Is there an interaction with ketamine and a lack of sleep?

Ketamine has long been (and still is) used as an anesthetic in humans and animals. In the nightlife we ​​see that ketamine has become more popular in recent years. In 2017, approximately 20% of Unity booth visitors indicated that they had used ketamine in the last month (Unity Annual Report, 2017). Ketamine seems to be used mainly at the end of the night. As a result, ketamine is often used when there is sleep deprivation. Is there a trade-off between ketamine and sleep deprivation? In this article we try to answer that question.

Ketamine and memory

Ketamine is an NMDA receptor antagonist and blocks the response of glutamate, which normally binds to an NMDA receptor. Research shows that changes around NMDA receptors can contribute to, among other things, memory loss due to sleep deprivation.

While this isn’t direct evidence, it could be that ketamine and the effects of sleep deprivation interact in some way. For example, the NMDA receptor also plays an important role in storing memories. Since ketamine acts on this, ketamine also affects memory, just like sleep deprivation does.

The combination of sleep deprivation and ketamine will therefore logically ensure that you remember less of your night out.

Paranoid thoughts and hallucinations

The combination of ketamine and sleep deprivation may also increase the risk of paranoid thoughts and (anxious) hallucinations. Research shows that ketamine causes an increase in psychotic symptoms in healthy subjects. In one of these studies, subjects experienced visual hallucinations and the paranoid thought of being in a movie after taking ketamine. Many studies also show that lack of sleep also increases the risk of paranoia and hallucinations.

When ketamine is used and there is sleep deprivation, the risk of paranoid thoughts and hallucinations is therefore higher.

Falling and tripping

One of the main risks of ketamine is falling and tripping because we have more difficulty coordinating movements. In addition, we also know that sleep deprivation causes a decrease in psychomotor performance. This means that after sleep deprivation we can control our body less well. When ketamine is used in times of sleep deprivation, it seems likely that the risk of injury from falling or tripping increases.

Since ketamine as a recreational drug is still fairly new, little scientific research has been done in this context. So there is no scientific evidence that ketamine and sleep deprivation influence each other.

However, ketamine and sleep deprivation have a number of overlapping negative effects. When there is a combination of ketamine use and sleep deprivation, this will logically increase the risks of these consequences. Because ketamine is often used at the end of the evening, and therefore in combination with sleep deprivation, this is certainly something to consider.

By: Lizet Wilken

In collaboration with: Menno Trienekens, Raoul Koning and Sarsani Schenk.


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