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How Long Does Ketamine Stay In The System?

Written by Dr. Ladan Eshkevari, PhD, CRNA, LAc, FAAN.

Ketamine, also known as “Special K” or “Vitamin K,” is a dissociative drug that can significantly impact perception, thoughts, and emotions, often leading to detachment from reality and even hallucinations. However, using this drug comes with significant risks, as it can make individuals unaware of pain, which can cause accidental injuries. These risks are further heightened when ketamine is combined with other drugs, prescription medications, or alcohol.

It is critical to understand how long ketamine stays in the body, especially when considering Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy (KAP), a specialized therapeutic approach that uses ketamine infusions. During KAP, psychotherapists with expertise in ketamine’s effects on the brain conduct therapy sessions while patients receive ketamine through an intravenous (IV) infusion. This approach offers patients a unique and potentially transformative therapeutic experience. This article explores the duration of ketamine’s effects and its potential long-term consequences. A comprehensive understanding of this substance is essential for making informed decisions regarding its use and minimizing associated risks, especially in KAP therapy.

What is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a potent drug used as an anesthetic in medicine and veterinary settings. It induces dissociation, detachment from reality, and hallucinations. It has medical applications as an anesthetic and emergency medicine and has the potential to treat depression and psychiatric conditions.

What are the potential risks and side effects of using ketamine?

Ketamine can pose risks and side effects, varying in severity by dose, frequency of use, and individual factors. You might face these risks by consuming it:

  • Psychological effects: Hallucinations, dissociation, confusion, and agitation
  • Physical effects: Nausea, vomiting, impaired coordination, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and bladder/urinary tract issues
  • Respiratory depression
  • Mental health risks: Addiction potential, mood disturbances
  • Long-term cognitive effects
  • Physical and mental health complications
  • Legal consequences
  • Interactions with other substances
  • Overdose

Ketamine used for medical purposes is carefully supervised and dosed. It can have transformational results when conducting psychological therapy for clients with PTSD or trauma. However, recreational use can be much riskier.

IV Ketamine infusions for depression anxiety ptsd chronic pain fibromyalgia CRPS Bethesda MD McLean VA Washington DC
IV Ketamine infusions for depression anxiety ptsd chronic pain fibromyalgia CRPS Bethesda MD McLean VA Washington DC

How long does the ketamine stay in your body?

Ketamine can be detected in various bodily fluids for different periods depending on the type of test used, the frequency and amount of use, and individual differences. Here is a general timeframe:

  • Urine: Ketamine is typically detectable in urine for up to 3-5 days after use. In some cases, it may be noticeable for a slightly longer period.
  • Blood: Ketamine can be detected in the bloodstream for a shorter period than in urine, typically up to 1-2 days following use.
  • Saliva: Ketamine can be detected in saliva for a shorter duration than in urine, usually up to 1-2 days after use.
  • Hair: Ketamine may be detectable in hair follicles for an extended period, potentially up to several months. Hair tests are less common for ketamine detection but can provide a longer detection window.

It’s important to note that the detection times mentioned above are general estimates and can vary based on individual factors, including metabolism, hydration, and the sensitivity of the drug test. In occasional or one-time use, ketamine may be eliminated from the body more quickly, while regular or chronic use can lead to longer detection times.

Additionally, the metabolites of ketamine, such as norketamine, may be detectable even after the drug itself has been eliminated.

What is norketamine?

Norketamine, also known as nor-ketamine, is a metabolite of ketamine. When ketamine is ingested, it undergoes metabolic processes in the body, and one of the byproducts produced during this metabolism is norketamine. Norketamine is a significant metabolite because it contributes to the overall effects and duration of action of ketamine.

In the context of drug tests at work, norketamine is relevant because it can also be detected in drug tests. When individuals are tested for ketamine use, both ketamine and its metabolite, norketamine, can be identified in bodily fluids, such as urine. This means that even if ketamine has been fully metabolized and eliminated from the body, norketamine may still be present in detectable levels, extending the detection window.

As a result, when workplace drug testing includes the screening of ketamine, it often takes into account the presence of norketamine. Including norketamine in drug testing helps to improve the accuracy of detecting ketamine use and can identify recent or prior use, even when ketamine itself has been metabolized and excreted. This is especially important for workplaces with strict drug policies, as they aim to deter and identify substance use that could affect job performance and safety.

How long does norketamine stay in the system?

The duration that norketamine, a metabolite of ketamine, stays in the system can vary based on several factors, similar to ketamine itself. The specific timeframe for norketamine detection in bodily fluids depends on factors like the type of drug test, individual metabolism, and frequency of ketamine use:

  • Urine: Norketamine is typically detectable in urine for a similar duration as ketamine, which is up to 3-5 days after use, although it may be detectable for slightly longer in some cases.
  • Blood: Norketamine can usually be detected in the bloodstream for 1-2 days following ketamine use, similar to ketamine itself.
  • Saliva: Detection of norketamine in saliva typically aligns with the timeframe for ketamine, lasting up to 1-2 days after use.
  • Hair: Norketamine may be detectable in hair follicles for an extended period, potentially up to several months, similar to ketamine.

It’s important to note that these are general estimates, and the actual duration of detection can vary from person to person. 

If you are concerned about ketamine and norketamine detection in drug testing, we recommend that you consult a healthcare professional or review your workplace’s policies for more information.

Ketamine has emerged as a powerful tool in treating depression and PTSD during psychotherapy sessions. Ketamine-assisted psychotherapy (KAP) is highly controlled and administered by experienced practitioners, leading to profound breakthroughs and insights. It offers renewed hope and healing to those struggling with depression and PTSD. If you want to know more about this therapy, contact us.

Ketamine Infusions in Bethesda, MD, McLean, VA and Washington, DC
Contact us to learn more about Ketamine Infusions in Bethesda, MD, McLean, VA and Washington, DC

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