It may seem difficult to understand why an anesthetic can become such a popular recreational drug. After all, what fun is to be had by lying down on a dance floor? According to Mr B., a recreational user that I interviewed a few year ago, ketamine: 'is an ideal drug because it comes up very quickly and it only lasts for 10-15 minutes or so . . . I used to take it at parties, but also before going to work'.
Several reasons can be identified for the popularity of what I prefer to call the 'non-medical use' of ketamine. First, it has a short duration of action, from 20 minutes to 60 minutes, depending on the amount taken and how it was taken.9 Second, it is low cost, although new legal controls are likely to raise prices. According to an annual survey in the UK, the price of ketamine starts from £15 for a 'wrap' of a gram (DrugScope 2005). Third, it is considered 'suitable' to be taken in combination with other drugs (Morgan et al. 2004c), since it moderates the 'coming down' effects of stimulants, empathogens and hallucinogens. It is also appealing for its stimulating effects at recreational low doses, because it allows the person to dance, walk or even go to work, as in the case of Mr B. Those who crash on the floor are those who have fallen into a 'K-hole', or have taken high doses of the substance. Finally, it is probably a popular drug because of its intriguing effects. Before exploring these in greater detail, I would like to focus on the numerous risks of taking ketamine in non-controlled clinical settings.
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