Urinary Dysfunction Risk: Ketamine Users Cautioned of Little-Known Side Effect


Experts have sounded the alarm over a little-known adverse effect of the student-favorite drug ketamine. Ketamine, which is sold for as little as £3 per dose and is also used as an equine tranquilizer, can inflame the bladder and render users unable to urinate. Its effects can resemble those of cystitis, a painful UTI. They estimate that up to a quarter of patients who use ketamine recreationally experience this adverse effect. Their warning comes after a British man was diagnosed with cystitis associated with ketamine.

Unnamed physicians at the Countess of Chester Hospital in Cheshire reported in the American Journal of Medical Case Reports that an unidentified man complained to his general practitioner (GP) of recurrent urinary tract infections (UTI) and dyspepsia. He admitted he had previously used ketamine, but did not specify for how long. Blood tests and ultrasound imaging revealed that his kidney function and appearance were ‘normal’. However, despite numerous attempts to drink fluid in the ultrasound department, he was unable to fill his bladder.  

According to the NHS, a healthy adult’s bladder can contain approximately 500ml, or just under a pint, of urine. However, the man could only retain 45ml and complained of a’severe urgency to urinate, according to medical personnel. Doctors also observed that the bladder had an abnormal shape and was three times thicker than usual. After being referred to the urology team for additional testing, a cystoscopy — a procedure that uses a thin camera to look inside the bladder — revealed that his bladder could only retain 100ml. CT scans also revealed that he had bilateral hydronephrosis, a condition in which the kidneys swell because urine cannot escape into the bladder. 

They advised the unknown man to discontinue his ketamine use. A subsequent ultrasound revealed that his kidneys were no longer enlarged. As the availability and use of illicit substances increase, bladder inflammation is becoming more prevalent, according to doctors. If left untreated, the infection can cause ‘irreversible’ renal damage, the doctors warned.

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Early Diagnosis and Treatment as Ketamine’s Resurface in Party Scene

Photo by: Alamy via Stock Photo

The team stated that early diagnosis, cessation of ketamine use, and treatment of any complications are therefore crucial. Concerns were expressed about side effects, such as hallucinations and, in rare cases, seizures, and the drug was placed on Schedule III in the 2000s, causing its popularity to decline. Surveys indicate that the substance is now returning to the party scene in small amounts. However, physicians have previously warned juvenile ketamine users about the risk of ketamine-associated cystitis, also known as K bladder.

In some cases, the only treatment for K bladder is surgery or even bladder excision. Some users describe a terrifying phenomenon known as a ‘K-hole’ in which the psyche and body appear to be separated and the ability to move is lost. One dose can be fatal, particularly when combined with other substances, such as alcohol. However, a growing number of studies indicate that the drug may have a role in the treatment of mental health issues.

In a study published in May by American researchers, it was determined that ketamine could alleviate the most severe form of depression. 55% of those who were administered ketamine intravenously reported that their symptoms improved over the next six months. The study adds to the growing body of evidence that ketamine, along with other psychedelics, may be an effective treatment for depression, reshaping brain connections and stimulating the formation of new ones.

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Source: Daily Mail

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