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The rise and fall and rise of ketamine

A favourite of psychonauts, psychologists and sesh gremlins alike, ketamine has enjoyed a colourful history

  • Words: Mike Power | Illustration: Sam Taylor
  • 2 May 2017

Ketamine is back with a wonky vengeance after years of limited supplies, shonky stand-ins and a tripling in street price. Just three years ago ketamine in the UK all but dried up, but now the drug can be found at levels of high purity in most major cities in the UK, albeit at an increased £20-30 per gram. So what’s been going on?

The answer, as always when it comes to new drug developments, can be found in Chinese drug labs and the murkier corners of the dark web. But first some history, context and chemistry. What is ketamine, and why do people use it? In Kit Kelly’s peerless work on the drug, The Little Book Of Ketamine, the author includes a suitably bizarre foreword by James Kent:

“[Ketamine] unlocks powers so intense and improbable it is hard to believe such a substance could exist. At first glance, it might look like a simple pet anaesthetic, but when you actually try ketamine, it seems to violate all boundaries of what we think is possible. While the notion of cosmic journeys in a cat tranquilizer may seem silly, ketamine is much more complex than it appears.”

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