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How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?

how long does ketamine stay in your system
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Ketamine is a multi-faceted wonder drug. For the last 50 years, medical professionals have used ketamine as an anesthetic, pain reliever and sedative in surgical settings. In recent years it’s been used recreationally as a party drug and has also been approved for clinical use to address treatment-resistant depression. At large doses, some users report a deeply profound psychedelic trip.

Ketamine can be used in so many ways that it leads one to wonder: How does this drug affect the human body? Does it depend on the method of consumption? What about the dosage? And just how long does ketamine stay in your system? As with all substances, Reality Sandwich aims to educate. This article will walk through the ketamine trip timeline and explore the various factors impacting the body’s ability to detoxify from ketamine, including potential long-term side effects. Ultimately, we will discover how long does ketamine stay in your system.

How Long Does a Ketamine Trip Last?

The ways in which ketamine can be used are about as versatile as the uses for the drug itself. It is primarily consumed intranasally, intravenously, intramuscularly, sublingually and orally. Method of consumption largely depends on whether or not ketamine is used in a clinical setting and administered by a doctor, or used recreationally without prescription. When used in a clinical setting, ketamine infusions tend to be the most common as they are the most bioavailable — meaning the body and brain can use all of the ketamine without any getting lost. For example, intranasal use is less effective because some ketamine may drip out of the nose or down the throat.

Intravenous recreational ketamine use is not typical. Oral or intranasal use are the most common. However, not everyone snorting ketamine is doing so recreationally. In March of 2019, the FDA approved esketamine (the S(+) stereoisomer of ketamine) for use as a fast-acting antidepressant. Sold under the brand name Sprovato, this treatment comes in the form of a nasal spray. 

In a party environment, users snort ketamine in lines or bumps, similar to the way cocaine is typically inhaled. While there is no formalized standard for dosing ketamine, consider the following information for intranasal use. Each dose is measured per pound of body weight. 

  • Threshold dose: 0.3 mg
  • Light dose: 0.6 mg
  • Common dose: 0.75–2 mg
  • Strong dose: 1.5–2.5 mg
  • K-hole: 3–4 mg

When administered by a nurse or doctor to treat depression in a clinical environment, a common dose of ketamine is 0.5 mg/kg, though some patients might respond to as little as 0.1 mg/kg. 

The Ketamine Trip Timeline

Even with such a broad scale of effect-based variables surrounding a ketamine trip, three phases of the trip are synonymous with the experience.

  1. The Come-up: When consumed intranasally, it takes approximately 15 minutes for the ketamine to take effect. When taken orally, it may take 20 minutes to an hour to feel the effects. During the ketamine come-up, the user will start to feel relaxed, with any tension in the body beginning to release. As ketamine is an anesthetic, any pain will dissipate, and an overall calming effect will sink in.
  2. The Peak: At the peak of the ketamine trip, users will experience a trancelike state accompanied by feelings of intense euphoria. Again, this experience is largely based on dosage. A strong dose can produce visual and auditory hallucinations.
  3. The Comedown: Ketamine’s effects typically last between 45 to 90 minutes. However, some people experience residual effects for hours and even days after their experience. These can include lingering feelings of dissociation and lethargy, among other symptoms.

The effects of ketamine can have a wide range of possible outcomes, from a light body buzz with a light dose to landing in a k-hole on a strong dose. When the user enters a k-hole, the likelihood of a more extended comedown period with residual effects may increase. Additionally, the more ketamine one consumes, the longer it may take to leave the body.

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?

The liver begins to metabolize ketamine as soon as it enters the body, quickly turning it into less active metabolites. These metabolites are known as norketamine, which later metabolizes into dehydronorketamine. These metabolites are excreted in the urine, with roughly 90% of the ketamine exiting the body this way. The half-life of ketamine is two and a half hours in most adults. Medically speaking, it is estimated that drugs are usually eliminated from the body within four to five half-lives. This suggests that ketamine should be wholly removed from the body within 10 to 12.5 hours. 

The International Journal of Legal Medicine published a study that found traces of ketamine in hair four months after a single dose. Additionally, researchers took scalp samples 48 hours after ketamine use and metabolites were still present. When sampling urine, ketamine was detected 11 days post-administration, with metabolites lingering for as long as 14 days. Additional sources report blood and saliva tests to have the shortest testing window, as they will only detect ketamine for up to 24 hours after the last dose. However, these are not concrete facts applicable to all users, and the route of administration is but one factor to consider. Age, dosage, metabolic rate and body mass all play a role in the detoxification speed.

Key Factors for Detecting Ketamine in the Body

Much like alcohol and other drugs, the effects — both while using and coming down from ketamine — can vary greatly depending on a variety of key factors. Consider the following:

Age

Younger, healthier persons will be able to detoxify the metabolites of ketamine faster than older persons or those with health conditions. Since metabolism slows with age, the liver’s ability to metabolize ketamine slows as well.

Body Mass

People with more body mass may have a slower metabolism and therefore take longer to eliminate the ketamine.

Hydration

Since ketamine leaves the body in the urine, well-hydrated people will eliminate the metabolites at a faster rate.

Dosage & Frequency of Use

The higher the dosage of ketamine, the longer the body will take to eliminate it. Additionally, frequent ketamine use may cause liver impairment, which slows down the body’s ability to metabolize the drug.

Long-Term Effects of Ketamine Use

Ketamine belongs to a class of drugs called dissociative anesthetics. This family of drugs includes PCP and DXM, which along with ketamine can produce mind-altering effects when taken in large doses. In addition to the impact on the mind, large quantities can also put a heavy burden on the body when taken consistently for long periods of time.

Liver Health

In the 2020 study “Substantial Elevation of Liver Enzymes During Ketamine Infusion: A Case Report” doctors documented the possibility of ketamine-induced liver injury. The report discusses two cases where substantially elevated liver enzymes were present after ketamine infusions. Fortunately, liver enzymes returned to normal after a few weeks. Still, these findings led doctors to consider what, if any, the long-term consequences of regular ketamine infusions might be. For patients considering multiple sessions with ketamine infusions, doctors should perform regular blood work to monitor liver performance. Liver injury can lead to acute liver failure in severe cases.

Bladder Health

Ketamine cystitis was first coined in 2007 to describe a side effect of ketamine use that causes bladder infections. In addition to liver and brain damage, extreme ketamine use can harm the bladder. Prolonged and excessive use can cause ulcers and fibrosis, stiffening and shrinking the walls of the bladder. Users suffering from ketamine cystitis may experience pressure, pain, incontinence, an urgency to urinate, and blood in the urine. If left untreated, this condition may result in irreparable damage to the bladder and kidneys.

Responsible and Safe Use of Ketamine

Ketamine still stands as a potent drug with a myriad of uses. However, using ketamine medicinally and recreationally is not without risk. Consider personal health above all, and proceed with caution. Online Ketamine urine tests are available for sale for anyone who would like to do a home test.

Have an interesting ketamine story to share? Drop it below in the comments and subscribe to the Reality Sandwich newsletters to stay up-to-date on all things psychedelic science. 

RS Contributing Author: Holly Crawford

Holly is a lover of the written word. She enjoys using language to tell stories about people, products, and ideas. With her roots deeply entrenched in the cannabis industry, she gravitates toward all things psychedelic with open-minded curiosity. If she isn’t musing in one of her journals, you can find her talking to her plants, studying business and spirituality, and performing all kinds of kitchen witchery. Holly lives in Oregon with her husband and their three dogs and two cats. You can follow her on Instagram @m_sungreen.

Disclaimer: Ketamine is potentially categorized as an illegal drug. Reality Sandwich is not encouraging the use of these drugs where prohibited. However, we believe that providing information is imperative for the safety of those who choose to explore these substances. This guide is intended to give educational content and should in no way be viewed as medical recommendations.

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  • Reality Sandwich

    Life is Psychedelic. Reality Sandwich serves you the most up to date information on psychedelic science, art, culture, news and substances. Knowledge is power, have a bite!

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