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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
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It became more popular in the UK through the 90s and 00s, and was hugely popular on the squat party scene, where it was known by some people as ‘techno smack’. In late 2013, supplies dried up. India, where most ketamine was made at that time, rescheduled the drug into its most stringent category, schedule X, which hit supplies hard.

In the following years, various research chemicals such as methoxetamine, diphenidine, and 3-MeO-PCP took ketamine’s place, as well as other anaesthetics such as tiletamine, all of which are more potent and, users say, less pleasant experiences. But in around 2014, Chinese labs began synthing the drug in industrial quantities.

Martin Raithelhuber, a specialist in synthetic drugs at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Organised Crime says hundreds of labs have been busted there in recent years, and this is where much of the world’s newly potent ketamine is made.

“Seizures reach record heights, with most of them done in China. Evidence of illicit ketamine labs outside China, where they bust over 100 annually, is scarce, but in 2016, the first ketamine lab was dismantled in Malaysia,” he says.

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