Parents Understanding Drugs


What is it?

x Ketamine is a powerful general anaesthetic that's used for operations on humans and animals.

It is also known as Ket, Horsey, K, Special K, Vitamin K

It is categorised as an hallucinogen.

What it looks like

When used as a medical anaesthetic, ketamine is a liquid, because this makes it easy to inject. 'Street' ketamine is normally a grainy, white powder - although sometimes it can come as tablets.

x How it's taken

Ketamine can be swallowed, inhaled or injected.


The effects don't last long, but until they wear off, ketamine can cause a loss of feelings in the body and paralysis of the muscles. It can also lead to users experience 'out of body' experiences, numbness and hallucinations.


Ketamine is risky in a number of ways:

  • Because you don't feel pain properly when you're on ketamine, you can injure yourself badly and not know you've done it. x
  • High doses, especially when taken with other substances like alcohol, benzodiazepines or opiates, can dangerously affect the way you breathe and how your heart works, and can lead to unconsciousness, which can be even more dangerous if vomit is inhaled. If high doses are taken, it can cause death. And it is certainly not safe to mix alcohol and ketamine.
  • Ketamine can also be very dangerous when mixed with ecstasy or amphetamines, when it can cause high blood pressure.
  • It has only recently been discovered that ketamine can cause very serious bladder problems with severe pain and difficulty passing urine, and can even result in surgical removal of the bladder.
  • Abdominal pain or 'K cramps' have been reported by many long-term users.
  • Injecting ketamine can damage the veins and can cause serious problems such as abscesses (swollen areas of tissue that are full of pus) and blood clots. Sharing injecting equipment, including needles and syringes, risks infections such as Hepatitis C and B viruses and HIV.
  • With regular or large doses, ketamine can make existing mental health problems worse, and can cause feelings of confusion, panic attacks and depression.

Legal Status

Ketamine is a Class C drug. This means that it's illegal to possess it, give it away or supply it. Possession can get you up to two years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you 14 years in jail and/or an unlimited fine.


Drugs in the News

Nobel Peace Prize: Santos calls for 'rethink' of war on drugs


The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, has used his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to call for the world to "rethink" the war on drugs.

He said the zero-tolerance policy might be "even more harmful" than all the other wars being fought worldwide.Drugs workers fear a "bad batch of heroin" could have led to the deaths of at least seven drug users in recent weeks in the Gwent Police force area.

BBC News, 8 December 2016

Heroin deaths prompt 'fix room'


Drugs workers fear a "bad batch of heroin" could have led to the deaths of at least seven drug users in recent weeks in the Gwent Police force area.

BBC News, 26 November 2016

The babies starting life in rehab


According to NHS figures, 1,087 babies in England were affected by maternal use of drugs in 2014-15, while in Scotland 987 babies were affected.

BBC News, 25 November 2016

GHB: The killer drug


The Metropolitan Police has said it will examine 58 GHB-related deaths, following the conviction of serial killer Stephen Port.

BBC News, 25 November 2016

Club drug testing 'may be useful'


A leading police chief says recreational drug testing "may be very useful". Commander Bray is in discussion with the government about it.

Newsbeat, 24 November 2016

MPs call for cannabis legalisation


Britain should follow America's lead and legalise cannabis, and rake in £1 billion a year in tax revenues

Metro, 21 November 2016

Pharma's fight to block marijuana


Marijuana legalization will unleash misery on Arizona, according to a wave of television ads that started rolling out across the state last month.

Guardian, 22 October 2016

10 years for cannabis for cancer


Police in Denmark have arrested a man and woman on suspicion of providing cannabis to cancer patients and people with other serious illnesses.

Independent, 5 October 2016

UK National Drugs helpline: 0300 123 6600

The National Drugs Helpline is a 24-hour, 7-days a week, free and confidential telephone service that offers advice and information for anyone.

It is run by the government agency, known as FRANK, created to provide drug support and advice for the public.

If you need emergency help, are worried about a friend or relative's drug use or want support coping with your own, contact FRANK on-line contact or by phone.

No ketamine means no surgery in some developing countries


My supply of ketamine is under threat and you should be worried.

I'm not a drug addict. I'm an anaesthetist, and to me ketamine is medicine.

In rural hospitals in Nigeria, injecting the drug is essential for safe ceasareans, and to insert IVs for fluids and attach the required monitors to children without a struggle. It can be used for preventing pain during or after surgery. Some of my colleagues even advocate the use of oral ketamine in soda for procedures in the accident and emergency department.

Ketamine could hold key to side-effect free antidepressant


A substance produced after taking the drug ketamine could be used to create a fast-acting anti-depressant without its harmful side-effects, say scientists.

Ketamine, banned in the UK in 2006 and made a class B drug in 2014, initially used as a horse tranquiliser, is now better known for clubbing and date-rape.

Clinical trials of ketamine in humans have shown it can relieve depression faster than commonly prescribed drugs, but the problem was it also created the dissociative, euphoric and addictive properties that made it an illegal drug.

What are the effects of ketamine?


Ketamine hydrochloride is a synthetic dissociative anaesthetic, synthesized in the 1960s for medical use, and used medicinally during the Vietnam war. It is usually consumed by snorting a white crystalline powder, at lower doses than when used as an anaesthetic. However it can also be injected, or smoked.

When ketamine is snorted, it gets in to the blood stream quickly, and intoxication effects occur soon after it's taken. Although it's an anaesthetic, at low doses it raises heart rate. It's also associated with cognitive impairment during intoxication, including to speech and executive function.

The UK needs common sense about ketamine


Ketamine is a unique anaesthetic and analgesic that has unfortunately become a popular and harmful recreational drug. Last year, in an attempt to reduce recreational use, the UK government decided to ban all ketamine-like drugs (analogues) and also put ketamine itself under greater controls.

These changes were opposed by many scientists who saw the analogue ban as anti-scientific, and by many doctors and vets who feared that the greater controls would reduce ketamine use with consequent increase in patient suffering. Our fears turned out to be true.

Ketamine's antidepressant qualities linked to breakdown byproduct


Until now, the link between club drug ketamine and the alleviation of depression has been unknown. But a new study claims that the antidepressant effect is caused by the metabolic breakdown of the drug, not the drug itself.

The study found that a compound called hydroxynorketamine was responsible for a lift in mood in mice given ketamine. The metabolite is a product of the molecular breakdown of ketamine and when given this metabolite, mice did not experience any of the side effects associated with ketamine even on doses 40 times higher than the average antidepressant dose.

Physicians Push Off-Label Ketamine as Rapid Depression Treatment


New types of drugs for schizophrenia, depression and other psychiatric disorders are few and far between - and a number of companies have scaled back or dropped development of this class of pharmaceuticals. One exception stands out. Ketamine, the anesthetic and illegal club drug, is now being repurposed as the first rapid-acting antidepressant drug and has been lauded as possibly the biggest advance in the treatment of depression in 50 years.

A few trials by large pharma outfits are now underway on a new, purportedly improved and, of course, more profitable variant of ketamine.

Ketamine linked to irreversible bladder damage


When it first took hold in Britain, it was closely associated with dance music, but it has spread to the mainstream, taken at parties and in homes in cities, towns and villages across the country.

Ketamine is an anaesthetic with hallucinatory properties. Users can feel completely detached from their body and surroundings - some compare it to having a near-death experience, sometimes called "entering the k-hole". But surgeons in Leeds, London and Bristol say there are a growing number of young people struggling with severe side effects.

Every parent's worst nightmare: how ketamine killed our daughter


When Vicky and Ross Cattell woke as usual time on Wednesday 2 March they had no reason to think the day would not be like any other. They were at their flat in Geneva and their first thought was for their children in London, Tommy, 23, and Louise, 21. Both, as far as they knew, were still safely in bed.

Ross set off for work at Deloitte, the financial advisory firm, and Vicky prepared for her daily exercise routine. Everything seemed utterly normal. Then, just before his 8.30am meeting, Ross's phone rang with the news that would rip their world apart: Louise was dead, drowned in the bath after taking ketamine.

Parents Understanding Drugs