How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?

man sitting on a couch thinking about the Effects of Ketamine

How Long Does Ketamine Stay in Your System?

Drug addict young woman with syringe action in dark roomKetamine is a club drug, popular as a “safe” alternative to other “uppers”. For many people, it’s considered a non-addictive alternative to drugs like LSD and even cocaine. That leads to significant use in clubs, where people assume that its low addictive profile means the drug is safe to use. Still, for heavy users, ketamine can cause significant damage to the body and can even result in behavioral addiction. And, if you’re facing a drug test at work or at school, ketamine will show up and you can get in trouble for it.

In fact, ketamine is a Schedule III controlled drug, meaning that it’s illegal to use it without a prescription and medical supervision. It’s been illegal since the 1970s, because of its high potential for psychological addiction.

How Long Does Ketamine Show Up on Tests?

Ketamine can show up in a drug test for up to 30 days in a urine test. However, it will show up for different amounts of time depending on your age, metabolic rate, health, and even sex.

In addition, the type of drug test you’re taking will impact whether or not ketamine shows up in your system.

  • Saliva/ Mouth Swab – 18-24 hours on average
  • Blood test – 24-72 hours
  • Urine test – 14-30 days
  • Hair test – 4 months

Most workplace drug tests are either mouth swab and saliva tests or urine tests. This means that if you haven’t used ketamine within 24 hours and you have a saliva test, it won’t show up. On the other hand, a blood test will show ketamine usage from up to 3 days ago. Most people will show traces of ketamine usage in the urine for up to 14 days after usage. However, if your liver or kidneys are damaged or you have a high amount of body fat, which stores metabolites from ketamine, it could show up as much as a month later.

What Affects How Long Ketamine Shows Up on Drug Tests?

Drugs stay in your body based on diverse factors like metabolism, liver health, body fat, age, health, and sex. Here, the most important factors are metabolism and body fat.

Why? Your age, health, sex, and body fat percentage all impact your metabolism. The higher or “faster” your metabolism, the faster you metabolize ketamine. That won’t have a huge impact on how long drugs show up but it can make the difference of a few days. For example, people under 27 normally have a faster metabolism, people who are physically active tend to have faster metabolisms, people with more muscle have higher metabolisms, and people with higher testosterone production tend to have higher metabolisms. 

Body fat is also a major consideration. That’s because when your body breaks ketamine down or metabolizes it, it creates “metabolites”. These metabolites are stored in the fat until they move to the liver and quite often stay there for a long time. People with very low body fat are more likely to immediately process metabolites (which stresses the liver more) but it means that they’re less likely to show a positive result on a drug test. That’s also true in the liver itself. If you have more fat in your liver, such as from a high body fat percentage or if you drink a great deal or even if you take a lot of acetaminophen, your liver might retain metabolites for longer. This could mean ketamine is detectable in your urine for up to two weeks longer than if you had a healthy liver.

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How Long Do the Effects of Ketamine Last?

man sitting on a couch thinking about the Effects of KetamineKetamine has a half-life of 2.5-3 hours, meaning that you will normally metabolize about half of the ketamine in your system by that time. Afterwards, the high will start to go down, usually peaking at around 2.5 hours and then declining. However, when you “come down” depends on several factors, such as whether you took more doses after the first and how much you took. Half-life means that you metabolize the drug at a set rate of half per 2.5-3 hours. So, at 2.5 hours, you have half of the original dose. At 5-6 hours, you have a quarter of the original dose. Chances are, you won’t have taken enough for the half-life amount to still make you high.

However, the hallucinatory effects normally only last 30-60 minutes depending on the dose and your metabolism. That doesn’t mean it will be safe to drive a car after or that people won’t notice you’re high, just that your body is no longer responding to the hallucinogenic.

It also depends on how you take the dose:

  • Injection – Onset of 2-3 minutes, and then 20-30 minutes of anesthesia
  • Orally – Onset within 20-30 minutes with highs lasting 60-90 minutes
  • Intramuscular Injection – Onset within 10-15 minutes with highs lasting 30-120 minutes.

Most people who abuse ketamine take it orally. Here, it’s often sold as a powder which can be drank, swallowed, or even snorted. Here, it’s metabolized more quickly than other routes, because ketamine is very easily digested in the intestine.

Can You Be Addicted to Ketamine?

Most people view ketamine as a safe alternative to other party drugs. To an extent it is, it has a low physical dependence risk. However, it has a high psychological addiction risk. As a result, it can have a significant risk factor for psychological dependence and addiction – to the point where several thousand people using ketamine have to go to rehab each year.

Here, signs and symptoms of ketamine usage are almost entirely behavioral. For example:

  • You can’t stop using despite having tried to quit or cut back
  • You recognize ketamine is harming your personal, social, or work life and yet continue using
  • You cannot afford ketamine but keep buying it
  • You hide usage from close friends and family members
  • You disassociate
  • You spend a significant amount of time looking for, thinking about, or planning to use ketamine

Most people with significant habits will also see increases in physical symptoms. For example, ketamine causes side-effects like drowsiness or lethargy. You might also start experiencing insomnia with regular and heavy use. Many people who use daily will start to experience incontinence. And, it’s not uncommon to develop skin rashes.

Getting Help

Ketamine is a controlled substance for a reason, it can be dangerous and it can result in addiction. If you or a loved one is struggling, you can ask for help. That’s even more important if you’re combining ketamine with other drugs or alcohol, which increases risks. Substance use disorders are legally listed as temporary disabilities. If you go to rehab, you’re protected, you’re entitled to help, and depending on whether your premium supports the rehab facility you go to, your insurance has to cover at least part of the care.

Ketamine is less dangerous than many other drugs, but like any other drug, it can be addictive. If you need help, that help is there.

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