urine, Blood, Saliva, or Hair?

How Is Ketamine Detected on Drug Tests?

As ketamine continued to gain popularity as an illegal party drug, it caught the attention of the Department of Defense (DOD). When requests for ketamine analysis rose from 1 in 1997 to 116 in 2000, the DOD considered adding ketamine to its random urinalysis program.

To date, ketamine use is not part of the standard drug screen. However, individuals can still be tested specifically for ketamine if there is a suspicion of use.

When testing for ketamine, the most common test used is a urine test. A urine drug test will aim to identify metabolites of ketamine. The detection time in urine is approximately one day for ketamine. However, ketamine’s metabolites can be detected for much longer periods.

Ketamine and metabolites are both excreted in the urine, with 2% being unchanged when excreted. The metabolism process is extensive and occurs mainly in the liver.

Research shows that when ketamine is taken intravenously, 91% of the radioactivity can be recovered in urine over five days. Most of this drug is converted to other metabolites. In one study, one of ketamine’s metabolites, norketamine, could be detected in urine up to 14 days after a single IV dose.

There are no roadside testing devices that can detect ketamine. Lab analysis of urine samples and/or oral fluid is required to confirm the presence of this drug.

However, a study showed great success in being able to determine whether a driver was drug-impaired using field impairment tests (FIT). These tests include measurements of three vital signs, three eye examinations, and four divided attention tests.

Of those who only used ketamine, compared to those who used ketamine and other substances, 71% were successfully identified by the FIT. However, when salivary ketamine concentrations were greater than 300 ng/mL, the detection rate using the FIT was over 90%.

What Is the Half-Life of Ketamine?

Ketamine has a half-life between 2-4 hours. This means that, within that timeframe, approximately half of ketamine’s active substance will be eliminated from the body.

What Is the Bioavailability of Ketamine?

Since Ketamine is water- and fat-soluble, ketamine can be administered via almost any route. With the most common methods of abuse being oral, inhaled, intramuscular injection, intravenous injection, and snorted.

The bioavailability of ketamine depends on the route of administration.

Here are the following bioavailability percentages depending on route of administration:

  • 20% via oral
  • 90% via intramuscular
  • 50% via intranasal
  • 77% via epidural

How Is Ketamine Metabolized in the Body?

The metabolic process of ketamine is complex and extensive. Ketamine’s major metabolites are norketamine (NKET), dehydronorketamine (DHNK), and hydroxynorketamines (HNKs).

First, nitrogen removes a methyl group to convert ketamine into norketamine. This is completed via two key liver enzymes, CYP2B6 and CYP3A4. How each individual metabolizes ketamine is determined by the expression of P450 enzymes.

Following this step, norketamine is then broken down into dehydronorketamine and hydroxynorketamines. Although other pathways have been studied, the above processes are the major metabolic pathways.

Several studies have focused on these pathways, many of which were conducted in mice and rats.

For example, one study looked at brain concentrations of ketamine metabolites following vein administration. Within one minute, peak concentrations of ketamine and norketamine rapidly accumulated in the brain.

Another study injected ketamine into the abdomen of mice. Within 10 minutes, norketamine, DHNK, and HNK metabolites were detected in blood plasma.

Research shows that ketamine rapidly distributes in tissues with high blood flow, including the brain. With a plasma protein binding rate between 10% and 50%, ketamine spreads quickly.

However, the method of administration does matter when aiming to determine how quickly the effects of ketamine are experienced.

In terms of elimination, the available data shows that plasma levels of ketamine are generally below detectable limits within one day following an intravenous antidepressant dose of ketamine.

In this case, the dose was highly controlled. Although ketamine could not be detected a day after administration, levels of circulating DHNK and HNK metabolites were observed for up to three days.

Again, the dose matters. Compared to the antidepressant study above, when children were given anesthetic doses of ketamine, norketamine and ketamine were detectable for up to 14 and 11 days, respectively.

While ketamine is mainly metabolized in the liver, elimination is primarily performed in the kidneys, with only 2% being excreted as ketamine, 2% as norketamine, 16% as DHNK, and approximately 80% as conjugates of HK and HNK.

In adult humans, the rate of elimination is not affected by the route of administration.

For example, ketamine will be eliminated at the same rate whether taken intravenously or intramuscularly. However, repeated administration can prolong elimination time.

What if I Use Ketamine with Other Drugs?

The effects of ketamine can be unpredictable and dangerous when combined with other drugs. Certain combinations are incredibly hard on the body and may result in death.

For example, ketamine combined with alcohol or opiates can impair heart or lung function.

In contrast, ketamine combined with amphetamines, MDMA, or cocaine can significantly increase your heart rate. Both are potentially life-threatening situations.

Data shows that of the ketamine-related emergency department visits, 71.5% involved alcohol. This is because alcohol is a depressant, resulting in the effects described above. When used in a party setting, this combination is common. This places immense strain on the liver, increasing the risk of toxicity.

How Do People Abuse Ketamine?

Ketamine sold illegally comes in several forms and can be called Donkey Dust, Green K, Ket, Special K, Super K, Vitamin K or Wonk.

When used illegally, it generally comes in powder form and may also be made into pills or a liquid. It is also available in an injectable liquid.

Users will swallow pills, inject or swallow a liquid form of ketamine, or snort powdered ketamine.

Ketamine Medical Use vs Recreational

The ketamine found in a medical setting may differ from the ketamine found on the street. However, a significant amount of ketamine is illegally sold from veterinary offices.

Ketamine (ketamine hydrochloride) is often used as general anesthesia. It can be used alone or in combination with other medications.

Ketamine has many applications in the medical community, treating everything from severe pain to depression.

Outside of its medical uses, it is used recreationally as a drug of abuse. Commonly referred to as “Special K” or “K,” the NIH refers to ketamine as a club drug.

However, ketamine is also often used outside of this environment, as users seek its unique effects, including hallucinations, dreamlike states, and feelings of detachment from oneself and the surrounding environment.

Structurally similar to PCP, ketamine causes amnesia and pain relief without the respiratory and cardiovascular depression associated with other anesthetics. Although ketamine is one-tenth the potency of PCP, it is still a dangerous drug.

Unfortunately, when taken in high doses, potentially serious side effects may develop, including impaired motor function, high blood pressure, and fatal respiratory issues.

How to Get Help for a Ketamine Addiction

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction to ketamine, it’s essential to get professional drug addiction help as soon as possible.

Recovery from addiction is possible but challenging, and professional treatment programs offer vital support and resources throughout the process.

If you need help finding a treatment program near you, we are just a phone call away.

If you or your loved one are ready to seek the help you need and deserve, Zinnia Health is here for you. Please contact us via our confidential online form or call us at (855) 430-9439.

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