It is a popular myth that ketamine is a 'horse tranquillizer' used as a recreational drug in clubs, raves and squat parties, among other 'non-clinical' settings. For instance, I remember seeing a front cover of Mixmag magazine,3 showing a raver with a horse's head, with the caption 'Ketamine: only fools and horses?' But these are of course distortions of what the drug is about.
The recreational use of 'K', as it is often called among users, has increased surprisingly during the past ten years and has never been greater than it is today (Morgan et al. 2004a; 2004b; 2004c; Hopfer et al. 2006). A recent study carried out by an organization called DrugScope4 in 40 drug services operating in 15 UK cities, has shown that ketamine is now one of the 'most sold' drugs in eight of the cities for the first time. In an interview published in The Guardian newspaper, Henry Shapiro, head of DrugScope and editor of its newsletter Druglink, commented: 'The emergence of ketamine as a key substance of choice is an entirely new phenomenon since we last carried out the survey in 2004 when it didn't figure at all'.5
For instance, according to Jamie, a regular weekend user:
The right amount is really enjoyable. It feels like you are floating out of your body, but if you see someone else who has taken ket they are usually staggering around ... I suppose it's a bit like having all your arms and legs pulled off and put back on the wrong way round.6
He commented that ketamine had become in the past few months 'the drug of choice' for a lot of clubbers. 'It has been around on the gay scene for quite a while but now it is everywhere. People often combine it with ecstasy or cocaine or use it at after-club parties.'7
The popularity of the non-medical use of ketamine has led to its placement in Schedule III of the United States Controlled Substances Act in August 1999. In some European countries, it became a controlled drug more recently (for example, in February 2001, ketamine became a Class A drug in Italy).8 In the United Kingdom, it became a Class C drug on 1 January 2006, a development that produced a range of media commentary.
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Being addicted to drugs is a complicated matter condition that's been specified as a disorder that evidences in the obsessional thinking about and utilization of drugs. It's a matter that might continue to get worse and become disastrous and deadly if left untreated.