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Special K: What is Ketamine?

Sun 6 Apr 2008 In: Worth Checking Out View at Wayback View at NDHA

Reportedly the next recreational drug on the government's hit list after the current ban on BZP, what is ketamine? Originally developed in 1962, ketamine is commonly used as a human emergency or animal anaesthetic, often in intensive care settings or on Third World battlefields, to relieve respiratory distress, and there is some clinical evidence that it also treats alcoholism and drug addiction. One envisages that in the event of any ketamine ban, these sanctioned medical uses will still be available. Initially, ketamine was used as an early antidepressant. However, one side effect was hallucinations, whether visual or auditory, making it a popular psychedelic drug from the sixties onward. Currently, the United States (1999), Hong Kong (2000) and United Kingdom (2006) have all prohibited recreational use of the drug. K is usually sold as a recreational drug, whether in soluble powdered or liquid form. Apparently, it can also be smoked, spliced with tobacco or pot. Some clinical and recreational observers have noted that large amounts of ketamine induce something like the effects of schizophrenia- word salad/alogia, social withdrawal and auditory or visual hallucinations. In the latter case, bodily awareness, distance perception, scale and colour of objects and sound quality may all alter, and recreational users report that sometimes perception is felt to be from the bottom of a hole in one's mind, looking out ("the K hole.") What are the side-effects of excessive use? There is insufficient clinical evidence to clearly attribute memory loss from long-term or excessive usage, although this may be inferred from some neurological studies. This extends to the other attributed long-term or excessive use problem, alleged liver and/or genitourinary damage (although the Hong Kong Medical Journal article that claimed this also noted that the ketamine sampled came from tainted 'street drug' sources). The latter raises the question whether practical harm minimisation and risk reduction might be a far better regulatory strategy than outright prohibition. Recommended: Paul Pankhurst: "The Blue Boy" Metro 246: December 2001: 44-52 Gwendolen Smith: "K Raves: Ketamine Facts and Fantasies" NZGP 27 June 2001: 16-17 Jenny McElroy: "Club Drugs" NZ Pharmacy: August 2003: 23:8: 27-29 Craig Young - 6th April 2008

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Sunday, 6th April 2008 - 10:30am

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