Ketamine abusers referring to Emergency Departments in Northern Italy: a cross- sectional study



Introduction. Ketamine is an essential medicine used as an anesthetic in low and
middle-income countries and in veterinary medicine. Recreational use is widespread
throughout the world, especially owing to its lower price compared to other substances.
In Western countries its use has been mainly linked to subpopulations of young people
who use drugs recreationally. Ketamine misuse is associated with amnesia, dependence,
dissociation, lower urinary tract dysfunction and poor impulse control. Regular ketamine
use is associated with abdominal pains.
Aims. The aims of this study are to analyze characteristics and main symptoms of ketamine
abusers attending emergency departments (EDs) in the metropolitan area of Bologna,
Emilia-Romagna Region, northern Italy.
Methods. We identified 74 records of ketamine-related visits: 30% female; 22% nonnatives;
mean age 25.6 years. Forty-two percent reported ketamine use alone, 46% reported
the use of other illegal substance (cocaine 19%, heroin 18%), 26% alcohol misuse.
Results. The most common reported symptoms were neurological (soporous state 18%,
agitation 14%, confusion 7%, panic attacks 7%, mydriasis 7%, tremors 7%), gastro-intestinal
(abdominal pain 15%, vomiting 11%), urological (6.8%) and cardiac (palpitations
5%, chest pain 5%). Complications secondary to falls and cuts (7%) were the most
frequent trauma complications. We highlight a significant number of visits regarding
suicide attempts (10%) and overdose (4%).
Conclusions. The results highlight a particular population of problematic ketamine users
identified using the hospital’s ICT system. In particular, poly-drug users who consume
ketamine in combination with heroin or cocaine presenting to the ED represent
a specific target for targeted prevention projects on non-lethal overdoses and suicide

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Raimondo Maria Pavarin - Epidemiological Monitoring Center on Addiction, Mental Health DSM-DP, Azienda USL Bologna, Italy

Silvia Marani

Elsa Turino

How to Cite
Pavarin, R. M., Marani, S., & Turino, E. (2019). Ketamine abusers referring to Emergency Departments in Northern Italy: a cross- sectional study. Annali dell’Istituto Superiore Di Sanità, 55(4), 338–344. Retrieved from
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