Ketamine (Ketalar) is a dissociative anesthetic. Doctors use it to induce general anesthesia Trusted Source for medical procedures that do not require muscle relaxation.
General anesthesia denotes a sleep-like state, while dissociative refers to the effect of feeling disconnected.
Ketamine can produce hallucinations similarly to other drugs such as LSD and PCP, or angel dust. Hallucinations are distorted perceptions of sounds and sights.
The FDA has approved ketamine for general anesthesia only, but the drug has some off-label uses. Details are below.
Doctors use ketamine to induce general anesthesia alone or with other general anesthetics, such as nitrous oxide. They use it in the emergency department setting to produce short-term sedation when Trusted Source:
Practitioners use low doses that do not produce dissociation to relieve severe pain from the following conditions:
Research in 2017 notes that some studies indicate ketamine can quickly relieve depression in people who do not respond well to other treatment.
Despite these positive results, the authors warn that data on the use of ketamine for this condition are limited, so practitioners should consider the risks of the drug before prescribing it.
A 2016 study cautions that the inappropriate use of ketamine is a worldwide health problem due to its hallucinogenic properties. With this in mind, they urge doctors to prescribe standard antidepressants before trying ketamine for depression.
Research on the use of ketamine for anxiety is scarce. However, one study suggests that it may help people with social anxiety disorder (SAD). This condition involves a marked fear of social situations.
The 2017 clinical trial tested the drug on 18 participants and concluded that it might effectively treat SAD.
Because several other trials indicate ketamine may have significant antianxiety effects, the authors encouraged future studies to explore this possible benefit more fully.