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New research sheds light on recreational drug’s impact on urologic health

San Francisco, CA, May 30, 2010–Ketamine, a popular recreational drug whose abuse by young people, is associated with smaller bladder capacity, pelvic pain, and voiding frequency and urgency, according to new research presented at the 105th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American Urological Association (AUA). Researchers from Hong Kong will share data on ketamine’s impact on urologic function from a community survey of teenagers with a history of using the drug. The study data will be presented to the media during a special press conference on Sunday, May 30 at 11:30 a.m. PDT.

Researchers surveyed 66 teens and young adults, aged 13 to 25, through a series of clinic sessions.  More than 97 percent had a history of ketamine abuse. The team administered a self-assessment survey examining pelvic pain, urgency and frequency, and conducted kidney ultrasound, post-void bladder scans and uroflowmetry studies on the patients. Subjects using ketamine more than five times per week reported detrimental effects on the bladder.  Patients also self-reported the use of nimetazepam (51 percent), cocaine (45.7 percent) and cannabis (39.4 percent).

Patients who had abused ketamine for more than 24 months had increased pelvic pain, urgency and frequency (6.16 vs. 3.92), and those who had used the drug more than five times per week had a markedly decreased bladder capacity (187.7 ml vs. 337 m.) compared to those who had a lower frequency of using the drug. Symptom scores improved in patients who ceased using the drug, and continued to improve over time. Those who had abstained for a full year had improved bladder capacity. 

“Recreational drug use is an ongoing problem, not just in the United States, but around the world,” said Tomas L. Griebling, MD, MPH, a spokesman for the AUA. “The good news from this study is that ketamine users can improve their urologic symptoms by quitting.”

Ketamine is an anesthetic (NMDA receptor antagonist) that at high levels can bind to opioid μ receptors and sigma receptors. As a recreational drug, ketamine induces a state of dissociation, similar to the effects produced by phencyclidine (PCP).  Ketamine is known to cause amnesia, delirium, impaired motor function, high blood pressure and respiratory problems.

NOTE TO REPORTERS: Experts are available to discuss this study outside normal briefing times. To arrange an interview with an expert, please contact the AUA Communications Office at the number above or e-mail 

About the American Urological Association: Founded in 1902 and headquartered near Baltimore, Maryland, the American Urological Association is the pre-eminent professional organization for urologists, with more than 16,000 members throughout the world. An educational nonprofit organization, the AUA pursues its mission of fostering the highest standards of urologic care by carrying out a wide variety of programs for members and their patients.

Wendy Isett, AUA