What Is A K-Hole? What it Feels Like and How You Can Get There

What Is A K-Hole? What it Feels Like and How You Can Get There

What is a k-hole?” If someone has interest in psychedelics, specifically ketamine, this is a question that has probably come up. After all, experiencing a K-hole can be either a terrifying or a life-changing experience.

The term became widespread among recreational users of ketamine to describe a state of extreme dissociation. In other words, a user loses their ability to speak or interact with the world around them.

In recent times, researchers are finding intrigue in the “ego-dissolution” element of the K-Hole. This is especially true as it pertains to the treatment of mental health disorders in a clinical setting.

Can k-holes have a therapeutic benefit? “Absolutely,” says Dr. Nathan Schmidt of Entheos Emotional Wellness in Lynnwood, Washington. “There are pros and cons to different doses. Sometimes less is more, sometimes more is more. The ‘k-hole’ can have mystical and healing qualities if approached intentionally with an appropriate set and setting.”

What Does a K-Hole Feel Like?

In large doses, ketamine’s dissociative effects can become too much to handle. This may lead to reducing one’s ability to find orientation or keep any sense of control.

“Our orienting, meaning-making ‘self’ or ‘ego’ recedes into the background and we instead are flooded with this internally generated stimulation. We lose a sense of who we are. Time and place cues no longer ground us in the present moment,” explains Peter Corbett, clinical director at The Center For Healing Journeys in Northampton, Massachusetts.

When a recreational ketamine user consumes a higher-than-normal dose, they can fall into a state where they’re unable to navigate their surroundings. This, effectively, may make them feel trapped inside a ketamine-induced hole.

Still the experience can be unpleasant enough to become traumatizing. “A k-hole can be frightening and induce strong feelings of powerlessness. This may be especially intense if your ability to speak is affected. When in a k-hole, it can be frustrating if someone is trying to communicate with you and you can’t respond,” Cohn says.

Encountering this state in a potentially chaotic recreational setting, without any comforting holding therapeutic parameters in place, can be a terrifying experience, adds Corbett.

“All anchors drift away and people often, from within their small remaining awareness of self, will conclude that they’ve died.”

How Do People Describe a K-Hole?

K-Holes are hard to explain. Terence McKenna said his first thought on ketamine was “complete amazement at a category of experience I had no idea existed–a slot on the bookshelf I did not realize was there,” he said. “It is not like mescaline, LSD, Psilocybin, DMT.”

In many ways, Ketamine is the opposite of LSD, psilocybin and DMT. Those classic psychedelics make the world brighter, livelier, more intense. Ketamine, in contrast, takes you away from the well-lit world. Nearly everyone talks about falling backward, hence the word “hole.” Past that, people use different words. Some use ominous, scary words: a sunken place, underground tunnels, shadowy rooms. Other people use more hopeful, happy words: a unity, a cosmic orgasm.

The ketamine researcher John Lilly created a chart for the different realms of ketamine, calling them “I,” “they,” and “we–the network of creation.”

In the end, a k-Hole is one of those psychedelic things that’s impossible to describe to those who haven’t been there. It’s like describing Virtual Reality to someone from the 1850’s. “You strap a thing on your face and then you’re somewhere else–you’re still actually here, but you feel like you’re elsewhere.” It is also one of those psychedelic things that can be boring to talk about for people who have been there. It’s like when Chidi in the TV show “The Good Place” falls into a different, between-worlds dimension, and comes back terrified.

Chidi (shaking): “I just saw a trillion different realities folding onto each other like thin sheets of metal forming a single blade.”

Archangel Michael (dismissively): “Yeah yeah, the Time-Knife, we’ve all seen it, let’s get back on track, bud.”

How Much Ketamine Does it Take to Cause a K-Hole?

There isn’t a precise dosage-to-effect chart because the effects of ketamine can vary significantly depending on a number of factors. These factors include the individual’s size, tolerance, overall health, and other variables.

That being said, here’s a generalized approximation of ketamine effects on different dosage of intramuscular injection:

Dose Effects
0.2-0.5 mg/kgTherapeutic doses for pain relief
.6-1.2 mg/kgPotential for K-hole experiences
>5 mg/kg
Anesthetic doses used in medical settings; profound pain relief

When snorting ketamine, a person would be likely to k-hole on 150 to 200 mg.

It’s often said that a person gets to a K-hole on a “large” dose of ketamine. In fact, a K-hole is the result of an in-between dose: not heavy enough for a doctor to do surgery, not light enough that you can still go to a party and DJ.

How To Get To a K-Hole

  • Comfort. Be in a calm place where you feel safe, like a clinic with a supportive staff.
  • Music. Trust your clinician to curate a playlist for a K-hole.
  • Darkness. Wear eye shades.
  • Let go. Allow yourself to “turn off your mind, relax and float downstream,” as The Beatles said. Dropping into a K-hole can feel like dying. As The Beatles said: “This is not dying.” Let yourself dissolve.

How Long Does a K-Hole Last?

The duration of a “K-hole” experience can vary based on several factors such as the dose taken, the method of administration, individual metabolism, and tolerance. Typically, the most intense effects of a “K-hole” experience are felt within the first 30 minutes to an hour after taking a high dose of ketamine. These effects can include profound disassociation, hallucinations, and alterations in the perception of time and space.

However, even after this initial period, the individual may continue to experience less intense but still significant effects, such as confusion, disorientation, or altered sensory perception, for an additional hour or more.

“The experience is relatively short, and usually resolves in about 30 minutes,” says Dr. Amanda Itzkoff, CEO of Curated Mental Health, a New York-based chain of ketamine clinics.

Is it Possible to Shorten the Length of a K-Hole?

Ketamine is metabolized by the body and eventually excreted. There isn’t a reliable way to speed up this process and shorten the duration of a K-hole. The body needs time to metabolize and eliminate the drug.

Consuming other substances in an attempt to counteract the effects of ketamine or speed up its metabolism is risky and can potentially lead to harmful drug interactions or increase the risk of overdose. It’s important to remember that a K-hole can be a very distressing and disorientating experience.

The safest course of action if someone is in this state is to ensure that they are in a safe environment and to seek medical attention if they appear to be in distress or if their physical health appears to be at risk.

Finally, it’s important to remember that ketamine is a potent drug that should be used only as prescribed by a healthcare provider. Recreational use carries significant risks, including the potential for addiction and serious health effects. Please seek professional help if you or someone you know is struggling with substance use.

What Is A K-Hole, Explained

Ketamine is a dissociative drug, originally used as an anesthetic. In recent years, it has become increasingly popular in the treatment of various mental health disorders.

Informal ketamine use became widespread during the ’80’s and ’90’s as a party drug, and, still today, this use continues. What attracts recreational users to ketamine is its ability to induce feelings of euphoria and “lightness”. This is why they often describe it as a pleasant way to spice up a night out.

A k-hole, according to Chris Cohn of Daytryp Health Psychedelic Wellness Centers, is what happens when you take a high enough dose of ketamine that “both your environmental awareness and bodily control become very impaired.” He goes on to say, “When someone has ‘fallen into a k-hole’, they are temporarily unable to interact with others or the world around them.”

What Causes a K-Hole?

Professor Celia Morgan is head of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy for addiction at Awakn Life Sciences, which is a psychedelics research and care delivery company based in the UK. She told us that while science hasn’t yet reached a conclusive theory of K-Holes, a recent animal study seemed to shed some light on the subject.

In the study, a group of scientists at University of Cambridge gave large doses of ketamine to sheep. The study then proceeded to measure the brain activity in the animals with an electroencephalography, or EEG.

“Whilst we have to be careful when talking about k-holes in sheep, this study found that, at higher doses of ketamine, there were short periods of time where there was no electrical activity in the cortex at all, of any frequency,” says Morgan.

The event persisted for up to several minutes, after which cortical activity resumed.

The study proposes that “this phenomenon is likely to explain the ‘k-hole’, a state of oblivion similar to a near death experience that is keenly sought by ketamine abusers.”

Morgan explains that, essentially, the higher thinking centers of the brain responsible for things like planning, decision making, language and our sense of self had shut down temporarily.

“Perhaps this might explain the unique perceptual state in the k-hole as these are experiences of disintegration and unity as the higher order cognitive functions responsible for our distinct sense of self have broken down.”

She adds: “It is common to think you have died at these higher doses and again perhaps it is to do with this really interesting neurological phenomenon.”

Can The Experience Be Used Therapeutically?

At large doses, “ketamine stimulates a wide array of chemically-induced neuronal activity, which reduces our ability to orient ourselves, to navigate, and have any sense of control,” says Corbett.

While this can be terrifying if experienced at a discotheque, it might have value under the right set and setting. Still, ketamine therapy experts have not settled on whether the K-Hole should be sought after or avoided in ketamine therapy.

Corbett says that potential negative experiences coming from this loss of ‘self’ can feel very positive and healing. Of course, the caveat is that it occurs in the clinical setting, under certain guidelines and supervision.

The experience of taking ketamine at a clinic can be vastly different to the one that recreational users experience. In quality ketamine clinics, patients are accompanied by a therapist throughout the entire process. They later integrate their ketamine experiences into positive knowledge for their personal wellbeing.

Corbett says his program helps patients “make sense of the ketamine experience by building an understanding of how this disruption in their ‘ordinary fixed mindset’ can give way to an open, expansive, less constrained sense of self.”

This method follows a paradigm which believes that the root cause of many mental disorders falls in the category of “neurorigidity”. Corbett explains it as the concretization of emotion, thought and behavior into overly entrenched neuronal patterns.

Some researchers believe that a K-Hole inducing dose of ketamine can help break these patterns. This can account for several mental ailments, such as:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Substance addiction

Yet, there’s no evidence that reaching a K-Hole is necessary for this progress to occur.

Curated’s Itzkoff says that, Ketamine in low doses “can allow patients to experience their own thoughts and feelings in ways that they may not have been able to access without the medication.” That alone is enough to provide for positive progress in the clinic.

Patients may have a hard time talking or thinking about certain experiences or feelings. But with low doses of Ketamine, they often find these experiences much easier to discuss, she adds.

Ketamine even at low doses already promotes the growth and neuroplasticity of neurons by the secretion of BDNF. Therefore, it may not be necessary to be in a “K-Hole” to experience the therapeutic benefits in mental health cases. However, when Ketamine is used for chronic pain, significantly high dosages are necessary for lasting results. There is also the potential psychological benefits of being dissociated from the “usual state of being” for those that are chronically depressed or in pain.

Natan Ponieman

View all posts by Natan Ponieman

Natan Ponieman is a writer, journalist and filmmaker covering psychedelics as they intersect with finance, culture, science, politics and spirituality. He's a Forbes Contributor and serves as Head of Psychedelics Content at Benzinga. His work has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine, Yahoo Finance, Benzinga, MSN Money, Leafly News, High Times and many others.

Dr. Jonathann Kuo

This post was medically approved by Dr. Jonathann Kuo

Jonathann Kuo, MD is a Board Certified Pain Medicine Specialist and Anesthesiologist. He is the founder of Hudson Medical Group (HMG), an innovative and cutting edge healthcare system that combines Medical, Wellness, and Mental Health in the treatment of Pain.

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