Living Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Psychopharmacology

pp 1-6

Date: Latest Version

Dissociative Anesthetics

  • Anthony AbsalomAffiliated withAnesthesiology Department, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen Email author 
  • , David K. MenonAffiliated withDepartment of Anaesthesia, School of Clinical Medicine, University of Cambridge
  • , Ram AdapaAffiliated withDivision of Anaesthesia, School of Clinical Medicine, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust


Dissociative anesthesia is a form of anesthesia characterized by catalepsy, catatonia, analgesia, and amnesia. It does not necessarily involve loss of consciousness and thus does not always imply a state of general anesthesia. Dissociative anesthetics probably produce this state by interfering with the transmission of incoming sensory signals to the cerebral cortex and by interfering with communication between different parts of the central nervous system.

Pharmacological Properties


Most dissociative anesthetics are members of the phenyl cyclohexamine group of chemicals. Agents from this group were first used in clinical practice in the 1950s. Early experience with agents from this group, such as phencyclidine and cyclohexamine hydrochloride, showed an unacceptably high incidence of inadequate anesthesia, convulsions, and psychotic symptoms (Pender 1971). These agents never entered routine clinical practice, but phencyclidine (phenylcyclohexylpiperidine, commonly referre ...

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