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Ketamine Detection Time — How Long Does Ketamine Stay In Your System?

Debra Wallace, MA.Ed, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS

Medically reviewed by

Debra Wallace, MA.Ed, LPCC-S, LICDC-CS

February 11, 2019

The amount of time ketamine remains detectable in the body depends on the method of testing and other personal factors. Excessive and frequent ketamine use may lead to physical dependence, which may require inpatient and residential addiction treatment.

Ketamine is a drug that has been used for therapeutic purposes as an anesthetic for humans and animals. It has also been used for recreational purposes as a ‘club drug’ with effects similar to MDMA, PCP, and LSD.

Several methods of drug testing are capable of detecting ketamine between 24 hours (oral fluid) and up to three months (hair) after use. The standard detection window varies depending on the type of test used, as well as other personal factors.

How Is Ketamine Metabolized?

The liver is the primary organ responsible for processing and removing drugs like ketamine from the body. Ketamine has a half-life of one to two hours, which means that the concentration of ketamine in the body will be halved within that time frame.

The liver metabolizes ketamine by first breaking it down into a metabolite known as norketamine. Norketamine is later metabolized to form the metabolite dehydronorketamine. Both of these substances leave the body through urination.

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Ketamine Drug Testing And Detection Times in Your System

Ketamine can be detected in a person’s system through tests that analyze urine, hair, blood, and saliva. The ketamine detection window for each test varies due to differences in effectiveness and sensitivity.

Types Of Drug Tests Used To Detect Ketamine

Urine Tests

Urine tests are one of the most common and least-invasive methods for drug detection. The standard detection time for ketamine in urine is up to three days. However, research shows that, in some cases, traces of ketamine may be found in the urine for up to 14 days.

Regular or excessive use of ketamine may cause detection times that exceed the standard two-day window. Different methods of urinalysis (the process of detecting drugs in urine) may also differ in how long they can detect the drug.

Saliva Tests

Ketamine can be detected in the saliva within 24 hours after use. The accuracy of ketamine detection in saliva can vary. Saliva tests that are purchased for in-home use, for instance, are likely to be less accurate than results analyzed in a laboratory setting.

Blood Tests

Ketamine is believed to remain detectable in the blood for up to 24 hours after last use. This small detection window, as well as the cost of blood tests, make it a less common method for ketamine drug testing.

Hair Tests

Hair tests, which involves analyzing hair follicles for traces of drugs, have the longest window of detection. With a hair test, ketamine use may be detected for up to three months following use.

Factors That Influence Ketamine Detection Time

The detection time for ketamine can vary depending on several personal factors. These factors can impact how quickly your body is able to metabolize (break down) the drug and remove it from your system.

The following are factors that can influence how long ketamine is detectable in the body:

  • dose
  • age
  • health
  • ketamine abuse


The amount of ketamine taken can impact how long it is detectable in your system. Taking a single dose can result in a urine detection time of two to three days. Taking multiple doses, however, can extend that window and result in a detection time of up to two weeks.

Taking higher or lower doses of the drug can also impact detection time.


Aging is known to cause a slowing in human metabolism. This can lengthen the time it takes for the body to fully process drugs. Thus, people of older age may have longer detection times than those who are young with a faster metabolism.


Health, and the function of vital organs in the body, can also affect drug metabolism. People with health problems, including liver and kidney disease, may experience longer detection times.

Ketamine Abuse

Standard detection times for ketamine may not apply for frequent or chronic, excessive use of ketamine. Frequent and long-term abuse of ketamine can increase the time it takes for your body to completely eliminate the drug from your system.

Effects Of Ketamine Abuse On The Brain

Ketamine can have effects on the brain when taken in both low and high doses. As a hallucinogen, ketamine can cause a distortion of perception, including distorted sound and sight. This effect can cause feelings of detachment from the person’s body and their surroundings.

When taken in low doses, ketamine can have effects on the brain that include:

  • decreased attention
  • decreased learning ability
  • a rapid “high”
  • impaired memory

In higher doses, ketamine can cause a dreamlike state where a person may experience hallucinations, deliriousness, and amnesia. Very high doses of ketamine may also cause a person to completely dissociate from reality or lose consciousness.

Effects Of Ketamine On The Body

Some of the effects ketamine can have impact body function and movement. Taking low doses of ketamine can cause effects of intoxication that include decreased coordination and increased heart rate.

High doses of ketamine can pose potential harm to the body, and have effects that include:

  • nausea
  • breathing problems
  • seizures
  • high blood pressure

Taking ketamine alongside other drugs can also increase the risk of an overdose. It is less likely for a person to overdose when taking ketamine alone. However, ketamine’s effects on perception can increase the risk for death by hypothermia, vehicular crashes, and drowning.

Can You Become Addicted To Ketamine?

There has been limited research on the addiction potential of ketamine and other ‘club drugs’ such as MDMA and PCP.

However, there is research to suggest that people can develop a tolerance to ketamine with regular use. Those who develop a tolerance may experience drug cravings and other symptoms that resemble those seen with cocaine dependence. Ketamine can also cause a rapid “high” when snorted, which can increase the risk of someone abusing the drug.

There have also been reports of people binging on ketamine, or taking multiple doses within a short time-frame. Binging on ketamine can be dangerous, and can increase the risk of experiencing high blood pressure, overdose, and fatal respiratory problems.

Treatment For Ketamine Abuse And Addiction

Ketamine can have short and long-term effects on a person’s health, including a significant impact on brain function. Those who have become addicted to or abuse ketamine will need to undergo inpatient detox to safely withdraw from the drug.

Following detox, a person may need to enter a residential rehab program to receive treatment for drug addiction. Treatment for ketamine addiction may include certain behavioral therapies, which can be effective for those struggling with substance abuse.

To learn more about ketamine abuse or how to help a loved one with ketamine addiction, contact one of our specialists today.

National Institute on Drug Abuse - Drug Facts: Club Drugs

National Institute on Drug Abuse - DrugFacts: Hallucinogens

National Institutes of Health: U.S. National Library of Medicine - Urinary excretion rates of ketamine and norketamine following therapeutic ketamine administration: method and detection window considerations

National Institutes of Health: U.S. National Library of Medicine - Roadside detection of impairment under the influence of ketamine--evaluation of ketamine impairment symptoms with reference to its concentration in oral fluid and urine

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