Ketamine, a powerful tranquilliser used on horses, is being taken in growing number by young people in the UK, causing crippling health problems.
Some addicts have needed to have their bladders removed and must now wear catheters. Other users have suffered serious kidney problems, breathing difficulties, addiction, bouts of unconsciousness and trouble with urinating. The drug also involves a heightened risk of heart attack.
Some users also end up with cocaine-style damage to the inside of their nose, because the drug is often snorted in powder form, though it can also be injected, taken as a pill or swallowed as a liquid.
Experts say ketamine is increasing in popularity partly because it is cheaper than cocaine and, as the purity of cocaine falls, gives a more reliable high. It usually sells for about half the price of cocaine, at about £20 per gram, but can be obtained for as little as £5 a gram. “The quality of heroin and cocaine is so poor that people are turning to ketamine, which is cheap and available,” said Dr Chris Ford, a GP and the clinical lead for substance misuse management in general practice in the London borough of Brent.