June 22, 2005 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever been under anesthesia? Doctors are being warned about a bizarre but threatening phenomenon - that patients under anesthesia can experience vivid sexual dreams they believe are real.
posted by robbyrobs (69 comments total)
Would there be anything wrong with videotaping surgeries to show that nothing out of the ordinary happened?
posted by bdk3clash at 2:30 PM on June 22, 2005

Eh, the best way to convince the patients, is to give them a single dose to try at home.
posted by Gyan at 2:35 PM on June 22, 2005

When I had digestive surgery in 2003 I didn't experience anything like this. I must have had the wrong anesthesia.
posted by Servo5678 at 2:38 PM on June 22, 2005

I've had light anesthesia when getting cavities filled and nothing like that's ever happened to me. I must be going to the wrong dentist.
posted by SisterHavana at 2:44 PM on June 22, 2005

Nope, not any vivid dreams here and I've been put under several times for surgery. I'm having eye surgery later on today but I'm pretty sure I won't be put under for it.

This reminds me of the investigation into "sudden acceleration incidents" in cars where people stepped on the gas when they thought they were stepping on the brake. Not sure why but it does.

Hey, look! Something shiny outside my window!
posted by fenriq at 2:49 PM on June 22, 2005

Although it is almost impossible to verify how often sexual hallucinations occur, some studies indicate it happens in 1 percent to 3 percent of anesthetized patients, Strickland said. With some anesthetic drugs - such as ketamine or propofol - the incidence is up to 5 percent.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but >5% of my dreams are vivid and sexual in nature. yay me! Of course, the illusion of reality of me having sex with a twenty-three breasted Amazon is hard to maintain upon waking. Perhaps there is something I could do to help with this. I quite like these dreams...

posted by Fezboy! at 2:50 PM on June 22, 2005

I've been put down under a general anesthetic three times in my life. Each was indeed a distinct violation of my personal space... to the extreme. And I'd wake up with a new freshly stitched-up orifice where previously there was not. It was soooo weird.
posted by hal9k at 2:51 PM on June 22, 2005

I had the same thought as bdk3clash. Seems like a good way to protect yourself as a doctor and could drive down insurance costs for malpractice/harrassment. Maybe House, M.D. will tackle this in an upcoming episode. Oh, the hijinks that could ensue!
posted by billysumday at 2:53 PM on June 22, 2005

The article mentioned that this often happens when ketamine is used...wha wha what? Are they still using ketamine as an anesthetic for humans?? I thought it was only widely used as on animals, due to the health risks at high doses.

Damn, I need to find me that anesthetician.
posted by muddgirl at 3:00 PM on June 22, 2005

are you guys kidding? this has happened to me like forty times!
posted by mcsweetie at 3:02 PM on June 22, 2005

'Bout that videotape business - usually there's a whole crowd of people in there if you're being put out for surgery. No real need for the camera.

Never had a sex dream under anesthesia, but I'm told that I was a real pain to try and restrain the last time I was anesthetized. Apparently my subconscious has strong opinions about people poking and prying without its permission.
posted by Ken McE at 3:04 PM on June 22, 2005

I had my wisdom teeth out while dosed up with midazolam and fentanyl.. I would swear that the cute nurse who was holding my head had it rested between her breasts. Not that there's anything wrong with that ;)

The anesthetist's name was Dr Raper. Rather unfortunate career choice really..
posted by theducks at 3:08 PM on June 22, 2005

Been under anesthetic a couple of times. No kinkiness.
posted by 27 at 3:12 PM on June 22, 2005

Years ago a dentist described this phenomenon to me by way of explaining why he no longer uses nitrous oxide to anaesthetize patients.
posted by alumshubby at 3:14 PM on June 22, 2005

I had N2O three times for cavities. Each time I was convinced I was going to die. The third time was the worst, I was convinced that the other times were just buildup to that time.

Now I floss religiously. Er, well, regularly, anyway.
posted by gurple at 3:15 PM on June 22, 2005

ketamine huh.

I woke up half way through having my wisdom teeth removed, It didn't hurt due to the novacaine, but still.
posted by delmoi at 3:18 PM on June 22, 2005

muddgirl : "I thought it was only widely used as on animals, due to the health risks at high doses."

My (half-assed) recollection is ketamine is considered if you are rushed into an ER without a medical history at hand, otherwise avoided. But someone should correct me on this.
posted by Gyan at 3:19 PM on June 22, 2005

Never mind the Mile High Club - this year everyone who's anyone is joining the REM High Club...
posted by nkyad at 3:20 PM on June 22, 2005

I actually enjoyed my last experience with anesthesia (not the surgery, just the preoperative calming pill), but I understand it can be emotionally tough for some people.

A friend of my slipped into a terrible depression on waking, so bad her that husband was afraid she was developing a mental illness. She's not a fragile person, but she has a-typical side effects from anesthesia. It took her quite a while to feel herself again.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 3:34 PM on June 22, 2005

You mean that was a dream? Rats. I thought I was unusually attractive to dental assistants.
posted by warbaby at 3:36 PM on June 22, 2005

I was put under for wisdom teeth surgery, dreamt about heaven. Woke up singing(ish) hymnals, telling the nurses that Jesus loved them all very much and they should accept Him as their personal savior. Then I had a mild seizure. Oh, and I'm not religious at all.
I think I'd rather have the kinky dreams.
posted by idiotfactory at 3:36 PM on June 22, 2005

I was put under for wisdom teeth removal, too, and while it was a little weird, I kind of liked it. My dentist, on the other hand, was pretty pissed when I sat up in the middle of surgery and coughed up blood all over him & his assistant. When I came to the first thing I saw was this irked-looking guy in a red splattered smock- My first thought was of Micheal Palin's torturing doc at the end of Brazil.
posted by maryh at 3:45 PM on June 22, 2005

odinsdream : "Oh come on, you had nothing to worry about, unless of course, you were a Doctor."

(chuckling out loud)
posted by Bugbread at 3:51 PM on June 22, 2005

This post has a pretty weird title. Just "sex," huh?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:56 PM on June 22, 2005

Going under for wisdom teeth removal was pretty much identical to the times I've blacked out from excessive alcohol consumption. I have no memory of the time while under, just that of waking up in a room spattered with blood and bone fragments.
posted by dragstroke at 3:58 PM on June 22, 2005

All this time I thought Special K got his/her nick from a cereal box.
posted by Cranberry at 4:35 PM on June 22, 2005

I've been under general twice, and recall absolutely nothing about it (which I find disconcerting enough as it is), but once when I was sedated, I apparently talked about how I wanted to date one of my former coworkers and marry another. Go figure. I don't remember that, either.
posted by fossil_human at 4:37 PM on June 22, 2005

Mod note: deleted sister havana's multiple post and related copycat multiple posts
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 4:44 PM on June 22, 2005

I've had full general twice. Both times were a complete void. My consciousness completely ceased to exist. Like a rehearsal for death.

As for the story, this is clearly a conspiracy hatched by doctors who like to sexually abuse patients while they're doped up, just to cover themselves if they don't administer quite enough anaesthetic. Probably.
posted by Decani at 4:52 PM on June 22, 2005

Fezboy!: The 23 breasted amazon is one thing, but what about the shapeshifting alien in a red dress?
posted by Sparx at 4:53 PM on June 22, 2005

Weird - I've have general anaesthetic a fair few times, and absolutely love it, partly due to the pervy dreams while slipping in and out of consciousness after the operation. Always put that down to the morphine afterwards, though.

(If I'm absolutely honest, I'd happily undergo another bout of major surgery to get my mitts on those self-dosing morphine wristband things again... no wonder smack is widely considered to be a bit moreish.)
posted by jack_mo at 5:02 PM on June 22, 2005

muddgirl: What risks to ketamine at high doses?

Ketamine is the first anaesthetic turned to for people who have an unknown medical history. It is in SAFER in some ways than other anaesthetics. It is a relatively safe anaesthetic because it doesn't suppress breathing even at fairly high dosages. The reason ketamine isn't used as much as it used to be has nothing to do with health risks. It's because it makes you high in a fashion (disassociative out of body experiences) that some people find very pleasant and some people find very unpleasant. Yes, the same reason that a lot of people go out of their way to obtain ketamine and use it recreationally; it fucks you up big time.

To get back to the original topic: I've actually been around people who had the experiences described in the article while on ketamine. Nice to know that it is a recognized phenomenon and I just don't know weird people.
posted by Justinian at 5:46 PM on June 22, 2005

I actually remember saying embarrassing, funny things while going under. I was employed selling cameras at the time, and I went on and on about what types of cameras make people of different skin colors look like. I remember making everyone in the operating room laugh, but now I wish they would have shut me up!

Other than that, the drugs feel so good they could have sawed my arm off and I wouldn't have cared.
posted by blissing at 5:57 PM on June 22, 2005

Ketamine is the drug of choice for sedation in children... for whatever reason, they are not as troubled by the emergence phenomena as are adults. It's a drug with excellent pain killing properties, many times more potent than morphine. In the third world it's still used quite liberally for all age groups because it's very safe, it's easy to administer, and there are no lawsuits. I gave ketamine to an adolescent in New Guinea for a surgical procedure and he became quite visibly aroused and started talking about one of the nurses. We just increased the dose and solved the little problem.
posted by mert at 6:26 PM on June 22, 2005

I was under for hernia surgery, don't know what they used. I remember asking, and then I woke up feeling nauseous as hell. I'd have preferred feeling horny. (Ejaculate? Vomit? Hmmm, tough choice there...)

posted by JB71 at 6:31 PM on June 22, 2005

I understand that more common is the practice of trying to "swim" out of the chair while you go under - apparently lots of people do it instinctually when their oxygen is replaced by something less... nourishing.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 6:42 PM on June 22, 2005

I dunno... some of you people seem to be talking about non-general anaesthesia. Nitrous oxide or intravenous valium, maybe - both of which I've also had and both of which definitely do lead to wacky experiences. But full-on general anaesthesia - what they give you for major surgery - knocks you out like death. The juice goes in the back of your hand and literally seconds later you're gone. The next conscious experience you have is coming round in the recovery room. And then, as someone has observed, if you're lucky... you get morphine.
posted by Decani at 7:01 PM on June 22, 2005

Morphine? Why?
posted by rolypolyman at 7:23 PM on June 22, 2005

Your wound hurts
posted by mert at 7:52 PM on June 22, 2005

wasn't this a seinfeld episode?
posted by TechnoLustLuddite at 8:17 PM on June 22, 2005

I could believe this. When I had my wisdom teeth extracted I was put under general anaesthetic. I also woke up during the procedure and I was horny as all get out. If I'd have stayed under and managed to dream I'm sure they'd have been entertaining :P

When I had my ACL rebuilt it took a double dose to put me under. Between doses I was again horny as hell and I was shamelessly flirting with the nurse taking care of me.
posted by substrate at 8:26 PM on June 22, 2005

When I was going under to have my wisdom teeth out, I had this exchange:

Me: My vertical hold is going.
Nurse: You can close your eyes.
Me: No, it's cool.

I woke up with a vague memory of a dream about molding. Yes, I mean the wood stuff that goes around the bottom of a wall.
posted by obvious at 8:35 PM on June 22, 2005

I tried Ketamine "recreationaly" twice. I had done my homework, and found out the human dosage, read up on it in "Trends in Intravenous Anesthesia" (1980), had a controled setting, supervised by other people not on the drug, and had soothing music in the background. I used intramuscular injection, and like cheetahs on Wild Kingdom, you have about fifteen seconds to find someplace soft to put yourself.
It isn't fun. I was face first on the carpet for 45 minutes. Comming out of it, you felt like you've been poisoned.
But during the experience, I had the most intense halucinations ever. I've tried a lot of psycadellics, and nothing even compared to Ketamine. It's like taking 50 sheets of good acid, cramming it all in your mouth, and compressing the whole trip into an hour.
But it wasn't any fun, and I don't recommend anyone else trying it. You have no control over your situation, you're just face first in the carpet.
I guess the good that came out of it is that I don't do psycadellics anymore, except for the mushroom tea every so often. It made acid look like candy, to where now, acid just makes my back hurt from stricknine.

So, kids, don't do Ketamine for fun. It isn't.
posted by Balisong at 8:38 PM on June 22, 2005


Balisong, perhaps you should have read Erowid or something rather than "Trends in Intravenous Anesthesia". I've been around people on ketamine on rather more than a few occasions and... you took WAY too much for a first time user. WAY WAY too much.

Ketamine is sometimes used as a "party drug". The people on it are still moving around and semi-talking. If you were out in 15 seconds and unconscious, you took (once again) way too much. That's like even past the "k hole" that regular users talk about.

In summary: you took a dosage one would use for surgery, not a recreational dosage for an inexperienced user. NOT a good idea.
posted by Justinian at 9:12 PM on June 22, 2005

The juice goes in the back of your hand and literally seconds later you're gone.

Not if you're me. The juice goes in the back of my hand and then it travels down my arm slowly making the whole thing feel like it's being simultaneously crushed in a vice, and frozen. I pass out when it gets someplace near my shoulder, probably about 30 seconds later. I always complain and they always tell me I won't remember it. I wake up the second they pull the needle out too. I've had three or four surgeries and woken up before I made it back to the recovery room every time, under the OR lights twice. No amnesia either, I remember everything I hear or say perfectly. It kind of freaks the doctors out.
posted by fshgrl at 9:59 PM on June 22, 2005

I didn't really want to like it.
I knew how much I was taking, and the effect that would most likely happen. I did it for the experience of the halucinations.
I got what I came for. This was the end of my 'Acid Summer' so, I'm glad I had that experience, but it pretty turned me off of drugs after that. Being a single atom in a swirling sea of atoms was definately disconserting.
I don't 'need' to trip anymore, like I used to think I did.
posted by Balisong at 10:05 PM on June 22, 2005

My anesthetist had the nicest blue eyes, and everyone in the operating room was apparently deeply amused when I told him so as I was going under.

So, no sex for me, just mild flirting.

(Oh, and mert's post was right on regarding juvenile sedation. In addition, ketamine is very safe in controlled circumstances, but taken as a street drug at incorrect doses, it's awfully likely to be fatal. So heed the words of Balisong -- he's lucky to be here to write them.)
posted by melissa may at 10:06 PM on June 22, 2005

melissa may : "but taken as a street drug at incorrect doses, it's awfully likely to be fatal."

Can you quantify 'awfully fatal'? I believe recreational doses are less than sedative doses.

According to an 1999 UK Police report(Powerpoint) on harms of synthetic drugs:

"Ketamine - conclusion

Minimal problems from therapeutic use (medical, pharmaceutical, veterinary)

Misuse relatively common, addiction rare

Acute toxicity uncommon, fatalities very rare
posted by Gyan at 10:16 PM on June 22, 2005

I was under local for hernia surgery a few months ago. I don't remember much, but the surgery team wheeled me out saying: "Wow, you're one funny guy". I really don't remember much...
posted by ob at 10:18 PM on June 22, 2005

Like I said, I did it twice.
The first time was 3/4 of a CC of Ketamine HCL at 10mg/ml.
I had read that it was a pretty safe surgical anesthesia, not prone to overdose issues.

I was conscience the whole time the first time, and it was all you could do to sit up, and force random sounds out your mouth. You still had a sence of self, and sence of time, but you wouldn't know if someone came in the room right away, or who it was.

The second time I doubled the dose.
1.5CC's. I totally left my body, and well, tripped balls-out.
But I say again, you have no control, and you feel like you've been poisoned when comming down. Nauseous, groggy, generally feeling bad.

It may be the way I used it. I chose intramuscular injection, in my calf. Mainly because it was already a HCL solution. At first you can stand, then get kinda dizzy, then get a wierd taste in your mouth, then you need to sit down, and then you need to lay down, than all you can say is "WWWWOOOOOOOOWWWWW!!!!!".
I know others that have used it at parties, trying to dance and such till they fall down. It doesn't sound like fun..but maybe. I know that it can be dried out and snorted, but I never tried that.

As far as sexual dreams, don't count on it with Ketamine. Maybe with other surgical anesthesias, but don't think that you can control it if you do, or don't.

As a side note, I have a friend that is a professional anesthesiologist making great money after only 4 years of schooling, and I know a vetrenarian who has been jailed for succumbing to excessive dabbling in the ketamine stash at work.
posted by Balisong at 10:42 PM on June 22, 2005

Well, the link I provided explains that at incorrect doses, you're likely to die -- not from the drug itself, but from having an accident, like inhaling your own vomit.

So, it's not awfully fatal -- which isn't what I said -- it's fatal taken awfully. I think Balisong's post underscores that it's not a good idea to use ketamine recreationally if you're not sure what constitutes a recreational dose, or if you deliberately up it for greater effect.
posted by melissa may at 10:46 PM on June 22, 2005

Stick with mushrooms.. much safer, and more pleasant.
posted by Balisong at 10:49 PM on June 22, 2005

I was given a sedative and local anaesthetic a few years ago for minor surgery on my leg. I was incredibly horny when I came round and emotionally on a rollercoaster for a few days afterwards. I dread to think what I'd be like after general anaesthesia.

This thread reminded me of a TV program I saw recently about the alarming phenomenon of anaesthetic awareness - you wake up during surgery, unable to move, but able to see, hear and in some cases feel pain. Scary.
posted by alfhild at 11:07 PM on June 22, 2005

melissa may : "the link I provided explains that at incorrect doses, you're likely to die -- not from the drug itself, but from having an accident, like inhaling your own vomit."

You say 'likely' to die? What's the prevalence? 1 of 2? 1 of 10? 1 of 100? 1 of 1000?
posted by Gyan at 11:07 PM on June 22, 2005

Balisong: Your explanatory posts are quite interesting, thanks. But initially you were engaging in a Reefer Madnees-esque level of exaggeration. You had what you admit you know to be an atypical recreational dose and experience, and then go on to say "don't use it recreationally!". Well, no, people should probably not take a massive dose which renders them completely unconscious for 45 minutes. That's not, generally, recreational.

Melissa May: You're also being over the top. Taken awfully, you can die from Ketamine. Yes. Of course taken awfully, you can die from tylenol. So that's not saying anything beyond "be careful with any ingested substance" and singling out ketamine strikes me as being fearmongering.

Sure, you could pass out and inhale your own vomit if you're irresponsible. You can do that with alcohol, too.

posted by Justinian at 11:15 PM on June 22, 2005

Gyan: I believe ketamine is responsible for about 10 deaths a year among recreational users. Tylenol kills almost 500 and damages the liver in something like 50,000. A lot more people use tylenol, of course, but still should provide some perspective.

Driving a car is a lot more dangerous than ketamine.
posted by Justinian at 11:21 PM on June 22, 2005

I'd like to apologize in advance for posting three times in a row (sorry!) but I would very much like to post a disclaimer that I do not encourage any recreational use of illegal substances. You could go to jail and/or die. But it's important that information be accurate, and talking about ketamine like it is death in a bottle is just plain weird.
posted by Justinian at 11:23 PM on June 22, 2005

Well, it wasn't prescribed, and I didn't really do it for fun necessarily, so I put recreational in quotation marks, which is probably the wrong way to do it.

I have experimented with many things, and have generally found that refined chemicals are less desirable to naturally occuring compounds grown naturally.

They're harder, and take a much bigger toll on your body and mind than is, really, worth it when weighed against the benefits, however temporary.

Stick with what is natural. There's plenty out there, and many of those can kill you just as fast, if you really want to.

You can overdose on morning glory seeds if you really TRY.
Really, if you want to try ketamine,do your own homework, and try it. But read what I've wrote, and if it's shit for you, fine. I only revealed this in a subject specific thread to give one perspective. Mileage may vary.
posted by Balisong at 11:37 PM on June 22, 2005

Well, I don't know how else to hedge this for the semantics mafia. Ketamine is a remarkably safe drug used at proper dosage. It is most emphatically not death in a bottle; it is a boon. I never meant to suggest otherwise. However, overdose = bad juju.

I merely meant to support Balisong's contention that he was taking a tremendous risk at the dose he took, and nothing more. I could have done the same had this been a thread regarding alcohol, but you know, it's not. Oh, but be careful with the Tylenol too, now that you mention it. And lay off the Big Macs. And sunscreen -- always wear sunscreen.
posted by melissa may at 1:34 AM on June 23, 2005

Nostradamus would get high on nutmeg before prophesying.
Party animal.
posted by NinjaPirate at 1:52 AM on June 23, 2005

I was under twice. Once at age 8, again about age 40. I only remember annoyance coming out as a kid. But there was someone else in the recovery room with the same name, and they kept talking to him to come out.

"Goofyy, wake up" gently spoken the umpteenth time.

"I AM awake!" Poor kid me.

The pain came latter. I had to be circumcised, maybe my skin was too tight, I don't know. OUCH! They messed it up, I bled. Prolonged stay in hospital and long recovery at home.

Years latter, in my 20's, I started having weird memories of something. I went rather nuts for awhile, trying to get a handle on what had happened to me. I suspected (still do) a memory of being molested was surfacing. I drove myself down every dark corridor in my mind, looking for a clue. Meanwhile, I became prone to crying for no reason, and extremely fearful. I had to stop trying to figure it out and back off.

Now I wonder if it could have related to the anesthesia. The idea occurred to me at the time. Nothing about the hit of a memory was associated with my willy though.

The second time, I awoke to very high blood pressure. I felt nothing but MAJOR tension. "MAKE IT STOP!" I demanded. They seemed to be asking me about the problem. They did something and it all got better. It was just laproscopy appendectomy.
posted by Goofyy at 4:21 AM on June 23, 2005

Balisong : "I used intramuscular injection"

You...shot up...ketamine??!!?!
posted by Bugbread at 5:35 AM on June 23, 2005

My sister once had a patient who, when he was drugged(a 12 year old kid), started yelling out that he wanted to be touched and that he loved to pleasure himself...." i LOVE your big breasts...and so on...

but...the sad part - his Mother was standing beside him..and looking quite embarrassed......

posted by Groomz at 6:33 AM on June 23, 2005

Interesting thread; perhaps I can add some information from an anesthesiologists perspective. This phenomenon is nothing new; when propofol was released in the US (circa 1990) it quickly got nicknamed "the love drug". I knew one anesthesia resident who was sent flowers by a female patient after he used propfol for her anesthetic. Of course, in the OR there are so many people in the room at all times that any accusations of innaprpriate behaviour are easily disproven; this might not be true in other settings, such as a dentists office.

As far as ketamine goes, it is not commonly used anymore, but it does have its place. It is unique in that it can be given intramuscularly (most other drugs need to be given via an IV to get the full anesthetic effect) and it does not depress the cardiac and respiratory system as much as other anesthetic drugs. This makes it a good choice to use when dealing with an uncooperative patient such as a child or adult with significant mental disability; it can be given as a single quick injection and then we can stand back until the patient settles down and allows us to put on monitors, start an IV, and go ahead with our procedure. It is the closest thing we have in real life to the mythical sedative seen on TV and movies where a single injection knocks a patient out immediately with no concern over maintaining an airway, blood pressure, etc. I generally add a little versed to the ketamine to help lessen emergence reactions and/or make them more tolerable.
posted by TedW at 6:36 AM on June 23, 2005

I went under a few years back for bone spurs in my foot. They started with sodium pentathol in my leg and something else really strong to isolate the nerves where they were going to operate to deaden the pain for a day or two after the surgery. I remember commenting on the anesthesiologist looking like the actor in 'The Madness of King George' (he was even british, imagine that). When they got me into the operating room they said I would be under in a few moments, put in a needle, had me count backward and. . . a few moments later I was awake, the operation was done and I was out of there a couple of hours later.
posted by mk1gti at 7:23 AM on June 23, 2005

Nostradamus would get high on nutmeg before prophesying.
Party animal.

A surprisingly small amount of nutmeg will really fuck you up. I don't recommend it.
posted by fshgrl at 8:35 AM on June 23, 2005

I had general when I was seven. Before they put me under, I was promised a popsicle upon waking. Then, when I woke up, I took one lick of the popsicle and puked all over. I was really pissed off, convinced they had known I would be too sick to eat the popsicle. Also, they gave me peppermint-flavored gas (because I was a kid, I assume). I couldn't even smell peppermint, much less eat it for a good seven years, as my body thought, "Hey, peppermint, that makes you puke." Thanks for making every candy-cane filled Christmas a misery, Mr Anesthesiologist.
posted by dame at 8:48 AM on June 23, 2005

Is it safe?
Is it sexy?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:41 AM on June 23, 2005

Huh. Now I'm ever-so-slightly jealous that I've never been under a G.A.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:28 PM on June 23, 2005

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