Ketamine – how it’s taken

How it’s taken

There are four main ways of taking a white powder drug into the body:

Sniffing (snorting)
A small amount of the powder is separated from the rest. Sometimes users do this by dipping the end of a key into the powder and using it to ‘spoon’ a small amount out. Sometimes users tip their powder onto a flat surface and use a bank card, or other flat object, to shape a little of the powder from the edge of the pile, into a thin line. The ‘key’ or line is sniffed into one nostril through a short straw. The straw can be a section of a pre-made straw, or a homemade straw made from rolled up paper. The powder is sniffed deep into the throat. It is absorbed through the membrane at the back of the throat and the oesophagus (the tube that leads from the throat down to the stomach). From there it is carried in the bloodstream to the brain.

When sniffed, the drug takes effect in 5 to 10 minutes, and lasts for 20 minutes to an hour

A small amount of the powder is placed into a cigarette paper and made into a small parcel by twisting the top of the paper together around the powder (into a ‘bomb’ shape), and swallowed. In the stomach, the paper is dissolved by digestive acids and the powder is released and is absorbed through the membrane of the stomach lining.

When swallowed, the effects take longer to start (up to an hour) and can last up to four hours


The end of the finger is moistened and dipped into the powder, and the small amount that sticks on the finger is scraped onto the back of the tongue. Some will be absorbed by the membrane of the tongue, and some will be swallowed and absorbed in the stomach.

A small amount of the powder is mixed with water and drawn into the syringe (barrel) of a hypodermic needle. The needle is used to inject the drug directly into the bloodstream via a vein. The risk of overdose with this method is very high.
When injected, the effects come on very quickly and are over quickly, but very intense while they last

All of these methods carry their own risks of harm to the user. See the Ketamine Harm Reduction page for information on how to limit the risks while using ketamine.