What is a K-Hole?
A K-hole is an experience caused by large amounts of the illicit substance ketamine. When experiencing a K-hole event brought on by the effects of ketamine, a person becomes disconnected from their surrounding reality, slipping into a terrifying state of disassociation many liken to an out-of-body experience (OBE) or a near-death experience (NDE).
What Is Ketamine?
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), ketamine is an anesthetic used in healthcare settings with dissociative and hallucinogenic effects. Ketamine is a dissociative drug that distorts sights and sounds and creates a dissociative state or feeling of disconnection from self and the surrounding environment.
It’s a powerful drug approved for use as an anesthetic for pain and as a nasal spray treatment (esketamine; Spravato) for severe depression that hasn’t responded to other remedies. Recreational use of ketamine is illegal.
Ketamine comes in various forms, such as powder, pill, and liquid. Based on the form, people smoke, snort, or mix ketamine into a liquid to drink. According to authorities, this is a drug often associated with sexual assault cases.
Recreationally, ketamine users cite its tranquilizing effects as part of its appeal. The worst side effects, such as falling into a K-hole, often occur when an individual injects ketamine intravenously.
Low doses can induce:
- Floating sensations
Higher doses can result in:
- Inability to move
- Pain relief
- Memory loss
High doses can also trigger dissociative effects, such as an acute loss of awareness that results in the k-hole phenomenon.
Disclaimer: Zinnia Health doesn’t endorse the use of illicit substances or legal substances without a prescription. Abstinence from substance use is safest. But we also desire to provide the most accurate, accessible information for harm reduction purposes.
If you’re concerned about your own or a loved one’s ketamine use, please call (855) 430-9439 to speak with a treatment provider.
What Does It Feel Like to Be in a K-Hole?
People who’ve endured a K-hole experience often describe intense feelings of not being one with their bodies or being very near death—observing without any way to interact. To a sober person watching, it may appear as though the person in the K-hole has become catatonic or like a zombie.
The mind of the person in the K-hole, however, is not at all quiet. In a K-hole, that person is usually experiencing a sequence of vivid hallucinations in which their perception of space, time, and reality is greatly distorted.
What Psychological Effects Does a K-Hole Present?
The typical psychological consequences of a k-hole include:
- Detachment (from self and surroundings)
- Sensory perception fluctuations
As scary as these mental effects are, people find some of ketamine’s physical effects pretty frightening, too, such as:
- Loss of coordination
- Blood pressure and heart rate fluctuations
The feeling of complete helplessness resulting from an inability to move or speak detracts from the calm, relaxed feelings that people typically begin using ketamine for in the first place. For some individuals, it’s so terrifying it’s been compared to the effects of an LSD trip gone wrong.
The Dangers of Ketamine and the K-Hole
Ketamine can result in a k-hole experience because of this substance’s ability to completely block the lines of brain-to-body communication. Ketamine removes all physical sensations and pain awareness.
In a surgical setting, ketamine is a useful anesthetic—recreationally, it’s a dangerous substance. In fact, other people may not see that a person in a K-hole is in need of assistance. Ketamine, when abused, induces paralysis, which leaves a person more susceptible to harm or injuries.
For instance, a person might feel fine one moment and then, as they begin to enter a k-hole, could:
- Stumble or fall
- Begin vomiting and, unable to move, choke on the vomit and asphyxiate
- Be unable to ward off an assault, sexual or otherwise
Ketamine used frequently or in large amounts can lead to other risks, including:
- Urinary complications
- Kidney failure
- Liver failure
When injected intravenously, the risks associated with ketamine use increase. Mixing ketamine with any other substances presents grave consequences that exacerbate the potential for overdose.
What Are the Signs or Symptoms of a Ketamine Overdose?
Like any illicit substance or misused prescription, ketamine affects everyone differently. Some people may experience mild symptoms after consuming large doses, while others may fall into the K-hole after a minimal amount.
Overdose, however, is similar from person to person regardless of usage frequency or dosage. If you or someone with whom you begin exhibiting any of the following symptoms and ketamine use is known or suspected, dial 9-1-1 immediately.
Signs and symptoms of an overdose of ketamine include:
- Loss of movement
- Irregular heart rhythms
- Increased blood pressure
- Slow, weak, or jagged breathing
- Pains in the chest
- Inability to speak
- Losing consciousness
Even if you’re unsure what you or another is experiencing, it’s best to call an ambulance to make the call. Call the closest hospital or emergency services provider if you live in a community without a dedicated 9-1-1 service.
Tell the dispatcher if you know or suspect that ketamine is to blame. Withholding this information can mean the difference between getting appropriate care, experiencing long-term injuries, or potentially a fatal overdose.
Ketamine vs. LSD: Ketamine Can Cause Flashbacks, Too?
It’s widely known that dropping acid can result in lingering issues far into the future for some users. One of these problems is known as a flashback, in which a person can experience a mental state identical to the mental state after having a hit of LSD, even if they’ve not used the drug in some time.
Frequently using ketamine, also known by street names such as Special K or Vitamin K, can result in lasting mental health conditions. In fact, a study concluded that falling into a K-hole shares many symptoms with schizophrenia.
The same study found that people who chronically abuse ketamine suffer from ongoing memory issues and schizophrenic symptoms such as:
- Dissociative ideas
- Superstitious or otherwise irrational thinking and beliefs
This is similar to LSD’s flashbacks because even if a person isn’t using ketamine and is otherwise sober, these effects can still come and go. When these symptoms are present, it’s considered a k-hole flashback colloquially. In medical terms, this is known as Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD).
Ketamine Effects: How Long is a K-Hole Event?
Depending on the method of use, ketamine’s effects typically take hold in 20 minutes or less. These effects can last up to 90 minutes. If the individual falls into a K-hole, it can last as little as 10 minutes or as long as a full hour.
While a K-hole can occur any time a person uses ketamine, whether a first-time user or an avid ketamine abuser, the chances of having a K-hole experience increase with more chronic use. In fact, experiencing a K-hole is rather common if a person has used ketamine on 20 or more separate occasions.
Ketamine Dependence: Zinnia Health Can Help
Because of the light, airy feelings induced with smaller doses of ketamine, the drug presents an extreme potential for misuse and abuse. When taken in large doses or used frequently, ketamine use can cause dependence. Over time, ketamine abuse and dependence can lead to a substance use disorder (SUD).
Some of the signs that you or someone you know could be transitioning from ketamine dependence to an SUD include:
- Higher doses are required to achieve the same effect or high as a previous use.
- Quitting ketamine is impossible, even if it negatively affects your work life, personal relationships, or financial standing.
- Ketamine has become a coping strategy for stress or grief.
- You crave ketamine’s effects when you don’t have it.
- If you go without ketamine after steady periods of use, withdrawal symptoms set in, such as excessive sleepiness or uncontrollable shakes.
Are you concerned about your ketamine use or that of someone you know? Zinnia Health also provides a 24/7/365 nationwide addiction helpline for a one-on-one conversation with a treatment specialist at (855) 430-9439. You’re never alone—don’t suffer in silence. Our compassionate staff at treatment centers nationwide can help you heal—for good.