Posted: 05 March 2012

Ketamine & the bladder- by Dr. Angela Cottrell

It has only been apparent in recent years that the recreational use of ketamine can lead to problems with the urinary tract. Reports first emerged in 2007 from Canada and Hong Kong that the use of ketamine can lead to symptoms such as needing to pass urine frequently, passing blood, burning when passing urine, incontinence and bladder pain.

Up to a quarter of users may experience such problems and it appears that this is related to both the quantity used and the duration that it is taken for.

These symptoms are not to be taken lightly. Symptoms may have a big impact on the quality of life. When extreme, there are reports of needing to pass urine up to 20 times an hour, incontinence and severe pain. Some users have such severe problems that they may even develop kidney failure. Others may need a catheter (tube into the bladder) and some have needed their bladders removed: a major operation that is irreversible.

Bladder problems may mimic common conditions such as urine infections. It may be difficult to diagnose ketamine associated bladder problems, partly because this is such a new condition and GP’s may not have seen it before but also because suffers may not be forthcoming with information about their ketamine use even though they may be well aware themselves that their problems are related.

On a positive note however, problems may improve if ketamine use is stopped and may even be reversible. A team approach may be required to address pain, ketamine use and urinary symptoms to achieve an improvement. As ketamine related bladder problems are such a new entity, further work is needed to determine how ketamine affects the bladder and what the long term health effects are on the body.

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