September 6, 2005
UK Clubbers Turn to Animal Drug Ketamine — survey
LONDON -- Ketamine, an animal anaesthetic with hallucinogenic properties, is gaining popularity as a recreational drug in Britain, an independent survey reported on Tuesday.
Charity Drugscope found that the drug, first popular in gay nightclubs, had now spread to a wider group of partygoers, and was on sale in eight of the 15 British towns and cities surveyed.
"Ketamine has now established its place alongside the usual dance scene drugs like ecstasy," Paul Hurd, of Nottingham drug service Compass, told the charity's Druglink magazine.
"It is being taken with other dance drugs by middle class people who like to party hard at the weekend and then go back to work in the week."
The drug, used as a battlefield anaesthetic during the Vietnam War, is legal and can be bought for between 15 pounds and 50 pounds a gram, the charity's survey team found.
The survey, conducted in July among 40 frontline drug services, also found that the price of ecstasy pills had fallen to as little as 50 pence each in Portsmouth compared to the lowest price found last year in Birmingham of one pound each.
"People aged 18-25 are taking Ketamine for a more trippy night out," Birmingham drug worker Neil Venables told the charity. "You can spot them on the dance floor because they're not dancing, they're sitting down in a vegetative state."
Users of the drug have reported experiencing hallucinations and alternative realities, as well as suffering some memory loss for up to three days.
Use of Ketamine does not affect breathing or, like alcohol, impair the gag-reflex, a property which has supported its use as a veterinary and battlefield anaesthetic.
A government study in 1994 estimated Ketamine use as less than 0.5 percent of British adults, compared to the 2.2 percent thought to be using ecstasy.
The government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has recommended Ketamine be controlled as a Class C drug, the lowest classification which also includes cannabis and anabolic steroids.