What is it?
A disassociative anaesthetic drug.
Used medically in paediatric and veterinary surgery, and emergency medicine. It induces sleep so that surgery can be performed. It is also used sometimes for pain relief as it stops pain by interfering with how awareness is connected to bodily sensations.
Right, so it’s a drug for putting children and horses to sleep for operations. That doesn’t sound like much fun. Why do people take it?
At smaller doses ketamine causes disinhibition, a “floaty feeling” and relaxation. At higher doses it can produce profound hallucinations and “out of body experiences”. Although many people do not like this effect (which is why it is not used commonly in the UK as an anaesthetic for adults) some people do. The experience of becoming unresponsive and having an intense experience on ketamine is sometimes referred to as a “K hole”.
Often ketamine users may be wobbly and have difficulty walking and moving.
What does it look like? How do people take it?
It usually comes as a white powder which is snorted. It can resemble other white powders such as cocaine and mephedrone, though it has very different effects. It can also come as a clear liquid. Sometimes it is taken orally, injected or administered in other ways.
Is it harmful?
Short term risks come from the sedating effects of ketamine – people can put themselves in danger by walking into a road or falling off a balcony. There has been at least one death from taking ketamine and falling asleep in the bath. The danger is increased when mixed with other drugs such as alcohol, GHB/GBL or benzodiazepines.
Ketamine also affects the bladder. Soon after starting to use people may notice signs of bladder irritation such as sudden urges to pass urine and increased frequency of passing urine. Through continued exposure there can be severe damage to the lining of the bladder, shrinkage in the volume, blood and dead bladder tissue in the urine and surgical intervention may be necessary. The kidneys can also be affected.
People report severe bladder pain and use more ketamine to reduce it – however this makes the problem worse. Continuous bladder pain can be the reason why ketamine users eventually seek help.
If I make sure I drink lots of cranberry juice and water will I be ok?
The exact mechanism by which ketamine damages the lining of the bladder is unclear but it is very serious and there will only be limited improvement once ketamine is stopped. Increasing hydration and drinking cranberry juice will not stop this damage from taking place.
Is ketamine addictive?
Although there does not seem to be any physical withdrawal symptoms when people stop using, there can be intense craving and psychological addiction. Many ketamine users find they have difficulty stopping even though they know it is damaging their bodies. This can also be because of the severe pain.
People may end up using 5-8g every day. They build up a tolerance so the drug does not have such a severe effect on their mind, but the risk to their bodies is greatly increased.Talk to Frank: Ketamine
How do I know if I have a problem?
Many people start out as infrequent users, generally using at parties or clubs.
Worrying signs are:
- using more to get the same effect
- using alone
- using to cope with stress or emotions
- using throughout the day
Real Life Ketamine Story!
I got into using drugs purely through going out on a weekend to nightclubs with my friends. I was heavily into bodybuilding and it seemed that the other bodybuilders I had started going out with went clubbing and didn’t drink but took drugs, as they told me it was better for you. I was heavily influenced by this and began to do the same. It started off where I would work all week and then on a weekend I would go out and go to nightclubs with friends and use club drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine and GHB.
Ketamine was just starting to become popular then but I didn’t like it. I didn’t see that there was any harm in what I was doing as no one told me the dangers of the club drugs. As time went on I got involved with other people and had easy access to large amounts of these drugs.
I had a bad experience with a girlfriend and began to use them more frequently during the week and even at work. I began to use ketamine a lot with cocaine during the day which was the start of my problems. I didn’t know the dangers of ketamine and within a very short time I was completely hooked, and in absolute agony with the pain and damage it was causing to my bladder. I even had a friend lose his bladder to ketamine.
When I was going to see the hospital and drug services they couldn’t help me very much as they knew very little about ketamine and the damage it does to your bladder. After using for a few years and losing my social life, my job and almost my health I went to rehab in Sheffield. I am happy to say that during rehab I have regained my health and self control and self worth, and life is going well.
What can I do to reduce?
Many people seem to have a full and enjoyable life without taking ketamine. And even if you find it enjoyable it should soon become apparent that regular ketamine use is not the secret of eternal happiness and fulfilment. When a substance becomes a problem people start being fearful of being without it – this is a bad sign.
Do something different!
- Plan an alternative weekend entertainment – maybe you know someone else who also wants a break from ketamine
- Visit a different city
- Avoid situations where you know people will be using ketamine.
- Let someone else look after your money so it doesn’t all get spent on drugs.
- Try and fill up your time with other activities – work, sport,travel – boredom is a BIG risk factor for relapse.
I think I might need more help..
Seeing someone to discuss your drug use can be a huge relief and can provide support and motivation to get you feeling better.
Services in Leeds include:
- The Leeds Club Drug Clinic
- Harm reduction services
- Multiple Choice
- Platform (for under 18 year olds)
Check the Get Help tab for more info!