What is ketamine? Medical professional provides insights

Dec 20, 2023, 3:00 PM

Yellow pills spill out of a bottle labeled 'ketamine.'...

Ketamine can be administered in a variety of forms. (Canva)


SALT LAKE CITY — According to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner, actor Matthew Perry’s death was related to the effects of ketamine. 

The drug is approved for use in medical settings as a sedative or to treat depression. While recreational use is illegal, it has been used as a “club drug,” according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.  

Legal medical uses

Dr. Paul Thielking, a psychiatrist and the chief scientific officer at Numinus Wellness, said “Ketamine was initially developed in the early 70s as an anesthetic.” It is often used in emergency room settings if a patient needs to be sedated. 

In the early 2000s, however, people discovered it affects mood.

“It turns out, ketamine is actually a rapid-acting, effective anti-depression, treatment and can also help alleviate acute suicidal thoughts,” said Thielking. 

Nowadays, according to the DEA, the drug can be used to help patients with treatment-resistant depression.

Thielking said that its popularity has risen in recent years. Nowadays, several clinics offer it. 

The drug can be administered through several methods. “You can give somebody a pill, you can have a lozenge, you can do it intra nasally with a spray, you can do it IV or a shot in your arm intramuscularly,” according to Thielking. 

Doses are different depending on the use. Thielking said that when ketamine is administered in a mental health treatment setting, the patient receives less. 

Illegal recreational uses

The drug is sometimes used by young people at parties and raves. New York University reported that recreational ketamine use is less common in the U.S. than elsewhere.

Recreational ketamine use has risen in popularity overseas, being dubbed the “UK Teenager’s Drug of Choice” by Vice. 

Ketamine is often “abused for its ability to produce dissociative sensations and hallucinations,” according to the DEA. It is preferred by some because of its short-lasting effects. Unlike the highs provided by LSD or PCP, ketamine only places a user in a dissociative state for 30-60 minutes. 

Ketamine regulation

According to Thielking, the drug isn’t as tightly regulated as one might expect. It is regulated as a Schedule Three drug by the DEA. While a prescription is required for legal purchase, medical supervision during use is not required. 

“You can get ketamine online nowadays, you know, and use it in a very unsupervised, unstructured way,” said Thielking. He added that he does not recommend using it outside of a medically supervised setting. 

According to Thielking, many clinic operators take safety precautions, however, not all of them do. 

“It’s in a little bit of a gray zone, when you get into the regulatory environment, you know, that we’re working in right now,” said Thielking. 

He added that if ketamine is not used carefully and in a safe environment, there are risks. 

“If anybody is looking for help and is thinking about ketamine, I would recommend you go to a clinic that’s doing it properly,” said Thielking. 

Related: Matthew Perry died from effects of drug ketamine, coroner says

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Dave & Dujanovic

FILE: A "For sale" sign in front of a home in North Salt Lake on Monday, Oct. 30, 2023....

Curt Gresseth

Utah home prices not likely to fall soon, says real-estate expert

Utah home prices are back up and so are interest rates -- and they will stay high says a Utah real-estate expert.

1 day ago

pay gap...

Curt Gresseth

Why is the gender pay gap not closing?

The gender pay gap in the U.S. and Utah is not closing. A Utah financial planner details the impact that wage shortfall can have on a women workers over a career.

6 days ago

a hockey stick shown, utah may get a nhl stadium...

Adam Small

Utah lawmaker asks for $1 billion for an NHL stadium in Salt Lake City

To fund an NHL stadium in Utah, Salt Lake City's sales tax rate would go from 7.75% to 8.25% if the bill is approved.

7 days ago

crime Ballpark...

Curt Gresseth

Cop talks knocking down violent crime in Ballpark Neighborhood

Violent crime in the Ballpark Neighborhood of Salt Lake City is down. A deputy chief details how the SLCPD achieved the results.

8 days ago

UTA Frontrunner commuter rail. UTA Plans to address delays by updating cars and adding a new line t...

Curt Gresseth

UTA boss talks about train delays, says improvements coming

Despite frustrating delays, UTA has a 90 percent "on-time" record, says the executive officer.

9 days ago

social media...

Curt Gresseth and Don Brinkerhoff

Senate committee OK changes to Utah’s Social Media Regulations Act

A Utah lawmaker discusses his social media bill aimed to protect children while parents and a teen testify about loss of a son to suicide and the pain of addiction.

13 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

What is ketamine? Medical professional provides insights