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Ketamine and Phencyclidine (PCP)

(Special K; Angel Dust)


Gerald F. O’Malley

, DO, Grand Strand Regional Medical Center;

Rika O’Malley

, MD, Grand Strand Medical Center

Reviewed/Revised Dec 2022

Ketamine and phencyclidine are chemically similar drugs used for anesthesia but are sometimes used recreationally.

Ketamine is available in powder and liquid form. The powder can be snorted or taken orally. The liquid can be injected intravenously, into a muscle (intramuscularly), or under the skin (subcutaneously).

Phencyclidine (PCP or angel dust) is most often smoked after being sprinkled on plant material, such as parsley, mint leaves, tobacco for smoking, or marijuana Marijuana Marijuana (cannabis) is a drug made from the plants Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica that contain a psychoactive chemical called delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Marijuana... read more (some street names are "wet" and "fry"). It can also be snorted or taken orally.

Symptoms of Ketamine or PCP Use

Ketamine and PCP cause giddiness and euphoria, which are often followed by bursts of anxiety. With high doses (overdose), users have a distorted perception of their body, the environment, and time. They feel scattered or as if they are not real (called depersonalization), and they feel detached from their environment (called dissociation).

At even higher doses, hallucinations and paranoid delusions may occur, and the sense of detachment from the world intensifies. Ketamine users often refer to these experiences as a k-hole. People may become combative. Coordination may be lost, and muscles tremble and jerk.

Very high doses may cause

Diagnosis of Ketamine or PCP Use

  • A doctor's evaluation

Doctor's base the diagnosis of ketamine use on the person's history of having used the drug and symptoms. Ketamine is not detected on routine urine drug testing. Special tests (called gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy testing) can be used to confirm the use of ketamine.

Treatment of Ketamine or PCP Use

  • Quiet, nonthreatening environment

  • Observation and monitoring until the person is sober

  • Sometimes sedatives

Usually, reassurance and a quiet, nonthreatening environment help people recover from the effects of ketamine use. People usually return to normal consciousness in 45 minutes to several hours. Benzodiazepines (sedatives) can be used to control agitation and seizures.

More Information

The following English-language resources may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of these resources.

  • National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): Ketamine and PCP-specific information from the federal agency that supports scientific research into drug use and its consequences and supplies information about commonly used drugs, research priorities and progress, clinical resources, and grant and funding opportunities.

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): US Department of Health agency that leads public health efforts to improve behavioral health and provides resources, including treatment locators, toll-free helplines, practitioner training tools, statistics, and publications on a variety of substance-related topics.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

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