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Cognitive Side Effects of Mixing Ketamine With Alcohol

Why Should Ketamine and Alcohol Not Be Mixed?

There is real danger when you mix ketamine with alcohol. Special K, formerly known as ketamine, belongs to a class of drugs that are dissociated anesthetic and sedative.

The medication comes to its own side effects and potential downsides when it is used without medical supervision. However, things can fast become out of control and risky if ketamine is combined with alcohol, which functions as a depressant for the central nervous system.

Both alcohol and ketamine have an effect on different neurotransmitter systems in the body, which ultimately leads to an increase in inhibitory brain signaling. Studies have found that ketamine is capable of producing alcohol-like effects in users. So combining the two substances can result in overdose or over-intoxication.(1)

Combining ketamine with alcohol dramatically increases the risk of slowed breathing, memory loss, coma, and even death. Users are likely to become unaware of how much the combined substances are affecting them. In 2014, a British teenager’s death shed light on just how deadly ketamine-alcohol combination can be when the doctors determined that the combination of alcohol and ketamine was the primary contributing factor in the death.(2)

Why Should Ketamine and Alcohol Not Be Mixed?

Here are some of the effects of mixing ketamine with alcohol.

Cognitive Side Effects of Mixing Ketamine With Alcohol

Both ketamine and alcohol affect cognition, and when they are consumed together, they can cause a rapid decline in a person’s ability to communicate or move properly. Due to the severe impact on cognition, ketamine is sometimes also used as a date rape drug.(3)

Cognitive effects such as loss of communication or movement make it difficult for a person to process exactly how much the drug is affecting you, making it highly likely that it may lead to overdose. Since you are already unable to move or communicate, it makes it nearly impossible to ask for help in this condition.

Slowing Down of Breathing

Alcohol and ketamine can lead to a dangerous slowdown of breathing. If consumed in higher doses, this can even cause a person to simply stop breathing.(4)

Slow and shallow breathing makes a person feel disoriented, confused, and extremely tired. It can also cause a person to faint or pass out. If you vomit while passed out, it increases the risk of choking.

If a person’s breathing remains slowed down like this for too long, then it can cause the person to slip into a coma, or even lead to death.

Bladder Problems

Studies have linked the consumption of ketamine to lower bladder issues, such as hemorrhagic cystitis, which is a condition that leads to inflammation of the bladder. (5)

Bladder issues are a common side effect of ketamine. In fact, they are so common that they are usually collectively referred to as ketamine bladder syndrome. Sometimes, the damage caused to the urinary tract can be permanent.

An online survey of people who regularly use ketamine as a recreational drug found that the participants who also drank while using the drug were much more likely to suffer from bladder issues, such as:(6)

  • Urine incontinence
  • Painful urination
  • Urgent and frequent urination
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Blood in urine

Effect on the Heart

Ketamine is also known to have many types of cardiovascular effects, and when combined with alcohol, the risk of heart problems goes up drastically.

Some of the effects of combined ketamine and alcohol on the heart include:

When consumed in higher doses, alcohol mixed with ketamine can even lead to cardiac arrest, heart attack, or stroke.

Other Risks

Apart from harming the central nervous system and the other risks discussed above, there are many other risks associated with ketamine. One of the most dangerous risks is known as K-hole.(7)

K-hole is a condition that is often described as an out of body experience. Some people claim to enjoy it and even compare it to a spiritual and enlightening event. However, for many others, it can be a frightening experience.

Furthermore, the comedown from K-holing is known to be very bad, and in some cases, it may be accompanied by:

In the long-term, regular use of ketamine can lead to:

  • Flashbacks
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble focusing and concentrating
  • Withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Tolerance and psychological dependence
  • Bladder damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Heart attack, stroke, or other heart-related problems


There is a considerable risk of overdose when you combine ketamine with alcohol. Even combining small amounts of the drug with alcohol increases the risk of an overdose and other adverse effects, including coma and death.

If you are concerned about your alcohol or drug use, seeking out help before things get out of hand is always better. There are many support groups, both online and otherwise, that provide confidential help to those addicted to ketamine or alcohol. So talk to your doctor and be honest about your drug and alcohol use. Remember that there are strict patient confidentiality laws that prevent your doctor from reporting such information to any law enforcement agencies.


  1. Krystal, J.H., Petrakis, I.L., Webb, E., Cooney, N.L., Karper, L.P., Namanworth, S., Stetson, P., Trevisan, L.A. and Charney, D.S., 1998. Dose-related ethanol-like effects of the NMDA antagonist, ketamine, in recently detoxified alcoholics. Archives of General Psychiatry, 55(4), pp.354-360.
  2. Dixon, H. (2020). Ketamine death of public schoolgirl an ‘act of stupidity which destroyed family’. [online] Telegraph.co.uk. Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/10633700/Ketamine-death-of-public-schoolgirl-an-act-of-stupidity-which-destroyed-family.html [Accessed 21 Feb. 2020].
  3. Gahlinger, P.M., 2004. Club drugs: MDMA, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), Rohypnol, and ketamine. American family physician, 69(11), pp.2619-2626.
  4. Clinicaltrials.gov. (2020). The Effects of Ketamine on Respiratory Stimulation and Transpulmonary Pressures – Full Text View – ClinicalTrials.gov. [online] Available at: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01969227 [Accessed 21 Feb. 2020].
  5. Yek, J., Sundaram, P., Aydin, H., Kuo, T. and Ng, L.G., 2015. The clinical presentation and diagnosis of ketamine-associated urinary tract dysfunction in Singapore. Singapore medical journal, 56(12), p.660.
  6. Globaldrugsurvey.com. (2020). [online] Available at: https://www.globaldrugsurvey.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/The-High-Way-Code_Ketamine.pdf [Accessed 21 Feb. 2020].
  7. Schifano, F., Corkery, J., Oyefeso, A., Tonia, T. and Ghodse, A.H., 2008. Trapped in the” K-hole”: overview of deaths associated with ketamine misuse in the UK (1993-2006). Journal of clinical psychopharmacology, 28(1), pp.114-116.

Also Read:

Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 7, 2022

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