NOW SERVING Psychedelic Culture

Special K: The Party Drug

Special K
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin

Ketamine has become a hot topic in the psychedelic community as it rises to the top of the list for treatment-resistant depression. Clinics are popping up worldwide for ketamine treatments, providing an option for those trying to find relief from their depression — or other mental health ailments — and have a higher quality of life. But what about the large audience using ketamine recreationally? Surely they are also experiencing positive benefits?

Ketamine goes by many names, such as Kitty, Mean Green, Lady K, and Vitamin K. Perhaps the most common street name, and one used most often in recreational settings, is Special K. Not only is ketamine a medically approved treatment, it’s also a well-known party drug. The following article explores the types and effects of ketamine, methods of consumption, dosage and firsthand experiences while navigating the psychedelic visuals that come with Special K. Read on to discover what’s so special about Special K.

What Is Special K?

Ketamine, or Special K, has been a lot of things. A couple of years after its discovery in 1962, ketamine was first tested on animals, then a group of volunteer prisoners. Eventually, ketamine made its way to the battlefield as an anesthetic during the Vietnam War. In light of the 80s, ketamine was used less as a medical drug and more as a recreational substance. Then in 1999, ketamine became a Class III substance in the U.S.

Over the last 50 years, ketamine has endured its ups and downs and has gone from a surgical drug to a popular veterinary anesthetic, pain reliever and sedative. Doctors are currently using ketamine to combat treatment-resistant depression in humans. In March of 2019, the FDA approved esketamine (the S(+) stereoisomer of ketamine) for use as a fast-acting antidepressant.

In addition to medicinal benefits in clinical settings, Special K is also used recreationally for its euphoric effects and psychedelic-like trip. Depending on various factors such as type of ketamine, dosage and chemical composition, the physiological and psychological results will vary from user to user. Special K is a strange drug in that a microdose of ketamine can produce feelings of euphoria and heightened bliss, while a larger dose can result in a k-hole.

Types of Ketamine

There are three types of ketamine. Each produces sedative, dissociative effects to varying degrees, but they are different in composition.

  1. R,S-ketamine: This type of ketamine has been used the longest in medicine as a pain reliever and anesthetic. Most recreational-use Special K is in this form as a crystalline powder or pressed into a tablet.
  2. S-ketamine (Esketamine): The FDA has approved this type of ketamine for use in treatment-resistant depression. It is unlikely that this drug will be found recreationally or outside of a medical facility.
  3. R-ketamine (Arketamine): This type of ketamine is not yet approved by the FDA, but is currently in clinical trials. Early research suggests it may be even more effective than esketamine in treating depression, but with fewer side effects.

Special K Dosage and Consumption

There is no standardized method for dosing ketamine intranasally, but consider the following guideline for dosage 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

Ketamine is both water and lipid soluble, and is used in three ways: intranasally, intravenously or via intramuscular injection. When used recreationally, snorting Special K is most common. However, pressed tablets are another method for recreational use.

Is Special K the Life of the Party?

Well, that depends on each person’s definition of a party. Yes, Special K is found in rave settings, as well as anywhere one might be partaking in drugs and alcohol. It may also be used recreationally in the comforts of home for a more profound psychedelic journey. Anywhere outside of a medical office, ketamine use is considered recreational, and therefore has full potential to become a party drug.

Understanding the inherent short and long-term effects can better prepare the user for the ketamine trip. As with all psychedelic drugs, take precautions beforehand and understand the risks. Consider having a trip sitter, and practice harm reduction techniques, including allotting adequate time for integration. If safely consumed, ketamine can provide for a profound psychedelic trip.

Physical Effects of Ketamine

When snorted intranasally, ketamine will begin to take effect within 15 minutes. At this point, the physical body is starting to feel light sedation sensations. Many users describe the experience as that of floating, or being engulfed in a pile of warm fluffy blankets. Ketamine serves a purpose as a party drug because it can take the edge off social situations, allowing the user to relax into the moment and potentially communicate more effectively. At the peak of the ketamine trip, users report:

  • Feeling sedated
  • Relief from pain
  • Euphoria
  • Dissociation
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Visual hallucinations

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “The effects of ketamine typically last 45 to 90 minutes depending on the dose.” That makes ketamine one of the shorter-lasting psychedelic drugs. Special K is often “bumped” like cocaine, so users can re-up on their high and manage their dosage throughout the party. However, it’s always important to remember that the possibility of a k-hole is present, and temporary body paralysis may not provide for a very pleasant experience in some environments.

A popular formula in the party scene for enhanced feelings of bliss and euphoria is combining ketamine and MDMA. This is referred to as kitty flipping, and users report feelings of melting into the universe while entering a trancelike state. The effects of MDMA (molly) tend to elevate ketamine’s physical sensations, while also increasing the time span of the high.

As with all drugs, there is a potential risk for a bad trip. Always consider health and safety foremost. In addition to set, setting and harm reduction, ensuring the purity of drugs is a top priority. DanceSafe sells ketamine test kits to do just that. Nevertheless, unpleasant experiences can happen. This could occur after taking a strong dose, or even before, during or after a k-hole. Potential adverse effects of ketamine include:

  • Dissociation
  • Agitation
  • Confusion
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Slurred speech
  • Numbness
  • Muscle tremors
  • Larynx spasms

Coming Down From Special K

As with any drug, ketamine can produce comedown effects. These may include lethargy, emotional disturbance, pervasive thoughts and dissociation. There is nothing that can completely stop a ketamine trip, but rest assured that the effects will subside. Ketamine is a salt and can cause dehydration, so drinking plenty of fluids can prevent the potentially harmful effects to the bladder. Allow time for rest and integration.

Firsthand Experiences

The results of ketamine vary from user to user. Read some of these stories from anonymous ketamine users:

“The first time I tried it was in a bathroom on a party barge in Belgrade, Serbia … I don’t remember much from the evening but I do remember thinking that the pictures of Jim Morrison on the barge’s walls looked like they were pulsing with the music. Second experience with ketamine I did like 8 lines over the course of the night with my boyfriend and another couple while we were sitting around the fire. It felt “pillowy” … and we all felt like the world was a disc that was tipping over so we held on to some logs at our feet.”

“It’s like walking from your kitchen to your living room, and from your living room to your kitchen, and it’s uphill both ways, but you’ve never had so much fun walking up a hill.” 

“K-holing has constituted some of the best times of my life, just lying and being fully conscious but unable to respond to anything. It feels like a state of nonexistence, while being fully existent (though I can’t really explain it any better than that) … I had such an intense out-of-body experience that I was literally watching myself from the third person … I was just there, watching myself fully out-of-body. When I came back into myself, I felt as if I was floating around the room in my chair like an amusement ride.” 

“It’s like being on every drug at the same time and no drugs at all.” 

Calling All Psychonauts!

If you have a ketamine story to share, leave a comment below. We’d love to hear from you. Sign up for the Reality Sandwich newsletter and be the first to know when new content is published.

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.


  • 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!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

RS Newsletter

Related Posts

Excerpt: “Challenging Trips and Introduction to the Shadow”

The following excerpt from the book, Your Psilocybin Mushroom Companion, by drug policy journalist Michelle Janikian explores the concept of challenging trips, specifically with psilocybin mushrooms, and how to navigate these types of experiences. The chapter is titled “Challenging Trips and Introduction to the Shadow,” and speaks to experiences that can happen to anyone regardless

Read More »

Reality Sandwich uses cookies to
ensure you get the best experience
on our website. View our Privacy
Policy for more information.