I started using ketamine in 2009. I was 17 at the time and my grandma had just passed away from cancer. I was already dealing with depression and anxiety before she died and the loss was the catalyst for me to start using the drug. I quickly became addicted. It protected me from painful feelings and offered some escapism.
This week we found out that police seizures of the drug increased by almost a third last year, at a time when seizures of other drugs have fallen overall.
The apparent spike in its use really worries me. If young people are using it as a so-called party drug, what does that say about the world they are living in. Ketamine is not like cocaine or MDMA (which we found out today can make long-term users more empathetic). Ket, as it’s sometimes called, does not deliver a euphoric high, it doesn’t really make you more sociable or open, bubbly and chatty like the usual party drugs do. I personally never used it to party.
When looking at ketamine’s effects from a scientific point of view, it is said to be a like “general anaesthetic”. It reduces sensations in the body, and can make you feel dream-like, detached, happy even.
Ketamine can also alter your perception of time and space and make you hallucinate, or stop you feeling pain. It can put you at risk of hurting yourself and not realising it.
In low doses it delivers a drunk-like feeling and as the dose increases it shuts you out. Of course, I was using it to block out grief, and to deal with that two-headed monster of depression and anxiety.
I think it’s important to highlight its negative effects. In the short term it can affect memory, and make you confused and nauseous. In the long term it can cause complications with your bladder and kidneys.
One person I know had his bladder removed due to the amount of ket he used over the years. The walls of his bladder became too thick which prevented urine from passing through.
My addiction to ket, as well as other drugs, ultimately led to me becoming homeless. I don’t want others to end up like I did. We need much more support for young people battling the mental health issues that make them feel like using drugs like ketamine which are all about an escape from the outside world. Addiction is an illness and it needs to be treated as such.
As the use of ket increases amongst the youth of today we should maybe wonder why it is becoming a drug of choice.
First, it’s readily available to teens as it’s so cheap, currently at around £30 a gram. Even though it’s illegal it’s so easy to get hold of. When there’s no real support for the underlying issues they are battling, it starts to look like a good way to escape their realities.
There is an idea that it is more readily available rurally as you can get it in “litres” from people who have vets as friends. It is popularly thought of as a horse tranquiliser. I was using it while living in Somerset, but to be honest never really asked my dealers where they got it from. It seems large scale production has shifted from India to China recently.
There needs to be funding in place for proper mental health education in schools, so teens know where they can go to get support. When I was at that kind of age I felt I needed ket to anaesthetise myself and I’m sure that the teens of today feel the same.
I honestly can’t stress enough that if I had the support I needed before doing it then I’d never have become addicted to it. I was abused throughout my childhood – I was in need of help or numbness. At least ket gave me one of them. Others will now be facing the same choice.
I am now 26 and I have been clean from all drugs and alcohol for 16 months.
Try not to judge the people who turn to ket for a way to deal with things. Instead try and support them. If you have a friend or a loved one who you think is doing ket, they may well be self-medicating like I was. Please try to help them instead of pushing them away.
This article originally appeared in the Independent, and is reproduced here with the permission of the author