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 548.

    Why are they called 'government advisors' when the government never takes their advice?

  • rate this

    Comment number 547.

    I don't agree Peter, ketamine is only illegal when used outside the (extensive) medical purpose, if it were legal it would be sold at a pharmacy, what idiot would buy it off some middle man. What decriminalisation would do is make it practical for enthusiasts to manufacture less harmful hallucinogens (like LSD), rather than profit hungry pushers filling the hallucinogen demand with cheap rubbish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 546.

    I agree that these people damaging themselves need to be protected and looked after.
    The decision to raise the class is not addressing that problem these people are not emotionally stable, and do not have sufficient emotional support to deal with challenges in their lives. The decision to raise the class is an easier, less energy consuming option than in researching to the heart of the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 545.

    Two wrongs just don't make a right; you shouldn't legalise drugs just so you can control and tax them. There's still a black market for cigarettes anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 544.

    Ketamine is a commonly used and very useful drug for emergency medicine both in hopitals and out in the field. I would be very concerned at what effect a reclassification would have on its availability of use within the field of medicine. Would it be less readily available when needed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 543.

    The government should listen to the people!
    if you legalised all drugs and taxed it with moderation, you would not only make money from the tax but you would reduce all cost going on on pointless court trails over a few grams of drugs that just result in a fine.
    people will always do drugs so why are we putting down measures down that stop them from doing it, But alcohol is perfectly LEGAL!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 542.

    532.Sally the Rothbardian
    2 Minutes ago
    Can anyone explain how does someone using Ketamine in their own home, or dancing like a prat at a night club, harms The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs?

    Erm, big growth & cost area to NHS is growing number of 40+ year olds who jumped around to trance/techno/R&B/Garage etc while out of it on EEs, speed, & Ketamine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 541.

    I don't think classifying it as a class B will have any impact.. there needs to be a new approach and a sensible discussion on drug users.

  • rate this

    Comment number 540.

    You should lose your British citizenship for your laughable attempt at English.

    Laws are like records, there to be broken,

  • rate this

    Comment number 539.

    This shows yet again how stupid some people are. In fact the word 'stupid' doesn't really sum up the senseless way in which some people pay money to ruin their health, make themselves a burden on the NHS and cause distress to themselves and their families. By all means make this drug 'Class B' or even 'A' - that will only mean these stupid people will find something else to spend their money on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 538.

    Re: 438.kain
    So I can bring McDonald's to justice for making me fat or Captain Morgan for making me drunk? Wise up, where is your personal responsibility?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 537.

    The class of drugs has never really stopped people from using them. The really answer is in education, teaching people about what there shoving up there noses, the long term damages mentally and physically the drug there taking has on them. K in my eyes is not a nice drug and iv seen the effects of it up close and it is not pretty. people should have all the informations before they take it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 536.

    This war on drugs - haven't we won that yet ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 535.

    I think we have become too accepting of illegal drug use in the UK and we need to take a much tougher approach, so I welcome the reclassification of Ketamine. I would also like to see tougher sentencing for drug related crime in general. Of course Tobacco is also incredibly harmful. Thats why tougher regulations on Tobacco use have and are being introduced.

  • rate this

    Comment number 534.

    @510 John Knee

    There will always be some who would go to the black market, as with cigarettes. But (using smokers as an example) the majority would 'buy legal' rather than go to a street dealer. It would deal a huge blow to criminal gangs internationally if Gov'ts around the world stopped seeing the act of drug use as a criminal act.

    Difference between criminals, corporations & Gov'ts = 0!

  • rate this

    Comment number 533.

    Drugs, drink, smoking, gambling, social media, tv... the real harm isn't the thing itself, it's when people feel the need to escape because they're running away from themselves. A society that grades people works well for the few 'winners', but leaves the majority feeling inadequate with low self-esteem. ALL PEOPLE ARE EQUALLY VALUABLE & when they start to feel it, we will see positive change!

  • rate this

    Comment number 532.

    Can anyone explain how does someone using Ketamine in their own home, or dancing like a prat at a night club, harms The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs?

    Fair enough.

    Portugal's motivation IS "outcomes"; they achieved better outcomes by moving in a direction I share: drug users need help not jail.

    Why do you think they changed their policy to decriminalistion?

  • rate this

    Comment number 531.

    504. BobSpink
    I know plenty of people who have had used ketamine responsibly, had a good time,

    Ketamine responsibly, what a idiotic statement, trying to claim a selfish act of self abuse as being responsible, they have used ketamine and had no ill effects is the most you could say.

    521. Baker
    people who take drugs shud lose their British citizenship

    Must have had a Private Education

  • rate this

    Comment number 530.

    It is clear by the authoritarian nature of UK drug laws that it is the establishment who are off their heads on something or other....probably 'other', paid for by us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 529.

    It's funny how prohibitionists, when confronted with factual answers to every concern and prejudice they raise, resort to calling others stupid or a variety of other names

    It's as if they know they have no science on their side and are simply repeating propaganda

    Can't blame them though, I'd be angry too if I'd followed draconian laws and missed out on some great experiences for no reason


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