It was well past the hour for getting trashed, but James still couldn’t switch off his work-brain. The 29-year-old had come straight to the party from the office, and despite the array of Friday-night delights his friends thrust at him — cheap beer, crumbly coke, a hit of a rare mango Juul pod — his mind was still stuck at his job. Then his friend — the kind of friend who carries a coke-spoon on her like it’s an EpiPen — offered him a bump of Where to buy ketamine.
“Nothing that I’d heard about ketamine sounded appealing to me,” recalls James, who had tried it before in tiny doses, just enough to feel a bit loopy and drowsy. “But something in my mindset switched that night, and I was just like: fuck it, I’ll just go wild and plunge full in, and I took the biggest bump of K I’d ever taken.”
Technically speaking, ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic, meaning that it numbs your body and makes you feel apart from your environment — like you’re watching your own life happen instead of living it. But that doesn’t begin to capture the weirdness of what it feels like to get high on K. As one friend put it to me: “It’s like walking from your kitchen to your living room, and from your living room to your kitchen, and it’s uphill both ways, but you’ve never had so much fun walking up a hill.” It’s true that K can make both you and the world feel tilted — as if you’re walking on an underwater treadmill pitched at a 45-degree incline. Thought-trains jump their tracks, anxieties float off like helium balloons, and everything becomes silly and warped, like filming a movie through a camera with a fish-eye lens. At least, that’s one possible outcome.
Ketamine has a triple-threat of sedative, stimulating, and psychedelic effects, which vary depending on how much you do and what other substances you combine it with. “It’s just a very strange drug — the strangest drug,” Dr. Joseph Palamar, an NYU professor and expert in recreational substances told me recently. It’s also extremely potent; the difference between a goofy buzz and total body paralysis could be as little as one or two baggie-dips. If every generation of partiers gets the drug that speaks to them — the psychedelic ’60s, the coke-and-disco-fueled ’70s, and the MDMA-hued early aughts — then perhaps the end of the decade marks the dawn of the dissociation generation.
And these days, who really wants to spend their free time doing a bunch of uppers and talking about the news?
Since that night a few months ago, James has joined a growing number of young professional New Yorkers who are trading their white baggies of coke for white baggies of ketamine, or simply mixing them both together (he and his friends call this mixture “revolutionary lines,” while others refer to them as Calvin Klein lines, so named for the combo of C and K). While the sideways-ness of K may not seem like the most intuitive replacement for the pure up of cocaine, both substances can be defibrillators for parties on life-support; dosed right, K has a stimulating effect that can keep an after-party going into the wee hours of the morning. Like coke — and unlike MDMA or psychedelics — the effects of snorting ketamine subside in less time than it takes to watch your average Netflix special, and rarely cause a hangover if consumed in moderation. (One New York drug dealer sells a gram for about half the price of coke, and it lacks cocaine’s stigma as a source of cartel violence and environmental destruction). Most importantly, instead of fueling anxiety and heated close-talk, it makes you feel like you’re giving your brain a bath in a pool of warm macaroni. “Coke brings this intensity to everything,” says James. “K does the opposite — it provides this looseness, and the feeling that things really aren’t significant.” And these days, who really wants to spend their free time doing a bunch of uppers and talking about the news?