Ketamine Substitute Methoxetamine Gains in Popularity

Ketamine Substitute Methoxetamine Gains in Popularity

Methoxetamine is the common abbreviation for a mind-altering anesthetic that produces effects similar to those produced by the “club drugketamine. This relatively unknown, partially legal drug is promoted in some circles as a safer alternative to ketamine, a substance known for its ability to produce permanent bladder damage. Current evidence indicates that methoxetamine use may be on the rise in the U.S. In a study published in October 2014 in the Journal of Substance Use, a team of Australian and British researchers assessed the popularity of methoxetamine in America and in the United Kingdom. These researchers also explored the drug’s ability to produce bladder damage in its users. 


Ketamine was developed as an anesthetic suitable for both animals and humans. It produces its sensation-numbing treatment benefits by triggering dissociation, a mental state in which a person feels separated from his or her surroundings or sense of self. In addition, ketamine produces auditory (sound-based) and visual hallucinations. Unlike the hallucinations associated with the illegal/illicit substances phencyclidine (PCP) and LSD, which last for several hours, the hallucinations associated with ketamine last for only about half an hour to an hour. A federal law called the Controlled Substances Act limits the legal availability of the anesthetic in America. However, manufacturers in Mexico and other countries commonly maintain supply lines for illicit/illegal U.S. distribution. Slang terms for ketamine, which comes in liquid and powder form, include Special K, K, Vitamin K, Black Hole and Super Acid. The anesthetic is known as a “date rape” drug or club drug because people who knowingly or unknowingly consume it in substantial amounts can develop amnesia, as well as a highly disconnected, unguarded mental state.

Ketamine is known for its potential to trigger urinary tract and bladder problems in people who use the drug heavily and/or repeatedly over time. In the past, some researchers believed that this characteristic might be related to impurities or additives introduced into ketamine production by drug manufacturers. However, according to the results of a study published in 2011 in the journal BJU International, repeated exposure to the drug may actually lead directly to damage and death in the cells that form the inside of the human bladder. Potential consequences of ketamine consumption include loss of bladder control, a decrease in bladder size, damage to the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder and kidney damage.


Methoxetamine, also known as MXE, is a close relative of ketamine. In fact, only a detailed chemical analysis clearly reveals the differences between the substances. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration first encountered samples of methoxetamine in powder form in 2011 as part of a drug seizure. The drug, apparently developed as a ketamine alternative, supposedly does not produce the severe bladder and kidney problems associated with heavy ketamine use. Current U.S. federal law does not classify methoxetamine as a controlled substance.

Popularity in the U.S.

In the study published in the Journal of Substance Use, researchers from the University of Melbourne and three British institutions used anonymous, Web-based surveys conducted in 2011 and 2012 to estimate the popularity of methoxetamine in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom. The 2011 survey gathered data from 11,200 participants, while the 2012 survey gathered data from 22,289 participants. Measurements of popularity included frequency of use of the drug in the month before survey enrollment, frequency of use of the drug in the year before survey enrollment and frequency of lifetime use of the drug. The researchers concluded that the popularity of methoxetamine rose in America between the end of 2011 and the end of 2012; they also concluded that the popularity of the drug declined in the U.K. over the same span of time.

The data used to determine the popularity of methoxetamine was also used to estimate how many people have developed significant bladder symptoms related to their drug intake. More than one out of five (23 percent) of the 2012 survey enrollees who used the drug reported experiencing notable bladder difficulties. The researchers concluded that each individual’s likelihood of developing such difficulties was apparently linked to how much methoxetamine he or she consumed in the month prior to the start of the survey. However, they also concluded that the additional use of ketamine may have acted as a cause of bladder problems in at least some of the methoxetamine users.

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