Ketamine has become an increasingly popular drug in the last ten years or so. It differs from other club drugs because it is an anaesthetic. That means it has certain unique dangers. It makes people feel disconnected from their surroundings and is also hallucinogenic. Media reports invariably call ketamine a “horse tranquiliser” which is not strictly accurate. It is used by veterinarians to anaesthetise various types of animal. It also has applications in human medicine for pain relief for extreme trauma.
Ketamine is usually a white, grainy, odourless powder, which is snorted or swallowed (bombed) but medically comes in liquid form. Its effects can be euphoric but can also be unenjoyable particularly to inexperienced drug users. Taking it will result in physical numbness and disconnection with your surroundings. In large doses it can lead to intense hallucinations and a sort of out-of-body experience known as a “K-hole”. Recent studies have shown prolonged use can cause addiction and other serious health problems, particularly with the bladder, as well as affecting memory. It was first misused by being diverted from vets’ supplies but now is mainly imported fromIndia where it can be bought very cheaply. The cost inUK varies regionally but is as low as £10 a gram in many areas.
Also known as: K, Special K
Snorting the drug makes the effects start quickly, usually within 5-20 minutes and they last for about an hour. People on Ketamine feel relaxed, often euphoric. It makes people feel detached from their body, like a floating sensation which can also cause difficulties in getting up or walking. Ketamine can be a powerful hallucinogenic drug. Some find it unpleasant or frightening. A higher dose can give the experience of a “K-hole” can be a profound drug experience to some but equally disturbing to others. Long term use can lead to cramps and pain in the lower stomach. This is a sign that Ketamine use is damaging the internal organs.
Ketamine is able to block physical pain very effectively. For less experienced users this is a novel sensation and once intoxicated can result in risky behaviour leading to physical injury. It is quite common to feel some bumps and bruises the next day. Heavy Ketamine use can have bad effects on the memory which can be very disruptive to study or work. Over time, Ketamine can become addictive. People who need more and more of it to get the same feeling, are probably starting to develop a Ketamine problem.
Heavy users of Ketamine can find they have permanently damaged their bladder by developing a medical condition called ‘ketamine-induced ulcerative cystitis’. The bladder shrinks in size and becomes hard. The lining of the bladder is damaged can even be destroyed. Many regular users often need the loo more and feel a painful burning sensation when they go. The condition cannot be cleared up easily like cystitis such as taking some antibiotics. Severe cases of ketamine-cystitis require the surgical removal of the bladder. The link to bladder damage was only discovered recently. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drug’s 2004 report can be found here.
In 2006 Ketamine became a Class C drug, which means it is illegal to possess or suppl. Because it is usually in the form of a white powder, it is hard for a police officer to distinguish Ketamine from Class A drugs such cocaine, Class B such as Mephedrone and even legal highs. Being caught in possession of even very small amounts would likely result in arrest. Those caught in possession may be offered a caution – this means accepting the offence and getting a criminal record. There is also a smaller chance of being charged with the offence and having to appear in court where the outcome is most likely a fine or possibly some community service.