Edinburgh on Ket: We spoke to users of the drug to find out what it’s like

“I guess it’s just people with £40 to spend and who are looking for something different.”

Before coming to University, most people don’t understand a great deal about Ketamine. Maybe some people you knew might have tried it, but its use was often nowhere near as widespread as drugs such as MDMA. 

Part of that is because it often gets a bad rep, with people dismissing it simply as a ‘horse tranquilliser,’ however, it’s undeniable that use of the drug has boomed over recent years, with a government report estimating that in 2012/13 around 120,000 individuals had used ketamine recreationally. 

According to The Tab’s Drug Survey 2017, 31 percent of Edinburgh students take ketamine occasionally, monthly, weekly, more than weekly, or daily.

So, we decided to speak to some students who take the drug to find out more about it.

Victoria*, a first year student at Edinburgh, first took Ketamine in a club as an ‘impressionable, slightly idiotic seventeen year old,’ on a night out.

“I gave it a go because I’d heard from my ‘cooler’ friends that it was really fun and I did just genuinely want to see what the hype was about.”

While many people have probably tried the drug just to see what it’s like, Victoria chose to continue taking it as opposed to other, better understood, arguably safer drugs.

She commented: “I take it compared to other drugs because in the loosest sense of the term I find it to be the safest drug to take that still allows me to have a really good time and feel high.

“I know where my limit is, how much to take, and I know how to handle myself on it. I like other drugs, but looking at what’s in other drugs and the price of the drugs I would take… It’s a no brainer really.”

Another first year student, Airth*, gave a very different account of the first time he used Ketamine: 

“I was 15 and some friends and I had a bump before sport one day. We all felt a slight buzz but it was a while before we did it again. The first proper time was at Boomtown. We smuggled some in for this guy and he gave us a gram to say thanks.”

When asked why they thought the drug was becoming more popular, Airth replied: “I think it’s popular here because for one, it’s bloody good in Scotland. The ‘sesh culture’ of getting friends around and just monging out at home makes it appealing to some first time users. You’re more comfortable with friends and in an environment you’re familiar with. Also, it just feels amazing.”

However, Victoria’s view differed: “I think it’s becoming popular because in general people are moving away from pills and MDMA based drugs because of what has been circulating in the media. 

“With Fabric temporarily closing because some girls took dodgy pills, people don’t want to take them anymore but still want to take drugs so are looking at other options that don’t cost £100 a gram.”

It may be the economic appeal of Ketamine, or the effects themselves, that draw people to the drug, but how aware are Victoria and Airth of the risks associated with ketamine?

Victoria noted: “I’m aware that there’s major health risks, especially concerning your bladder… but there’s health risks to every drug and that will never stop people from taking drugs.”

When it came to whether Victoria and Airth thought Ketamine could be addictive – either psychologically or physically, Victoria said: “I definitely think people can get psychologically addicted to the feeling it allows people to have, but I think it’s more customary in a way, a routine.” 

Airth corroborated this idea: “When I’ve gone weeks without it, I do find myself wanting some. But I wouldn’t call it addiction. You don’t feel bad after not having it. It’s more psychological yeah, you miss the feeling of the drug, the ritual of taking it, even the drip I’ve started to welcome from time to time.”

When asked who your typical Ketamine user is, their response was that there really isn’t one. Airth phrased this sentiment particularly nicely: “I guess it’s just people with £40 to spend and who are looking for something different.”

Throughout the conversations, the concept of the K-Hole kept coming up. According to Wikipedia, it’s “a slang term for the subjective state of dissociation from the body commonly experienced after sufficiently high doses of the dissociative anaesthetic ketamine.”

However, finding an account of a K-Hole proved illusive. So another student, Benedict*, joined the discussion: “It’s easy to see how people can get addicted to the K-hole. You feel like you are in a different dimension, disconnected from reality and at times your body. It’s a true escape. One of the things that struck me the most was the intense confusion caused by a mixture of hallucination and memory loss.

“People’s faces were almost unrecognisable to me at some points. The same conversation occurred around 6 times in a row with no one batting an eyelid. One of the hardest things was discerning between reality and imagination – it became increasingly hard to know whether my eyes were open or not, whether something had really happened or not.”

Even after speaking to Benedict, Victoria and Airth, it’s hard to gain any real depth of understanding about the drug because experiences with the it are so varied and multifaceted. 

Victoria herself summed it up when she said: “Ketamine is a really individualist drug that effects people in so many weird and wonderful ways.”

Aside from student users, Vice recently published a documentary on the way Ketamine is now being used to treat depression in some clinics in the United States, so it does look like there could be uses beyond anaesthesia. 

Regardless, there is still so much to learn about Ketamine, and to ignore its use as many do is ignorant.

All the names used in this article have been changed at the interviewees’ requests. 

Featured Image credits: ‘KETAMINE: Just Say Neigh’ by Katie Anderson Photography