Ketamine 'should be upgraded to Class B'

Bags of ketamine There is new evidence that ketamine can cause severe bladder damage

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The drug ketamine should be upgraded from a Class C drug to Class B, government advisers have recommended.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs said new evidence had shown frequent ketamine use could cause "severe and disabling" bladder damage.

Under the new classification, illegal possession of ketamine could lead to a five-year jail sentence.

Ketamine is an anaesthetic used for operations on humans and animals that has become a popular recreational drug.

Home Office figures released in the summer showed that in the past year about 120,000 people aged 16-59 in England and Wales took ketamine, which is best known by the street names K, Special K and Vitamin K.

'Bladders removed'

Home Secretary Theresa May asked the Council to review the evidence on ketamine last year amid increased concern about its popularity and potential harm the drug can cause.

Case study

"Molly", 25, is waiting for a bladder-stretching operation after damaging it by taking ketamine.

"It sounds a bit strange to say you're looking forward to an operation - but I'm hoping it'll be the start of an end.

"I have to go the toilet three times an hour. It takes me ages, and it's absolute agony.

"The only thing that takes that away is ketamine. It's sort of like a vicious cycle.

"I'm actually peeing blood - sizeable blood clots.

"Ketamine being Class C is completely ridiculous.

"It has not taken that long for me to completely ruin my bladder."

It has gathered new evidence suggesting some people are taking large amounts of ketamine every day, risking severe damage to their bladders.

In the most serious cases users have had to undergo surgery to have their bladders removed.

The council said the decision to reclassify ketamine was not unanimous, but was backed by a majority of its members.

The advisory group's chairman, Prof Les Iversen, said he was not sure if the home secretary would take their advice and reclassify the drug, saying: "I've learnt that you give advice and it's not always taken."

An upgrade from Class C to Class B means those found in possession of the drug would face up to five years in prison, up from two, and those caught supplying it up to 14 years prison or an unlimited fine.

The average prison sentence served for possession of a Class B drug in 2012 was just over two months, while people convicted of supply served an average of 17 months.

Other Class B drugs include amphetamines and cannabis.

The council also recommended that ministers consider tighter controls on the way the drug is stored by pharmacies and hospitals.

Prof David Nutt, a former government adviser, said that if rules on the legal use of ketamine were changed and it had to be kept under lock and key, vets would not be able to use the drug in the field and animals "will suffer".

He said there was no evidence the drug was being taken from clinical stores, "so there is absolutely no need for this change".

Prof Valerie Curran, professor of psychopharmacology at University College London, agreed, and added that she was pleased the medical community would be consulted before the final decision was made.

"Molly", 25, is waiting for an operation to stretch her bladder after she damaged it through ketamine use.

She said it was "agony" to go to the toilet, and there were often "sizeable blood clots" in her urine.

"Ketamine being Class C is completely ridiculous. It's not taken that long for me to completely ruin my bladder," she told the BBC's Newsbeat.

Ketamine users talk about the health problems they have experienced (first published July 2011)

First reports of ketamine being used as a recreational drug emerged soon after its release on to the market in 1965.

It gained popularity in the UK nightclub scene in the early 1990s as people bought it in the mistaken belief that it was ecstasy.

Ketamine is dose-specific, so the amount taken determines the level of effect.

It comes in various forms, most commonly as a powder, but also as a liquid and a tablet.

At low doses the user may feel euphoric, experience waves of energy, and possibly synaesthesia - sensations such as seeing sounds or hearing colours.

However, some evidence suggests that use of the drug has an effect on memory, which persists for longer than three days after use, and becomes worse for regular users of the drug.

Government figures suggest the number of ketamine-related deaths peaked at 21 in 2009, falling to six last year.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 708.

    Only became popular because it was a cheap, easy to obtain alternative to cocaine and MDMA.

    Well done prohibition

  • rate this

    Comment number 707.


    'Davey, I think both sides of this debate could use that argument.'

    What, like, hey man, seeing the hidden meanings in 'Chorton and the Wheelies' while eating sacks of Mini Cookies was never a waste of time? - if you are lucky enough to escape without brain damage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 706.

    Its not a drug, its a drink...

  • rate this

    Comment number 705.

    There are a hell of a lot of people on here that are talking absolute rubbish, all drugs are dangerous when taken in excess.
    Whats needed is true honest classification along with true honest education.
    One look at the highest and lowest comments on here just show the range of views.
    Mine is legalise all drugs and make people buying them sign a disclaimer. Most deaths are because of poor quality

  • rate this

    Comment number 704.

    @ 699. Davey Trasker

    If people are sitting around smoking cannabis all day long, then yes, I kind of agree that they're wasting their time, and quite possibly are losers.

    But I also think much the same if somebody is sitting around drinking all day they are also wasting their time, and quite possibly are losers.

    Both can lead to mental and physical problems too, and the risk is comparable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 703.

    If some people have no more sense than to overuse drugs, both legal and illegal, then on their own heads be it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 702.

    Thing is, illegal Ketamine is cut with other susbstances & not just chalk or andrews salts.

    To say illegal ketamine is safe & ok, is just illogical, when one has no idea of what its cut with, same with EEs which have long been smack based.

    One deal to the next can & does often change so much & if you're at the Lidl price end of society then you get relevent low quality

  • rate this

    Comment number 701.

    Defence privatisation plan axed

    Reads the head line

    The head line the BBC were looking for but could never bring themselves to broadcast is


    How are the royal mail shares doing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 700.

    699. Davey Tasker:
    "When you are older you may well look at all the time you wasted with bitter regret."

    Davey, I think both sides of this debate could use that argument.

  • rate this

    Comment number 699.

    When you're young and you enjoy getting stoned, you are bound to say - 'hey, it's no worse than alcohol, man' and ignore the time you are wasting, the medical evidence which says cannabis is harmful mentally and the fact that so many of your stoner friends are big losers. When you are older you may well look at all the time you wasted with bitter regret.

  • rate this

    Comment number 698.

    Because this drug knackers your bladder we'll make it Class B. In two years' time everyone will have forgotten this, but the fact it's "Class B" instead of "Class C" will make it cooler and more expensive. Instead, we should ensure that the reasons these drugs are classified how they are is taught to the users. Posters in nightclubs, etc. Otherwise, it's useless. And use facts, not rhetoric.

  • rate this

    Comment number 697.

    This comment was removed because the moderators didn't like my opinions. No need to explain, I understand, good luck on the operation, I hope they can find your "self-respect & decency" and surgically remove it.

    Apparently that's essential when working for the BBC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 696.

    I have bipolar disorder. Currently in remission so no need for medication.
    It never ceases to amaze me that people spend so much time and money, and do so much damage to themselves, to get less high than I can become naturally. The interesting thing is that when needed, I take meds (drugs) to stop becoming that high.
    Reminds me of white supremacists trying to get a dark suntan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 695.

    Class A, B, C twaddle. Make the law simple in order that simple folk can understand it. Either something is illegal or it isn't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 694.

    "People know, when they buy illegal drugs, that somewhere someone will be being murdered to supply your hit."

    Actually laughed out loud at that. You don't hink that's a little over the top? Jeebers, you could tell your kids the same thing about trainers or X-boxes and save a few quid over Xmas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 693.

    683.Tony Martin - People know, when they buy illegal drugs, that somewhere someone will be being murdered to supply your hit.It's your choice to exploit some child or women by your purchase

    Look at the trainers you wear? Ever bought clothes from a supermarket or Primark? You certain you're not supporting corporations that do exactly the same? Otherwise you'd just look like a foolish hypocrite.

  • rate this

    Comment number 692.

    686. Sally the Rothbardian
    "Since they kill more people than their illegal counterparts, do you think we should ban legal prescription drugs?"

    No statistics for that? Do they kill them more because people take them illegally? Or do they die because of doctor incompetence (which you imply) i.e. giving them a wrong prescription. They're prescription drugs for a reason...

  • rate this

    Comment number 691.

    686. Sally the Rothbardian
    Since they kill more people than their illegal counterparts, do you think we should ban legal prescription drugs?
    Only if you can't tell the difference between injecting morphine for pleasure & injecting it to reduce the symptoms of extreme pain.

    People are prescribed dangerous drugs because its believed the benefit treating the disease is worth the side effects

  • rate this

    Comment number 690.

    People always have, and always will, take drugs. Another of example of the govt being economical with scientific fact for the sake of populist policy.

    To everyone saying 'MAKE ALL DRUGS ILLEGAL', would this apply to caffeine, alcohol, tobacco etc?

    Yes, drug users cost us money. So why not save money on not policing something ultimately un-policeable, and make extra income from tax revenue?

  • rate this

    Comment number 689.

    Here we go again comparisions with alcohol

    It's not the drug that is the problem it's people who can't use it responsibly

    If you abuse drugs then thre are consequenses


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