What is a K-Hole and Why is it Dangerous?

what is a k hole

What is a K-Hole?

A K-hole is a term used to describe the act or feeling of taking such a high dose of ketamine that dissociation or out-of-body experiences occur. Someone who is in a k-hole may be temporarily unable to interact with people around them or even experience their own surroundings. People may be unable to control their own bodies, speak clearly, or move around like they normally would. Some people even experience hallucinations.

Understanding Ketamine

Ketamine is an illicit drug and prescription medication that belongs to a class of drugs called dissociative anesthetics.[1] It was initially approved for use as an anesthetic during surgery because it has powerful pain-relieving and sedative effects, but it quickly gained popularity for off-label use in treating mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Today, ketamine is a Schedule III controlled substance and only has accepted medical uses for short-term sedation and anesthesia. However, esketamine, a derivative of ketamine, was approved by the FDA in 2019 for treatment-resistant depression.[2]

How ketamine works to treat mental health disorders is still being studied, but it is thought to involve changes in the brain’s glutamate system, which plays a role in regulating mood. Researchers believe that ketamine’s effects on certain receptors in the brain lead to neuroplastic changes and encourage the formation of new neural connections, thereby producing a range of therapeutic effects.

Ketamine is illegal without a prescription, but many drug users take ketamine recreationally for its euphoric and dissociative effects.

What Does a K-Hole Feel Like?

After taking high doses of ketamine, people may describe “falling into a k-hole” as an intense out-of-body, dissociative, or near-death experience. People report feeling detached from their bodies and surroundings while being unable to speak or move. This sensation can range from pleasurable and euphoric to scary and confusing.

On the outside, people who are in a k-hole may appear to be in a semi-conscious state or catatonic. Many people drool on themselves and are unresponsive to external stimuli.

On the inside, people experience vivid hallucinations, a dream-like state, and have a distorted sense of time and space. For some, this dream-like state is full of euphoria, happiness, and relaxation, but for others, it is comparable to a bad LSD trip, full of terrifying images and the frustrating feeling of not being able to move or speak.

Other common k-hole symptoms include:[3]

  • Confusion
  • Floating sensations
  • Unexplainable experiences
  • Dilated pupils
  • Involuntary, rapid eye movements
  • Increased heart rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Stiff, rigid muscles
  • Numbness or tingling

How Long Does a K-Hole Last?

How fast ketamine’s effects kick in depends on how it is used. Generally, the effects kick in after about 1 minute if injected, 5-15 minutes if snorted, and up to 30 minutes if swallowed. Overall, a k-hole can last between 45 and 90 minutes depending on the dose, tolerance level, and other factors. Some people may feel lingering effects for several hours or days.

Is Falling into a K-Hole Dangerous?

Aside from the potential for scary side effects, falling into a k-hole is dangerous for a number of reasons. Firstly, high doses of ketamine cause paralysis, so people are not in control of their bodies. This can make them vulnerable to injury, sexual assault, and other types of physical harm. For example, people can stumble and fall or choke on their own vomit.

Next, since people must take high doses to achieve a k-hole, people end up taking a lot of ketamine. Some even inject the drug directly into their veins. Taking too much ketamine too quickly can result in a severe, potentially life-threatening overdose.

Ketamine overdose occurs when the sedative effects of the drug cause dangerously low breathing and full loss of consciousness. Symptoms of ketamine overdose include:[4]

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • Seizures

If you suspect someone is having a ketamine overdose, call 911 immediately.

Even if people have a positive experience taking ketamine, doing so regularly is associated with a variety of long-term challenges, such as:

  • Flashbacks – Frequent ketamine use can result in flashbacks during which people feel as though they are high on ketamine again even though they aren’t using the drug.
  • Mental health problems – Regular ketamine use is linked to a number of long-term mental health problems, such as depression, schizotypal symptoms, schizophrenia-like symptoms, paranoid thinking, and delusional thinking.
  • Cognitive issues – Long-term ketamine use has been associated with cognitive effects such as memory problems, poor attention span, and inability to concentrate.
  • Bladder and urinary issues – Frequent ketamine abuse has been linked to a condition called ketamine-induced cystitis, a condition characterized by frequent urinary urgency, painful urination, and bladder damage.
  • Liver and kidney damage – Excessive and prolonged ketamine use has been associated with liver and kidney toxicity.
  • Cardiac issues – Ketamine can affect cardiovascular health and blood pressure, leading to potential heart and circulatory system problems.

The long-term effects of ketamine are more commonly seen in cases of ketamine abuse or misuse, rather than therapeutic or controlled use. Using ketamine in a controlled dose while under medical supervision can be safe and beneficial.

Can You Get Addicted to Ketamine?

A tolerance for ketamine can develop very quickly, so regular users must take increasingly large doses to feel the same effects. Physical dependence can develop quickly, too, so there is no safe way to take ketamine outside of a clinical setting.

People who develop a physical and mental addiction to ketamine may find it difficult to function normally without the drug as it preoccupies their thoughts and actions. If you or someone you love is addicted to ketamine, it’s important to seek professional treatment as soon as possible.

Find Help for Ketamine Abuse and Addiction Today

Ketamine addiction can have serious effects on your mental, physical, and social health. Treatment typically involved medically-supervised detox, behavioral therapy, and peer support. To learn more about your drug and alcohol rehab options or to find help for yourself or a loved one, please contact our team at Moving Mountains Recovery today.

1. https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Ketamine-2020.pdf

  1. https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-new-nasal-spray-medication-treatment-resistant-depression-available-only-certified
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18355990/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541087/
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