Ketamine – The hidden dangers of the “party drug”

Ketamine – The hidden dangers of the “party drug”

Ketamine use is on the increase in the UK.  The drug, which first became popular in the 1990s in the club and rave scene, is thought to be in regular use by 125,000 adults and teenagers in the UK, and that number is rising according to drugs and alcohol research groups.

Ketamine, in its original form, is a powerful anaesthetic, used mostly in veterinary medicine, but it causes a loss of sensations in the body.  Users report a detatched and “floaty” feeling, as if mind and body have been separated.  The drug also has powerful hallucigenic properties.  How someone on ketamine sees or hears things are completely different.  Heavy ketamine users may experience not being able to move, or to having a near death experience, the so-called “k-hole”.

While some users enjoy the “trip”, many people who regularly take ketamine also report confusion, agitation and panic attacks.  Ketamine use is also heavily linked with depression and longer term panic disorder.

Perhaps the most serious side effect of regular use is serious damage to the bladder.  Users of ketamine first notice the urgent and frequent need to go the toilet.  Urinating becomes painful and urine contains blood and tissue from the wall of the bladder.  Sometimes the damage is so great that the bladder needs to be removed.

Ketamine users will often increase their dosage as a means of controlling the pain.  As use of ketamine becomes heavier, so the risk of damage to the liver increases.  As with all drugs, a user’s tolerance increases, and therefore the doses become larger.  If high doses are mixed with alcohol or other drugs, it can cause death.

Many drugs experts believe that while most people are aware of the dangers of some of the Class A drugs – heroin or cocaine – many clubbers remain unaware of the powerful effects and dangers of ketamine.  It is still often referred to as the “new ecstasy” by party-goers and it sells for as little as £20 a gram, making it relatively affordable for many young people.

“Ketamine is one of the most dangerous drugs on the drugs scene,” says one addictions counsellor, working in London.  “Most people start with a relatively low dose and report a mild-dissociative effect and mild hallucinations, lasting anything from twenty minutes to a couple of hours.  But Ketamine is highly addictive.  Users want more and their doses increase.  The hallucinations become stronger and so do the physical risks.”

Many ketamine users – because of its analgesic effect – are at high risk from accidents.  There have been a number of cases of ketamine users drowning in the bath or shallow water.  Larger amounts of ketamine produce anaesthetic type effects and people have died lying outside on a cold night.

The numbness and weakness of the muscles, together with impaired vision and hearing can make users particularly vulnerable.  Ketamine is used as a “date rape” drug, and is often used to commit serious assault.

The drugs counsellor goes on to say: “In the UK, accidents and assaults where ketamine is involved, are rarely recorded.  The number of patients with bladder and liver or kidney damage linked to ketamine use, also goes unrecorded.  None of the health figures in the UK truly show the dreadful effects of this epidemic.”

He maintains that, because usage and effects are under-reported, so too is clear information on how to get help for ketamine use.

“Ketamine is highly addictive and many users, even if they start out as recreational users, will find it hard to stop.  The drug produces both physical and psychological cravings and it may be hard to stop without support or treatment.”

If you or a family member or friend is experiencing difficulties in stopping using ketamine, you should talk to your GP or to an experienced addictions therapist.  It is important that he or she recognises that although there might not be a clinically significant withdrawal syndrome, a period of anxiety and depression plus increased craving to use, is very common.

It is possible to stop the use of Ketamine altogether with out-patient support – usually a combination of psychotherapy and counselling sessions, group therapy and a 12-step support group, such as Narcotics Anonymous.  For some users, however, a period of in-patient rehabilitation is the best way for them to stop their drug use altogether and to look at the reasons underpinning their addictions.

The drugs counsellor says: “Many heavy Ketamine users add a cocktail of other drugs – MDMA, cocaine, plus alcohol or benzodiazepan to manage the come-downs.  By the time someone is ready for either in-patient or out-patient help, there may be more than one addiction or dependency going on.  It is important that the healthcare professional understands this and supports the user as he or she tries to break the cycle.”

Most treatment centres offer a tailored programme of recovery.  It may be that a ketamine user has no physical or emotional effects from their using.  However, many people who use drugs addictively report a history of mild to moderate depression, relationship or work difficulties, all of which fuel the need for drugs and alcohol.

Effective treatment offers a safe space, away from the temptations of everyday life, together with depth counselling or psychotherapy to address the underlying reasons for heavy use or addiction.  Equally, recovery from any drug addiction, including ketamine use, can be successful with outpatient treatment, working with a specialist addictions counsellor or psychotherapist.

“Outpatient treatment is perfectly possible for any drug addiction, once the medical withdrawal has been supervised,” says the addictions counsellor.  “With ketamine, there tends not to be problems associated with physical withdrawal, but there will be psychological cravings.  This is where the support of a trusted therapist and often a 12-step group will be beneficial.”

“I hope that many more problem users will begin to come forward,” he says.  “Ketamine mis-use is rife in Britain.  I believe we are going to see many more deaths from this widely available drug. There are already thousands of young people struggling with bladder and kidney damage who are still using ketamine. We must ensure that treatment options are available and are sign-posted.”



Nick Conn / 25th February 2019/ Posted in: Latest News

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    Detoxification (detox) is the medical intervention required for someone who is physically dependent to drugs or alcohol. If required, medical detoxification would be the first step taken in residential rehab. Detox is used to prevent uncomfortable and dangerous (even fatal) withdrawals symptoms resulting in suddenly becoming abstinent from alcohol/certain drugs.

    The goal of a medical detox is to aid in the physical healing required following long term addiction and rid the body of all together of substance whilst providing a cushion for unpleasant symptoms of withdrawals. Detox is not considered the whole treatment for drug/alcohol addiction and it is always recommended that a comprehensive rehabilitation program is used along side to help maintain long term abstinence.

    Medication is often required for alcohol detox. If you are dependent on alcohol and experiencing withdrawal symptoms it is vitally important to seek medical advice prior to stopping. There is a long list of medications used when treating alcohol addiction and the exact medication given to an individual will depend on their needs/medical history. Some of these include;

    • Chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
    • Lorazepam (Ativan)
    • Diazapam (vailium)

    Librium and Valium are the most commonly used detox medication in the UK. All medication used to help with alcohol detox have been proven to help reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms.

    There are also a number of drugs recombined by the NHS to help treat alcohol misuse. Some of these include:

    • Naltrexone
    • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
    • Nalmefene
    • Acamprosate (campral)

    Medication is always required for heroin detox. For someone suffering from heroin addiction, the thought of detoxification (detox) can be exceptionally daunting. Withdrawal symptoms from opiates, such as heroin, can be severe and include pain, vomiting, nausea and shaking.

    There are different ways that heroin detox can be carried out, most usually either ‘maintenance therapy’ or ‘full medical detox’.

    Attempting to switch from heroin to a heroin substitute, usually on a controlled prescription, is known as Maintenance therapy. Subsites used are most often methadone or buprenorphine.

    A full medical detox from heroin will always be carried out in a residential rehab setting and will allow the individual to switch form heroin to a substitute and slowly withdraw completing treatment free of all substances. Someone using a heroin substitute can choose to have a full medical detox at any time, however detoxing substances such a methadone can often add to the length of detox required. Drugs most commonly used to fully detox from heroin are, Subutex, Suboxone and Methadone. Much like alcohol, the exact drugs used will be dependent on the individuals needs/medical history.

    Once detoxed from heroin the risk of overdose is much higher following relapse due to tolerance following withdrawal.

    The length of treatment in a residential rehab depends on a number of elements. Some substances require longer periods of detox than others.

    Private paying patients will also often choose a length of stay that suites their therapeutic and financial needs. As a rule, a full treatment program in a rehab is considered to be 28 days (often referred to as a month), however, treatment is offered in several different ways and lengths starting at 7 days.

    Treating alcohol addiction will always require a minimum of 7-10 days, this would be considered the detoxification (detox) faze. The length required for treating drug addiction can vary drastically depending on the substance being used. Detox for Heroin addiction is generally around 14 days minimum, with more time required if substances such a methadone are being used. Treating prescription drug addiction can often take the longest. The time required for treating gambling addiction, eating disorders and sex addiction will be based on the individuals needs.

    Rehab programs can be as long as an individual requires but primary treatment is normally caped at 12 weeks, with the offering for further secondary and tertiary treatment thereafter.

    *based on average rehab stays, everyone will vary dependant on needs and medical requirement/history.

    There is no need for your employer to know that you are seeking help for trauma and addiction unless you choose to involve them with the process. All employers should have a policy that explains what you do if you cannot come to work due to illness – illness to include treating alcohol addiction/treating drug addiction.

    If your work absence extends over 7 days your employer is likely to require an official statement of fitness to work which would be obtained from your GP. This would need to supply evidence of your illness as well as any adjustments required for returning to work, fazed return or reduced hours, but does not need to specify in detail the reason why you have been absent.

    If you are absent from work for 7 days of less, for example entering rehab for a detoxification (detox) on a Saturday for 7-10 days taking a full week away from work, you can self-certify your illness by letting your employer work you will not be attending work for that period of time. Exactly how an individual would do this would be dependent on a specific companies’ policies on taking sick leave.

    Any time longer than 7 days it is likely an employer will require a note from the individuals GP certifying their sickness and a fit note on return. Most companies have a clearly outlined policy on sickness and receiving sick pay so the exact requirement can vary. A rehab will always be willing to advise on time off work.

    How much does rehab cost is a very frequently asked question. The cost of treatment can range from £1,000 per week upwards depending on the place, with luxury rehab being the most expensive.

    There are free options available on the NHS but the waitlist of those looking for free treatment is longer than that for privately paying patients. Some private health insurance policies will cover treatment in some rehabs around the country.

    Choosing the right rehab centre will often be based on priced but it is important to follow guidance on the most suitable treatment centre for an individual’s needs which our expert team of advisers are on hand to offer.

    There are certainly pro’s for both treatment near by and traveling for treatment with one of the most asked question being should I get rehab near me? There are rehabs all over the UK and around the world that all offer expert programs, let’s look at how to choose a rehab.

    Local treatment

    Being close to home gives certainly has benefits. Visitors are normally permitted in rehab following the first 7 days stay, therefore if an individual is in treatment for a length of time longer than that being local will make it easier for loved ones to visit.

    Most rehab centres will also provide a full aftercare plan for someone following treatment, this will include ongoing aftercare in the specific treatment centre. Living close by can make it easy to take full advantage of ongoing aftercare. There can also often be the option for ongoing care with an individual therapist, again being close by will allow that treatment to be carried out face to face.

    Some individuals wish to be local but are willing to look broader, for instance the greater city of residence (London, Manchester, Liverpool, etc)

    Treatment Away

    Getting treatment away from home can be very appealing to some. Being out of the local area makes it a lot harder to just walk out of treatment as resources locally are unknown. Some also take comfort in knowing that they are not near home and focus more on treatment.

    As the price for treatment can vary so much from one residential treatment centre to another, private paying patients often would rather travel to keep the cost down. Those using private health insurance may also have to travel to find a treatment centre covered in their policy.

    When opting for treatment away from home this can be anywhere in the UK and also abroad. Aftercare can still be carried out and very successful using tools such as The Online Rehab.

    There is no right or wrong when choosing where to go to residential rehab, but our expert advisors are always on hand to help provide information on all possible options.

    Whilst millions of people in the UK have taken recreational drugs (amphetamine, cannabis, cocaine, crack, crystal meth, GHB, heron, ketamine, methadone, and prescription drugs) and drank alcohol not all become ‘addicted’. Most recent reports show that 279,793 individuals were in contact with drug and alcohol misuse services in the last year with over half of that being from opiate addiction and a quarter for alcohol.

    There are several risk factors invoiced in addiction and those using drugs and alcohol socially, simply take the risk. These risks are as follows;

    Tolerance – basically, if a substance is used repeatedly an individual’s tolerance to it will build. This will result in more of the same substance being required to get the same effect. In the long run this can easily lead to addiction and physical dependencies.

    Environmental risks – these can include influences such a peer pressure and stress as well as physical or mental abuse of an individual (particularly as a child). Overall, those who live with frequent pressures and stress are more likely to reach for a substance to cope and are therefore at higher risk of becoming addicted.

    Drug type – it is very well known that certain drugs are simply more addictive than others. Using substances such as heroin increases the risk of becoming addicted for need to ‘chase’ a high as well as physical dependency.

    Drug administration – how a drug is administered can affect its addictive qualities. A drug injected rather than smoked or snorted will release a quicker and more intense high thus making it psychologically (and in many cases physically) more addictive.

    Biological factors – it is now widely reported that being an addict is not only psychological but also biological. This includes your genetic makeup, mental health, sex and age. It is also reported to be 8 times more likely for the child of an addict to become an addict themselves.

    Its believed that addiction is approximately half genetics and therefore some are 50% more likely to become addicted than others.

    How do you help a loved one trapped in addiction?

    The first step is to help and encourage the individual to become willing to accept help. They do not need to be shouting this off the rooftops, but they do need to be willing to go into treatment. There are ways to help someone become willing to get treatment for alcohol or treatment for drugs.

    Set boundaries – set boundaries and stick to them. Once you have laid them out follow through with whatever consequences you have set however hard it is.

    Stop finances – if you are financially supporting someone stopping these finances can be the quickest way for the addict needing to ask for help. With no money to acquire a substance an addict’s options become very limited.

    Intervention – getting together with other family members/friends/colleagues and staging an intervention is often very successful in the fist stage of acceptance and gaining an admission to residential rehab.

    You can’t make them quit, this can lead to dangerous withdrawal. Boundaries are very important in helping someone become willing to get help. Unfortunately you cannot do someone’s recovery for them and without self-motivation it is very hard to make it work.

    The next step is to call our highly trained advisers 0203 955 7700.

    There is a huge range of rehab options available and where to start can be completely over whelming so let us help.