UN Warns of Rise in Ketamine Use in Dance Scene

A drug used to tranquillize horses, called ketamine, is gaining popularity within the dance scene in a number of countries throughout the world. That´s according to a recent report by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, which warned that long-term use of ketamine use can have serious effects on the brain, the kidneys and internal organs.

Now the most abused drug by so called “clubbers” in Hong Kong, ketamine is gaining popularity across southern China. Its use is spreading throughout East Asia as well as Australia, Europe and North America. But because ketamine is a legal substance – and therefore not controlled – the true extent of its use is unclear and probably underestimated.

Nicknamed ‘Special K’, ketamine can be taken in powder, liquid or tablet form but is often mixed with other drugs or alcohol. Sometimes ketamine is laced with synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine and then sold as ecstasy because it commands a higher price than straight ketamine.

“It is a new candy for the youth “, explains UNODC expert Jeremy Douglas, who cautioned that people can be easily fooled. “Sometimes they know they’re using ketamine, sometimes they don’t”. Uncertainty about the content of tablets sold as “ecstasy” is of concern and poses particular risk.

The effect of the drug depends on the dose. With low doses, party-goers may feel euphoric, have psychedelic experiences and high levels of energy, but high doses might plunge the user into an out-of-body or near-death experience known as the “K-hole.” “It’s an anaesthetic so it can put someone in a catatonic state, a different state of being. Perception of the body, time and reality is severely altered,” Douglas said.

Long-term use may impair the memory and cognitive functions, and damage the kidneys and internal organs.

The emergence of ketamine on the synthetic drug scene has gone unnoticed in many parts of the world. Unlike illicit drugs, the trade in ketamine is not internationally controlled. This makes it hard to get a clear picture of how the drug is being diverted for illicit purposes. “We’re seeing the use of ketamine taking off, but it’s up to Member States and national governments to control it. Anyway, it seems that the use is growing both in developing countries and in the west”, Douglas says.

Source: CADCA Coalitions Online 13th Nov.2008

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