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Study Shows Ketamine Use Causes Memory Problems

November 17, 2009

New research shows that frequent use of ketamine – a drug popular with clubbers – is being linked with memory problems, BBC News reported.

Researchers from the University College London carried out a range of memory and psychological tests on 120 people and found that frequent users performed poorly on skills such as recalling names, conversations and patterns.

Additionally, the drug may also cause kidney and bladder damage, according to previous studies.

The London team and charity Drugscope said users should be aware of the risks of ketamine – or Special K ““ which acts as a stimulant and induces hallucinations.

Meanwhile, as the price of ketamine has fallen over recent years — a gram now costs about $33, or half the price of cocaine — it has been increasing in popularity, particularly as an alternative to ecstasy among clubbers.

Officials classified the drug as illegal three years ago – it is currently graded class C – although it still remains legal for use as an anesthetic and a horse tranquilizer.

For the study, participants were split into five groups: those using the drug each day, recreational users who took the drug once or twice a month, former users, those who used other drugs and people who did not take any drugs.

The Addiction journal reported that all of the people who took part in a series of memory tests and questionnaires were followed up on a year later.

During the follow-up, the frequent users group performed significantly worse on the memory tests – in some they made twice as many errors, while performance was also shown to have worsened over the course of the year.

However, no significant difference was found between the other groups.

Yet the psychological questionnaires showed that all groups of ketamine users showed evidence of unusual beliefs or mild delusions, such as conspiracy theories.

Concerns about the addictiveness of the drug were also raised, as hair sampling from the recreational group showed drug use had doubled over the year.

“Ketamine use is increasing faster than any other drug in the UK, particularly among young people, and has now become a mainstream club drug,” said lead researcher Dr. Celia Morgan.

She also added that many young people who use the drug might be largely unaware of its damaging properties and its potential for addiction.

“We need to ensure that users are informed of the potentially negative consequences of heavy ketamine use,” she said.

Concerns had already been raised about the drug and the study provided “further evidence” of the risk of using it, according to Martin Barnes, chief executive of Drugscope.

He said it is important that people are aware of the harms associated with the drug and that treatment services are equipped to provide necessary support.

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