Ketamine is a medication that is used to induce loss of consciousness, or anesthesia. It can produce relaxation and relieve pain in humans and animals.
It is a class III scheduled drug and is approved for use in hospitals and other medical settings as an anesthetic.
However, it is also a commonly abused “recreational” drug, due to its hallucinogenic, tranquilizing and dissociative effects.
Controversy has arisen about using ketamine “off-label” to treat depression. Off-label uses of drugs are uses that are not approved by the the United States, (U.S.) Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Ketamine is safe to use in controlled, medical practice, but it has abuse potential. Used outside the approved limits, its adverse mental and physical health effects can be hazardous. Prolonged use can lead to tolerance and psychological addiction.
Ketamine is most often used in veterinary medicine. In humans, it can induce and maintain general anesthesia before, during, and after surgery.
For medical purposes, ketamine is either injected into a muscle or given through an intravenous (IV) line.
It is considered safe as an anesthetic, because it does not reduce blood pressure or lower the breathing rate.
The fact that it does not need an electricity supply, oxygen, or highly trained staff makes it a suitable optionTrusted Source in less wealthy countries and in disaster zones.
In human medical practice, it is used in procedures such as:
- cardiac catheterization
- skin grafts
- orthopedic procedures
- diagnostic procedures on the eye, ear, nose, and throat
- minor surgical interventions, such as dental extractions
It has been used in a hospital setting to control seizures in patients with status epilepticus (SE), a type of epilepsy that can lead to brain damage and death. However, researchers point out that ketamine is normally used for this purpose after 5 to 6 other options have proven ineffective.
It is also an analgesic, and, in lower doses, it can relieve pain.
Researchers are looking into other possible medical uses of ketamine, particularly in the areas of treatment-resistant depression, suicide prevention, and substance use disorders. However, this use is controversial.