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Last updated : May 1, 2019
Dissociatives (also referred to as dissociative anaesthetics) are a class of psychedelic drug. This class of drug is characterised by distorted sensory perceptions and feelings of disconnection or detachment from the environment and self.1 The word dissociative means detached from reality.
Dissociatives are usually ingested via snorting, oral, intramuscular injection or inhaled. The individual effects of each dissociative can vary greatly between each person using them.
It’s important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Dissociatives affect everyone differently, based on:
The individual effects and toxicity of each dissociative can vary greatly between each person using them.
Many dissociatives have general depressant effects including drowsiness, slow ineffective breathing, pain relief, anesthesia, and loss of muscle control, as well as cognitive and memory impairment. Amnesia is an often-reported side effect. Some dissociatives affect dopamine release and the opioid systems of the body and may produce euphoria.6
The effects of dissociatives can vary but generally speaking they are short acting, depending on the specific type of dissociative. The following may be experienced during this time:
Large regular doses of ketamine have been found to cause ‘ketamine bladder syndrome’ a painful condition that requires ongoing treatment. Symptoms include difficulty holding urine and incontinence, which can cause ulceration in the bladder. It is essential that any person suffering from ketamine bladder syndrome cease using the drug and see a health professional.7,8
The inhalation of nitrous oxide commonly called nangs is considered to be relatively harmless, but regular long term use can produce a deficiency of vitamin B12 which may cause nerve damage and some types of anaemia.7
There is no safe level of drug use
Use of any drug always carries some risk – even medications can produce unwanted side effects
Use of dissociatives is likely to be more dangerous when:
Nausea can happen on many dissociatives, usually directly after dosing – usually only if there are stomach contents. It is best to not eat for 3-4 hours before dosing.9
There is evidence to suggest that people who use dissociatives can develop dependence and tolerance to them. Tolerance meaning people need to take larger amounts to get the same effect.
Dependence on dissociatives can be psychological, physical, or both. People who are dependent on dissociatives may find that using them becomes far more important than other activities in their life. People may crave the drug and find it very difficult to stop using it. People who are psychologically dependent on dissociatives may find they feel an urge to use it when they are in specific surroundings or socialising with friends. Physical dependence occurs when a person’s body adapts to the dissociatives and gets used to functioning with the drugs present.10