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Drug and Alcohol Action Team issue ketamine warning

The Royal Borough's Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT) is issuing a warning about the effects of the drug ketamine, known as the 'new ecstasy'. 

The warning follows reports of increased use of the drug by clients in local drug treatment services, reflecting evidence of the increased recreational use of ketamine nationally.

Ketamine (known as K, Special K and Vitamin K) has become increasingly popular nationally and locally. In 2008 the British Crime Survey revealed it was the fastest growing 'party drug' among 16 to 24-year-olds, leading it to be dubbed the 'new ecstasy'. The BCS also stated that reported use (therefore meaning actual numbers will far outstrip this) has gone up from around 60,000 users in 1998 to 113,000 in 2008. 

Di Wright, Drug and Alcohol Action Team Manager and Commissioner, said: "Fortunately, the Royal Borough does not have a huge problem with ketamine or other drugs. However, I urge anyone with concerns or questions to contact the borough's advice and treatment service, T2, by calling 01628 683260. 

"Mixing ketamine with other substances such as ecstasy and amphetamines can result in dangerously high blood pressure. When mixed with alcohol, breathing and heart function can be suppressed - which can lead to unconsciousness. It can also cause long-term bladder damage." 

Ketamine facts:

■ketamine is a class C drug, meaning possession can lead to up to two years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine

■produced as a horse tranquilliser, legally-produced ketamine comes in liquid form which is usually injected

■the illegally-produced version usually comes as a grainy white powder which is often snorted but it may also be smoked, or taken in tablet form

■ketamine can boost energy levels (in small doses), cause the user to feel 'high', be cut off from their body or induce a dream-like state

■it can also cause hallucinations and an out-of-body experience. The effects last between 45 and 90 minutes if snorted and up to three hours if injected or swallowed. Large doses can sometimes cut people off from their surroundings, leaving them unable to move or talk or sometimes even with breathing difficulties. This can last for up to 90 minutes and is known as a 'K hole'

■common side-effects are dizziness, feeling and being sick, feeling disorientated, blurred sight and speech but also more seriously it can suppress breathing, leading to unconsciousness or even death

■because ketamine is a tranquilliser, pain is numbed and as a result users can injure themselves quite badly without knowing

■one of the most serious effects that has become more and more documented in medical literature is damage to the bladder. It is common for long-term users to experience abdominal pain known as 'K cramps'. In October 2009 a British researcher, Professor Nutt, stated that several patients who have used the drug recreationally had experienced bladder spasms and some have 'irreversible bladder damage'.

The DAAT has brought out a new Guide to Drugs and Alcohol for Families, free to anyone in the borough. The A6 leaflet has descriptions of all the most commonly used drugs, the legalities and services that can be accessed. The new guide includes a section on ketamine. To get a copy, call 01628 796362 or email daat@rbwm.gov.uk 




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