In 2015, Lamar Odom was the most googled person in the world. Not for his basketball skills, but for his personal life — especially his struggle with addiction, which almost led to his death. On a recent episode of People’s Party with Talib Kweli, he told host Kweli that at his lowest point — the night he nearly died in a Nevada brothel — he suffered from 12 strokes and six heart attacks.
Kweli and Odom discussed mental health and the stigmas around those discussions for black men, what it was like for Odom to navigate his struggles with addiction in the public eye, and how he turned to ketamine to help manage his mental health.
“It can help with addiction, any falsehoods you have that’s holding you back in life,” Odom explained. This reference to ketamine is sure to catch the ears of listeners. For most people, ketamine has certain connotations as an illicit club drug. So how is ketamine being used as a tool to help with depression and mental health?
We break it down.
What is ketamine?
Officially speaking, according to the National Library of Medicine, ketamine is a “general anesthetic used largely for short term diagnostic and surgical procedures, but which has been limited in use because of its psychological side effects including vivid hallucinations, agitation, and confusion.” You’d most commonly see it used at veterinary clinics, specifically for cats, due to its side effects.
But for anyone who grew up with D.A.R.E. or Just Say No, ketamine is best known as Special K — an illicit club drug that also doubles as a date rape drug thanks to its quick-acting effects. When used recreationally, ketamine “distorts perceptions of sight and sound and makes the user feel disconnected and not in control.” Its hallucinatory effects are relatively quick-lasting compared to, say, acid or mushrooms.