What is ketamine and is it a dangerous drug?

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The drug is in the spotlight after the role it played in actor Matthew Perry’s death

The Los Angeles County Coroner's report that actor Matthew Perry died, in part from “the acute effects of ketamine” has raised awareness of this drug.

Ketamine has long been used to treat depression and anxiety and Perry was reportedly taking it in conjunction with his treatment for drug addiction. The drug has been around since the 1970s and during the 90s, was often used as a party drug.

It wasn’t until the early 2000s that scientists discovered it could be a powerful tool to promote mental health. Researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that the drug could quickly relieve severe depression.

The problem with the drug is that it is still used recreationally. Doses administered by a health care professional are small and always administered in a clinical setting. Recreational users tend to dose at much higher levels.

According to Perry’s autopsy report, the levels of Ketamine in his blood were much higher than would have been administered by his doctor.

Overdoses are rare

Health professionals say lethal ketamine overdoses are rare. In Perry’s case, he apparently fell asleep while in a hot tub and drowned.

Since 1999, ketamine has been classified as a Schedule III nonnarcotic substance under the Controlled Substances Act. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration defines these drugs as having a “moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence.”

According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, ketamine is a dissociative drug, which means it “causes people to feel separated or detached from their body or physical environment. Dissociatives are similar to psychedelics, they can cause hallucinations and other changes in thoughts, emotions and consciousness.”

Ketamine is generally considered safe when administered in a clinical setting. But the American Addition Centers discussed potential adverse effects here.

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