How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?


If you or someone you care about is using ketamine, you might be wondering, “How long does ketamine stay in your system?” Here we explore the answer in-depth, explaining:

  • What ketamine is 
  • What ketamine does to you
  • The addictive nature of ketamine 
  • Symptoms of ketamine addiction
  • Half-life of ketamine
  • How long it takes for Ket to wear off
  • How long it takes to get ketamine out of your system
  • Treatment and help for ketamine.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a controlled pharmaceutical drug licensed for medical use as an anaesthetic and sedative for humans and animals. It is also used illegally as a recreational drug and is a notorious date rape drug.

Street ketamine is known by several nicknames, including Donkey Dust, Special K, Ket, Green K, Vitamin K, Super K, Kit-Kat, Horse Trank and Wonk. It is sold as a granular white or light-brown powder that looks similar to cocaine or (rarely) in tablet form.

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What Does Ketamine Do to You?

Ketamine reduces a person’s sensations, but everyone experiences the drug differently depending on the following:

  • Their weight, metabolism, and health status
  • How they use it (snort, swallow, inject or smoke)
  • How much they use
  • Whether they are new to using it 
  • Whether they use it alongside other drugs or alcohol
  • The strength of the batch.

However, ketamine users report some common side effects. They generally kick in within 30 minutes if swallowed, within 5-15 minutes if snorted, and in less than 60 seconds if injected. Side effects last approximately 60 minutes, but the user will likely have impaired balance and coordination and reduced senses for up to 24 hours. 

Commonly desired effects of ketamine include:

  • Feeling extremely happy and relaxed
  • Entering a dream-like state
  • Reduced sensitivity to pain 

Common undesirable side effects include:

  • Confusion, clumsiness, and lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling nauseous (sick), vomiting
  • Feeling as though your body is detached from your mind (known as falling into a “K-hole”)
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations
  • Anxiety, panic, agitation, anger, violence
  • Raised heart rate and blood pressure

People who use ketamine regularly may become agitated quickly, have panic attacks, develop depression, and have short-term and long-term memory problems.

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Is Ketamine Addictive?

Yes, ketamine is physically and psychologically addictive. The high is short-lived because the body builds up a tolerance to the drug very quickly. The user then has to take higher doses of ketamine to feel the effects that they crave. High doses cause more chemical changes in the body, and it begins to “need” ketamine to function normally.

Once a person’s body is dependent on ketamine, they will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms if they try to reduce their use or stop altogether. Breaking the cycle of psychological dependence and dealing with the physical symptoms of withdrawal is extremely challenging. Getting and staying sober usually requires professional help.

What Are the Symptoms of Ketamine Addiction?

Someone who uses ketamine recreationally is not necessarily addicted. Symptoms of addiction vary from person to person, but there are some common signs.

Signs of ketamine addiction include:

  • Feeling a need to take ketamine in higher doses and/or more regularly
  • Finding that you can’t do certain things without taking ketamine
  • Spending most days using ketamine or recovering from its side effects 
  • Being consumed with thoughts of ketamine and how you can obtain it
  • Going to great lengths to source ketamine
  • Feeling anxious about quitting or not being able to source ketamine
  • Ketamine has become more important to you than relationships, work, and activities that you used to enjoy
  • People close to you have noticed changes in your behaviours, physical health, or mental health.
  • You have become secretive, defensive, and dishonest about the amount of ketamine you use
  • You know that your ketamine use is having negative consequences in your life, but you keep using it anyway
  • You mix ketamine with other drugs or alcohol to get more of a high
  • You spend more time with other ketamine users and isolate from loved ones
  • Losing or gaining a noticeable amount of weight
  • Your behaviour has changed, and it is affecting your relationships
  • Neglecting daily responsibilities and others have noticed
  • You are stealing money or selling valuables to fund your drug use
  • Your work performance has dropped, and your superiors have noticed 
  • You owe drug dealers money; dealers are offering you stronger drugs
  • When you wake up, you don’t remember what happened last night or where you are
  • You have a growing collection of paraphernalia – needles, syringes, pipes, etc. 
  • You take risks when under the influence of ketamine
  • You regularly feel anxious, depressed, agitated, have panic attacks, or have contemplated suicide as a result of your ketamine misuse.
  • You are getting into trouble with the law when under the influence of ketamine.

A ketamine addict may not experience all of the symptoms listed above, but if any of them are familiar to you, you may benefit from talking to an addiction professional.

You can contact us at Castle Craig for friendly, non-judgemental advice and support.

Half-Life of Ketamine

The half-life of a drug refers to the time it takes for 50 percent of the substance to leave your body. It takes five half-lives to eliminate a drug from your system. Ketamine has a half-life of 45 minutes, so on average, it will take 3 hours and 45 minutes for one dose of ketamine to be eliminated from the body. However, this varies between individuals and ketamine can show up on a drug test for much longer.

How Long Does It Take for Ket to Wear Off?

How a person uses ketamine and how much of it they use will affect the length of time it takes for the effects to wear off. In general, side effects last for 30 – 60 minutes, but the user is likely to have impaired balance and coordination and reduced senses for up to 24 hours.

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How Long Does It Take to Get Ketamine Out of Your System?

Once in the body, ketamine enters a range of processes where it is broken down into by-products called metabolites. While ketamine is typically cleared from the body fairly quickly, the metabolites remain in bodily organs for longer. They can be detected by tests even after a dose of ketamine has been eliminated from the body in its raw form. Timings vary between individuals and depend on factors such as:

  • The amount and frequency of drug use
  • How much water do they drink (hydration)
  • Age
  • Weight and body mass index
  • Genetics
  • Overall health
  • Liver and kidney function
  • Metabolism

Ketamine Drug Testing

Urine drug testing is the most common type of ketamine drug test because it produces quick, cost-effective and reliable results. However, it can only detect fairly recent ketamine use (within 1-2 weeks). Hair follicle testing is used to detect ketamine use that is less recent.

Below is a rough guide to the amount of time ketamine can be detected in urine, saliva, hair and blood. 

  • Urine test – a few days to several weeks
  • Saliva test – up to 48 hours
  • Hair follicles test – up to 90 days
  • Blood test – up to 24 hours. For this reason, blood tests for ketamine are uncommon. 

A note about breast milk – there are limited data relating to how long ketamine can be detected in breast milk, but it is never safe to use ketamine while pregnant or breastfeeding as it may be harmful to the baby.

Treatment and Help for Ketamine Addiction

Ketamine addiction is progressive, so if left untreated, it has the potential to have an increasingly negative impact on all areas of your life, including physical and mental health, relationships, social life, work and hobbies. 

However, with the right professional support, ketamine addiction is treatable. It is perfectly possible to find a healthy and fulfilling life in recovery. At Castle Craig, we have a compassionate and friendly team of professionals who can help you achieve this. 

Residential Rehabilitation for Ketamine Addiction

Our 4-week residential rehab programme helps patients to achieve long-lasting sobriety from ketamine and other drugs. The intensive programme includes:

If you need longer-term treatment, you can join our Advanced Programme.

We tailor your therapy and rehab treatment options according to your history of ketamine use and co-occurring mental health disorders. Our approach to recovery is holistic, giving as much care and attention to your spiritual well-being as to your psychological and physical health. Throughout your treatment journey, we constantly look for opportunities to help you not just overcome your addiction but to grow as a person.

Is There an Alternative to Residential Rehab for Ketamine Addiction?

Our sister service, CATCH Recovery London, offers online therapy for ketamine addiction as an effective alternative to traditional inpatient rehab. The flexible, confidential and evidence-based online programme supports people who wish to address their addiction but, for whatever reason, can’t attend a residential rehabilitation centre. 

Our individualised addiction treatment programmes have helped over 10,000 people on the road to recovery, with the majority achieving sobriety and living free from addiction.

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