Club Drug 'Special K' Can Lead to Ongoing Bladder Problems in Its Users

Heavy use of the veterinary anesthetic turned recreational drug could have serious consequences. 

The Doctor Will See You Now
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People who use the club drug Special K or Vitamin K (ketamine) might be at higher risk for serious bladder problems in the future. In most cases, the symptoms go away after the drug is stopped, but not always.

Ketamine also leads to problems with thinking, memory, and concentration.

Ketamine, which is used as an anesthetic in veterinary medicine, gives its users hallucinations, an "out of body" feeling, and feelings of euphoria or a dream-like state. It is swallowed, injected, or snorted. Ketamine also leads to problems with thinking, memory, and concentration.

A new study followed over 1,200 people who had used ketamine in the last year. Of the users, 17 percent were addicted to it, and 26 percent of users had experienced urinary problems, including pain in the lower abdomen, burning or stinging during urination, bloody urine, and incontinence (urine leakage).

The severity of urinary symptoms was connected to how often and the size of the dose of ketamine the participants used.

Half the participants reported that their symptoms improved after they stopped using the drug. A small minority (4%) said they continued to have symptoms after they ceased use.

Ketamine is known to cause irritation and inflammation of the mucous membranes, as well as thickening of the bladder wall and kidney problems. But the exact mechanisms by which ketamine actually causes these changes in the urinary tract are not well understood.

The authors urge doctors and the public to be aware of the serious problems that can occur with prolonged ketamine use, in particular to "avoid progression to severe and irreversible urological pathologies." In other words, the damage that is occurring to users' urinary tracts could be permanent after a certain amount of use. If you or a loved one is using ketamine (or any other drug), getting help to stop it as early as possible is critical. For help with drug abuse, please visit the SAMHSA.gov website.

The study was carried out by a team at the Bristol Urological Institute in Bristol, UK, and published in the journal BJU International.


This article originally appeared on TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com, an Atlantic partner site.

Presented by

Alice G. Walton, PhD, is a health journalist and an editor at The Doctor Will See You Now.

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