While many other drugs make the news far more often, ketamine is still a popular one to use and abuse in the United States. Because ketamine has a strong medical acceptance and is widely used by doctors and surgeons, the government oversight of the drug is substantially lighter than for other drugs like cocaine or heroin.
Nevertheless, you can face significant legal troubles if you are arrested with ketamine that you should not have in your possession, especially if you are found with large amounts of the drug. These cases frequently lead to criminal charges for possession, trafficking, or possession with an intent to sell. Having a skilled drug defense attorney, like William S. Kroger, on your side if you have been arrested and charged in the state of California can make a big difference in the outcome of your case.
What is Ketamine?
Ketamine is a drug that causes sedation, memory loss, and pain relief, making it perfect for medical use as an anesthetic. Typically sold in liquid form, ketamine usually comes in vials under the brand name Ketalar. However, when used recreationally, it can also come in a coarse white powder.
First discovered in 1962, ketamine was first used on human beings in 1964 before being approved for medical use in the U.S. in 1970. Its effectiveness as a form of anesthesia, together with its inexpensive production, made it a drug of choice for medical teams in the army during the Vietnam War. Since then, the World Health Organization has recognized ketamine as one of the essential medicines for a functioning health system.
However, recreational use of the drug took off very soon afterward, as the strong hallucinations and dissociative state that the drug produces made it a popular party drug. This led the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to add ketamine to the list of substances in the Controlled Substances Act, under Schedule III.
Effects of Ketamine
Many of the effects that ketamine has on the human body and mind can be used by the medical community to help people overcome serious medical conditions. However, some of these same effects are what recreational users want to experience, as well.
The primary use of ketamine is as an anesthetic – especially by veterinarians – because ketamine does six things very well:
- It produces a deep sedative state, one that is described as “trance-like,” very quickly after administration.
- It reduces pain.
- It creates a period of memory loss.
- It allows general bodily functions – including heart function and breathing – to continue relatively uninhibited during sedation.
- It does not drastically reduce blood pressure during sedation, unlike other anesthetics.
- It is easy to administer and does not require special equipment or even electricity to use.
As an anesthetic, ketamine is able to maintain regular bodily functioning that sets it apart from other drugs. Many other anesthetics reduce blood flow, drastically reduce blood pressure, and can sedate muscles to such an extent that breathing cannot be done without artificial help.
In even lower doses, ketamine can be used as a pain management drug on par with some opioids. Particularly as the devastating addictiveness of opioids becomes known, ketamine's pain management abilities can prove useful in the medical world. Researchers are even exploring the use of ketamine as an antidepressant for humans.
However, not all of the effects of ketamine are medically useful. When patients emerge from sedation after a medical procedure, they are known to experience significant hallucinations as a side effect.
This side effect is exactly why ketamine appeals to recreational users, who refer to the drug as “Special K” or a variety of similar names. Taken at doses higher than normally used in the medical field, ketamine is a powerful hallucinogen. Recreational users take ketamine for the dissociative feelings that it produces, alienating users from their own bodies and producing the “out of body” experiences that they are looking for. These feelings of dissociation with the world can become quite extreme under ketamine, leading users to feel trapped inside their body and unable to communicate with others or move, at all.
Much of ketamine's popularity comes from its ease and simplicity of use: The effects of ketamine begin mere minutes after injection and continue for only an hour, providing users some control over their surroundings while the drug takes effect.
Aftereffects of steep doses can be strong and include confusion and amnesia. Even modest doses leave users with a variety of aftereffects, including:
- Muscle tremors
- A decrease in motor function
- High blood pressure.
Additionally, because ketamine produces a dissociative state that makes people unaware of their surroundings, unsupervised use can lead to accidental injuries. There are numerous cases of users – particularly young users – dying in freak accidents while high on ketamine: The author D. M. Turner died after injecting ketamine while in a bathtub, apparently too incapacitated to prevent it.
Ketamine can be addicting, as well. While repeatedly using the drug can create a dependence that requires more and more of the drug to get the same kinds of effects as before, quitting can lead to depression withdrawal symptoms that include:
- Tremors and shaking
- Feelings of anxiety and depression
- Heart palpitations.
How is Ketamine Used?
Ketamine is usually used in its liquid form, with users injecting the drug into one of their muscles using a needle and syringe. This brings the drug into the nervous system very quickly, with effects being felt within 10 minutes and lasting for around an hour.
However, ketamine can also be ingested orally, smoked, snorted, or dissolved into drinks. Each of these methods requires it to be cooked into a white powder before administered. Ketamine pills can be bought for oral use, though these typically create nausea and vomiting, making them less popular than other methods of administration.
A particular problem with ketamine is how it interacts with alcohol – something that happens commonly, given ketamine's popularity in the clubbing scene. When mixed with alcohol, ketamine's sedative properties increase dramatically. The results can be life-threatening, with many of the ketamine-related deaths also involving alcohol.
Ketamine is a California Controlled Substance
Because of its increasing popularity as a recreational drug, the DEA added ketamine to the listing of drugs in the Controlled Substances Act. However, because of ketamine's medical benefits, it is only a Schedule III drug – a label reserved for substances that are medically important, but that can be abused and lead to addiction. This means you need to have a prescription for ketamine in order to possess the drug. Not having a prescription can lead to drug charges for possession, possession with an intent to sell, or trafficking.
Possession of Ketamine in Los Angeles County
Without a prescription, it is illegal to possess ketamine in the state of California. California Health and Safety Code 11377 prohibits having all non-narcotic Schedule III drugs – including ketamine. You can violate HS 11377 by possessing ketamine without a prescription, by possessing someone else's prescribed ketamine, or by possessing more ketamine than allowed under your prescription.
A conviction of ketamine possession under HS 11377 is a misdemeanor and comes with a jail sentence of up to six months, as well as a fine of up to $1,000.
However, because these charges are for your personal use of the drug, you can be eligible for probation in a drug diversion program. Whether this opportunity is aligned with your interests, though, often takes an attorney's advice and help.
Possession of High Quantities of Ketamine in L.A. County
When you are arrested with a substantial amount of ketamine, though, law enforcement no longer presumes that you were merely carrying the drug for your own personal use. Instead, they presume that you intended on selling it to someone else. This is prohibited by California Health and Safety Code 11379.2 and comes with penalties that are far heavier than for just possession of ketamine.
Typically, criminal charges for possession of ketamine with an intent to sell it are misdemeanors that come with up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. However, if you have an eligible criminal background, the charge becomes a felony offense that comes with up to three years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Additionally, because these arrests do not revolve around your personal use of the drug, drug diversion is not an option.
California Drug Defense Lawyer William S. Kroger
If you have been accused of violating California's drug laws in Los Angeles, you need a skilled drug defense attorney. If you try to navigate the waters on your own, you can quickly find yourself in deeper legal trouble than you were, at first. When it comes to charges for ketamine – whether for simple possession or for possession with an intent to sell – lawyering up can be the best decision you make.
Reach out to the Los Angeles law office of drug defense attorney William S. Kroger by calling him at (323) 655-5700 or by contacting him online. With his help, you can protect your rights and ensure that your future is not taken away from you by this groundless charge.