- Electronic dance music party-goers may be unknowingly exposed to ketamine, an addictive anesthetic, according to a new study.
- NYU researchers found that 30% of people who said they did not take ketamine, preferring other illegal drugs or nothing at all, also had traces of ketamine in their hair.
- The researchers believe other party drugs are being tainted with ketamine.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Ketamine, an anesthetic drug that gives users an antidepressant effect and that can be taken orally, nasally, or intravenously, may be more commonplace at parties than previously thought, a new study found.
In fact, even party-goers who didn’t think they were taking the drug may be surprised by the findings published today in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Researchers at New York University, who tested the hair of over 200 people at EDM (electronic dance music) parties in New York City, found ketamine traces in 30.4% of people who said they had not used the drug in the past year.
The results not only suggest that ketamine use is more common than previously reported, but researchers believe it’s other drugs could be secretly contaminated with ketamine.
In 2019, the FDA approved a synthetic version of ketamine for depression treatment, but the drug is also known to be highly addictive when used in social settings.
Researchers suspect ketamine may be cut into MDMA
Drug use is common at EDM festivals, so the researchers decided to survey New York City festival-goers about their recreational use, focusing on ketamine.
The researchers randomly selected an EDM party to attend every week from January 2019 through August 2019. At each party, attendees were asked to answer survey questions about their drug use over the past year, and the researchers were able to collect responses from 794 party-goers. They also collected 216 hair samples which were tested in a lab for ketamine.
The researchers found that 14.6% of survey respondents reported using ketamine at an EDM party in the last year. Of the 85% who said they did not, nearly a third were found to have traces in their hair.
Although it’s possible EDM party attendees lied about their ketamine use on the survey, researchers believe they were unknowingly exposed to the drug because they were honest about their use of other drugs like Ecstasy, a form of the psychedelic MDMA.
“Ecstasy/MDMA adulteration in particular is common and we determined that testing positive for MDMA was a risk factor for testing positive for ketamine after not reporting use,” the researchers wrote.
Ketamine is a new depression treatment, but it can also be highly addictive
Ketamine, classified as a psychedelic, was originally used as an anesthetic in operating rooms because of its sedative properties and later became a popular-but-illegal party drug for the same reason.
In March, the FDA approved a nasal spray called Spravato that has the active drug esketamine, which mirrors the chemical properties of ketamine, Insider previously reported, bolstering a mounting body of evidence that suggested the drug could help treat depression.
Now academic medical centres, like the centre at Columbia University, are offering ketamine infusions where patients can pay upwards of $US750 per session for intravenous ketamine treatments to better cope with depression.
When used outside of clinical settings however, ketamine can be dangerous.
Ketamine can be addictive in the same way opioids can, since they affect the brain in similar ways, according to Dr. Robert C. Meisner, the medical director of ketamine service at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts.
The American Addiction Centres website said that regular ketamine users can become tolerant of the drug and develop memory problems, brain fog, mood swings, and flashbacks. Ketamine addiction can also cause bladder, kidney, and heart damage.
According to the study authors, understanding the differences between recreational and medical ketamine use is important for public safety.
“As media coverage about medical benefits of ketamine continues, it is important to continue to examine current trends in both known and unknown use of this drug,” they wrote.
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