“Fake” Ketamine: Why Parents Need to Be Aware of the Dangers

If you are a parent or guardian of teenagers, you will probably have heard about ecstasy but ketamine has also become a popular drug on the UK club scene,  and it is often mixed with other party drugs like cocaine. You may hear street names like “K”, “Super K”, or “Special K” thrown around. It looks like white crystals or tablet form and is usually snorted or swallowed. The effects kick in quickly, ranging from speedy or dreamy states to full-blown hallucinations if you take larger amounts.

Many people experience the sensation of feeling disconnected from their body. It’s easy to build up a tolerance, and over time with regular use, you will need to increase the amount of ketamine you take in order to feel the same effects. With July and August being peak clubbing season, there is a high chance that more “fake” ketamine might be circulated among users in clubs.

What Is “Fake” Ketamine?

A rise in opioid use means opioids such as oxycontin or fentanyl are often mixed with ketamine — this can cause a fatal overdose after just one use. Concerns about “fake” ketamine being circulated this summer in clubs are extremely serious. In early 2023, multiple ketamine users needed medical treatment in a London nightclub, Fabric. This was followed by reports the following month that a tainted supply of ketamine was discovered on the Isle of Man.

The substance dubbed a “fake” ketamine, induces a variety of side effects, one of which is trouble breathing, and at least six users of the drug circulating in the Isle of Man required medical attention. This resulted in the Department of Public Health issuing a warning about the contaminated batch of ketamine.

 Danielle Byatt, Co-Founder, and Treatment Director at Step by Step Recovery, wants to warn people about the high risk of using ketamine when in a club or at a festival.

“Ketamine is extremely unpredictable, and it’s difficult to know what effect it will have. It can also differ in strength and is especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol or other drugs. “Fake” ketamine could be more dangerous and could contain opioid drugs, like fentanyl, which can cause a deadly overdose after just one use. If you notice someone seems very disorientated, they are breathing slowly or drifting in and out of consciousness, there is a risk of respiratory failure, and you should always call 999.”

Treatment for Ketamine Addiction?

Anyone has the right to access free NHS addiction treatment. This will almost always be in an outpatient setting, although the NHS will find private residential rehab in certain cases, generally following outpatient treatment and relapse.

Ketamine withdrawal can be challenging, so it’s recommended to undergo a medically supervised detoxification in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Private ketamine addiction treatment in residential rehab in the UK will normally begin with a detox. During this, you will be provided with drugs to help to reduce withdrawal symptoms.

This is followed by structured days that incorporate various evidence-based therapies, recreational activities, and group therapy. You will work with addiction treatment counsellors and experts to learn how to identify and develop new healthy coping mechanisms and address underlying psychological factors surrounding the addiction.

When your treatment for ketamine addiction is complete, it’s vital to attend addiction aftercare therapy or group sessions. Narcotics Anonymous (NA) provide meetings across the UK and daily online meetings and can help you to find peer support and get a chance to share experiences and learn from others in similar situations.

Ketamine and the Law

Ketamine is a class B drug in the UK, so if anyone over 18 could face up to five years in prison and, or a hefty fine for possession. If you’re caught supplying it, even to friends, the penalties are even bigger — up to 14 years in prison and a fine.

UK Addiction Support Helplines

If you or someone you care about is using ketamine, addiction helplines can provide guidance and support.

FRANK: Advice about drug and alcohol addiction for individuals and guidance on finding local NHS-funded addiction treatment services. Call 0300 123 6600 seven days a week.

The Samaritans: If you are struggling with addiction, mental health or any type of emotions, the Samaritans can provide you with support. Call 116 123 seven days a week.

The Cruise Bereavement Care: This helpline provides emotional support to anyone who has suffered a bereavement for any reason. Call 0808 808 1677 for their help.

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