What is it?
Have you ever been to a party and seen someone passed out in the corner with white powder crystallised all around their nose and wondered what the hell they were on? Chances are they're probably in a K-hole – the highest 'plateau' high of the narcotic ketamine. Also called 'Special K'; 'horse'; 'tranq'; 'wonky'; 'donkey dust'; 'Rodney' (only fools and horses!); and by a certain tabloid newspaper; 'techno smack', ketamine use is undoubtedly on the increase, yet it is a substance surrounded by myths and confusion. In this article we will try to raise awareness of the issues surrounding ketamine, whilst addressing some of those common myths. It is meant to neither glamorise nor demonise the drug, but we are circulating this article because there is a big situation with this substance in the UK underground and we know it has spread into Europe. The text is written by a user.
Until recently Ketamine was only really known to the underground scene. Yet recently the front pages of tabloids have been pasted with pictures of 'Ketamine Kate' [Moss] and Brighton's Big Brother Pete allegedly snorting lines of the increasingly popular narcotic, the drug has become somewhat more 'mainstream' and many of us will know someone who has tried the drug if not having experienced the K-hole first hand.
Everyone has their own view on K – some think it is only used by dirty-hippy type squatters – but this view is not too dissimilar from the small-minded view that only middle-class professionals use cocaine. C'mon – lets get real and approach this subject objectively! We live in a society where we're surrounded by all sorts of substances with curious names made up of an amalgamation of letters and numbers. 2CB; MDMA; 5-meo-DMT; 2C-T7; LSD; K; CK1; GHB – this list goes on and on and is only growing, and people from all walks of life 'experiment' with all of the above. Yet how much do we really know about the substances we (or 'they' if you prefer) are putting into our body? Like how it was developed, what does it do and, ultimately, can I get anything constructive out of putting an extremely potent alkaline hydrochloride salt in my body?
Ketamine was invented by Calvin Stevens and patented in Belgium in 1963. It is a derivative of Phencyclidine (PCP) which is less potent with a shorter duration of action. It does not induce sleep but instead a state of apparent catatonia where patients seemed dissociated from the environment without classical unconsciousness.
It was termed a dissociative anaesthetic and was marketed as a rapidly acting anaesthetic with few side effects. However, dissociative and hallucinogenic symptoms were quickly reported. Despite these problems, the drug was the most widely used battlefield anaesthetic in the Vietnam War. This in turn led to an osmosis/trickle like effect of population exposure to the psychedelic effects of the drug caused by 'turned on' returning GI's which may have contributed to the rise of ketamine and phencyclidine misuse in the 1970's. Street use of ketamine hydrochloride was first noted in 1971, although it is likely that it was misused soon after its discovery.
Current UK Legal Situation
Legally ketamine is considered class c, although it has only just been recently made illegal and classified. The authorities are aware of its existence but have not yet developed the systemic tools to deal with it. They know that it is available and are of the opinion that ketamine supply represents low risk and high gains to organised criminals. It seems as though it is not a priority for them as users are unlikely to commit crime in order to get their fix, plus the loss of autonomy produces a much more docile creature for them- easier to control.
There appear to have been a couple of reasons for the classification of K. Firstly the UK police forces reported to the Home Office that there was an increase of use and seizures. However, what is less reported is that it was classified to close a legal loophole. In 2002 Her Majesties Customs and Excise noticed that large amounts of rosewater were being imported from Goa, India(j). Furthermore, all of these bottles of rosewater appeared identical, which raised suspicions. Upon testing the rosewater they realised that it was in fact ketamine hydrochloride (liquid K). In its natural form K comes as an injectable liquid. To turn it into the snortable powder the liquid is heated or 'cooked' until the hydrochloride solution evaporates.
As mentioned above, K previously fell under the Medicines Act, which states that it is illegal to import a prescription only medicine without a license. However, interpretation of this legislation concluded that the import of the rosewater solution [as opposed to medicinal vials] did not constitute a 'medicine', which consequently meant the importation was not illegal5. Unspecified (presumably vast) amounts of liquid K were being imported in the country through a legal loophole, which the government rushed to close. I say 'rushed' as I believe the Home Office's decision to make K only Class C was made in haste. Many believe that if the primary reason for classification were to control the drug, then K would be more at 'home' as a Class B drug. However this merely underlines the flaws of our drug classification system; the class of a substance doesn't reflect the harmfulness, dangers or social impact of the drug.
Composition and Basic Effects
Ketamine Hydrochloride can come either as a crystal, a powder or as a liquid. The crystals are usually small, thin and long (not unlike hundreds and thousands), although sometimes shorter variants can be found; but, as with all crystals, they can come in any size and shape dependent upon how they have been formed. If, for example, the ketamine has been suspended in liquid (usually water) then it can form quite large irregular crystals, given enough time.
+Ketamine is a very strange and a very potent drug whose effects are difficult to explain as they happen on so many different levels dependent upon the consumption and tolerance to the substance of the user. It is usually snort-ed, sometimes injected, and infrequently is used in pills. Tolerance is acquired rather quickly and has enormous influence on the quality of the psychedelic experience .
When snorted for the first time a very small line, 1cm long say (or even less), will give a feeling of exhilaration, invulnerability and slight detachment from reality- 'the wobbly effect', a bit like that old advert for mints- 'Mr. Soft'. However larger doses will draw the user into the dissociative realm.
Dissociation allows the user to become totally detached from reality without becoming unconscious and enter a realm of pure thought, unhindered by distraction from physical reality- this effect is colloquially known as the 'k-hole'.
The K-hole can be extremely scary and daunting at first as your brain does not recognise what is happening to it, but it becomes more manageable as time goes on. This however is the flip side to tolerance. Indeed entering the k-hole is almost as crazy as the thing itself.
Tolerance is the other problem. Whilst first time users can get very, very high from small doses of less than 50 milligrams (one twentieth of a gram), long-term users can tolerate doses of up to 500 milligrams (half a gram) and still feel less intoxicated than the first-time user. Considering the effects of ketamine only last around 20-30 minutes, what is regarded as a relatively cheap drug can turn into quite an expensive habit. Even though the street price of the drug has halved in some cities over the last five years or so to £10 a gram, those who are tolerant to the drug have no problem getting through up to five grams in a session, which can become more costly than heroin addiction. I'm often asked why the price has come down so much – and the answer lies in mere economic theory – supply-and-demand.
After you take the ketamine it can take up to 20 minutes for the first effects to start (this can be much quicker if injected IM or instantaneous if injected IV- not recommended!). The first effects are rather strange. To begin with there can be intense spatial distortion: if you are in a room or night club the room can seem to grow suddenly to many times its real size which can be extremely disorientating. The type of music playing is very important and if you are not used to this I would suggest surroundings, company and music with which you are familiar, although an unfamiliar environment can lead to a more intense experience.
Then suddenly it is almost as if the life in front of you becomes a film reel, or rather a series of snapshots of people and situations which pass before you very quickly, too quickly to perceive any single one on its own in its entirety. Instead you experience a feeling that these snapshots embody reality/existence and you experience a feeling of destiny, of this is how things are meant to be, that all events are connected for a reason too big for you to comprehend. This can be disturbing. The images then start to appear faster and faster and you get the feeling of falling into a hole. You see this hole rush up towards you faster and faster and can experience vertigo until suddenly you hit it and all panic seems to stop and you seem to become at one with the universe. This is often accompanied by a feeling of serenity and a constant quite high pitched note which reinforces the feelings of being calm, safe and at one with everything.
One possible, novel explanation of this effect is that normally each living conciousness is represented as a single point in the universe, the position where the organic vessel containing that conciousness resides. This point has a barrier around it, keeping the conciousness in one place so that it can concentrate on dealing with "reality". Then, when you take ketamine the barrier dissolves and your conciousness expands faster and faster- the snapshots being 'true' events which your mind 'sees' as it expands. Your mind continues expanding/ de-territorialising until it no longer inhabits a single point in space time, but encompasses a network of points of recognition within "universe/the whole of space time", or in 'scientific' words it achieves "quantum non-locality" or you have an "out of body experience". The effect is intrinsic to the ketamine experience. It can most easily and loosely be described as being in one place and every other place at the same time. In other words consciousness appears to escape the confines of the nervous system completely and operate independently of it, that is it separates itself from its local, corporeal embodiment and becomes non-local in time and in space.
After this experience then the hallucinations/visions begin. At first it is hard to comprehend these or to remember anything when you come back round. But as you become accustomed then all matter of visions can happen. It must be stressed that these visions are not like normal hallucinations on LSD or other hallucinogens. Whilst you are in this state the visions that you experience are as real as concious reality itself. You can also cause yourself harm because you are not aware of the environment around you. Let me give you some anecdotal examples:
1) I was on a small travellers site, two trailers, two trucks, next to Devil's Dyke just outside Brighton. I took a big line of K, went through the process outlined above and then suddenly found myself running down a street in some town I didn't recognise. I didn't like this and can remember telling myself so. Suddenly I was on a beach next to the edge of a lake. I looked around me to discover that it was in fact a desert. Behind me was my trailer- the one from reality along with two others that I didn't recognise. I had a ponounced feeling of extreme calm and serenity. A girl I didn't know came out and we sat down, drank tea from a camp fire and talked, although I can't remember what about. Then my reality changed again suddenly, but I can't remember where to. I was so astounded by my transportation to the beach and the peace that I felt that I brought back the memory of this intact. The change between these events is strange, like an abrupt temporal shift: your sense of identity and of being in the present are acute, but your surroundings and their context shift almost instantaneously.
2)Another time I was on a site at a huge squat in Ris d'Orangis in Paris. After I went into the K hole I found myself wandering around the site and talking with people that I lived there with, with no recollection of having taken any K. it seemed as though I was walking round for 20 minutes- half an hour when I suddenly turned a corner that was not there previously to be confronted by a blue triple decker bus- like a London Routemaster but blue and with 3 decks. I thought nothing of this and climbed aboard and ascended to the top deck where I sat on a bean bag and conversed with the people there for what seemed like ages. I then remember coming round quite quickly and finding myself exactly where I was before I took the ketamine. I remember this occasion vividly because I refused to believe that I hadn't moved and had to be repeatedly told by my friends that this was the case. It was only the encounter with the triple decker that finally convinced me, otherwise the encounter was so real as to almost be like astral planing.
3) The amount of injuries I've sustained whilst on K is uncanny. My favourite incident was falling down the bank of grass outside a pub on my birthday. I'd been dancing on the bank, stumbled, and rolled down the hill cracking my head on the concrete bin-store. When I came around there was a bar supervisor there with a member of the security team bandaging up another injury on my arm. I was so off my head I thought I was watching an episode of Blue Peter (starring myself) and they were giving a first-aid demonstration on what to do if your friend [me] fell down a bank and hurt themselves!
4) And then there was the time I borrowed my mates BMX to get home after a session. I got some nice speed coming down a rather steep hill, then I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I came around sitting in my bath with my housemate holding the shower nozzle over my head. I'd somehow come off the bike and again smacked my head on the pavement, causing a not-so-sexy inch-long gash on my forehead. After cleaning the wound, I just wanted to go to bed, but my flatmate was determined to call an ambulance. Five stitches later and I'm scarred for life. It does look kind of cool though…
Another thing with ketamine is that if you concentrate on something enough you can confidently analyse it piece by piece until you come up with a solution or understanding as to how it works. This is because the mind can detach itself and work independently, focussing upon a single matter. In this respect it is a powerful analytical tool, however it could also be seen as poisoned fodder for the inquisitive and brain hungry.
Once your tolerance builds however, you will find that you can no longer reach the point where you enter the k-hole and instead you remain in reality all the time. But you still enter a sort of trance as you are still disassociated in the fact that your mind and body are still separated. Your thought process and your reactions slow down meaning that it is difficult to socialise or get things done, even though you think you are acting normally. This can be extremely dangerous if you attempt to drive, ride a bike or operate machinery (as the prescription warning goes).
Psychologically speaking, ketamine seems to feeds your death instinct, this is one of the dangers of ketamine. It allows it to come to the fore, making you selfish, only concerned about immediate personal satisfaction. You forget about other priorities, you become a shell, refraining from socialising as your focus turns slowly inward onto yourself. After a while you may find yourself being able to move in and out of the conciousness/awareness trance at will, which is a very strange and disturbing thing at first, as you realise that no longer does the drug have such control over you. This is also potentially dangerous as it may lead you to believe that you are in control, whereas in fact the addiction gains greater control instead.
Ketamine also comes, however, with plenty of other negative consequences. It is not too bad if you are an occasional user, but if you are a habitual user (of any drug), in the sense that you use drugs as a mask to take you away from contemporary reality, then ketamine is not for you, as there is a strong chance that you will become addicted with all the psychological and physical problems that entails. It is often said that there are no withdrawals from ketamine, but this view is mistaken.
There may be no visible signs of physical withdrawal like those from heroin and other opiates, but there is a marked psychological withdrawal which entices you back to using. One becomes so accustomed to experiencing the world in this altered mental state that the brain finds it difficult to latch onto reality as the default mode. This can cause quite severe psychological withdrawals as the brain panders after the artificial interpretation of reality that ketamine offers. This, combined with the loss of autonomy that is a by-product of ketamine abuse, can make it extremely difficult to stop- especially if ketamine is freely available.
Further consequences of ketamine abuse are increased anxiety, irrational social fear and self-enforced solitude. It can best be described as being similar to voluntarily incarcerating yourself within a psychological prison. This has the effect of destroying your autonomy while offering insights and speculative scenarios, effectively removing you, psychically, from human community. At the time these insights are extremely enticing. The brain latches onto what it sees as the objective benefits of these experiences whilst at the same time remaining unaware of the negative consequences which are the inevitable result. The worst of these side effects is arguably the loss of autonomy.
Your autonomy is destroyed as a consequence of the quantum non-locality effect. The quantum non-locality effect offers the belief that you are part of a larger thing than just yourself, because it allows you to be where you are and everywhere else at once. A vast emptiness and a very lonely one. When this is combined with the reptilian impulses of the id then a model which favours self gratification and selfishness occurs. This model causes a loss in the ability to choose secondary options which are not so necessary for basic survival and thus a sense of autonomy.
Another way of putting this is to say that Ketamine retards the forward mental advancement procedure of your brain. As it entices you to live in the now, the here, the instant, it also prevents you from seeing the immediacy of any potential possibilities in the immediate future. This is how it slows you down, as you become trapped in the moment, unable to quite grasp the next moment of reality. In effect, you stagnate, mentally, in your connection to the real, everyday world. There is a loss of connection which means that even the most basic chores, like cleaning up and doing the washing up, become even bigger impossibilities, problems and nightmares than they were before.
D.M. Turner, a self-confessed addict, (who drowned in the bath after taking K) explains these problems in yet another way as "a reduction in ambition; a reduction in healthy mortal fears, such as the fear of death; as well as a reluctance to confront fears or difficult tasks and situations directly. Frequent use of Ketamine can lure one as an escape since a blissful and fantastic state of fearless, disembodied consciousness is so easily available".
Ketamine can, if used wisely and not abused, be advantageous when administering chemical assistance in order to modify/self-program your consciousness. It can be useful in helping to determine how individuals might de-program themselves and cause deep changes to the psyche. This can be demonstrated by a reference to the eight circuit theoretical model as first described by Dr. Timothy Leary and then by Robert Anton Wilson in his book PROMETHEUS RISING, (Falcon Press 1983).
This theoretical model of human consciousness employs metaphors termed bio-circuits. As far as we're concerned we only need one of the circuits at the moment. Therefore we will be concentrating on the eighth bio-circuit, which is feature of everyone's nervous system just waiting to be unlocked at any moment!- anybody interested in circuits five to seven should refer to PROMETHEUS RISING by Robert Anton Wilson.
When one takes a 'journey' down the K-hole then the Circuit Eight or 'The Quantum Non-Local Circuit' is triggered. Also called the Metaphysiological Circuit, this type of consciousness involves disassociative and out-of-body experiences (OOBE's), consciousness appears to escape the confines of the nervous system completely and operate independently of it, that is it separates from its local, corporeal embodiment and becomes non-local. This OOBE – appears to be triggered by ketamine, as well as very large doses of LSD or various yogic practices and shamanic techniques and is one of many liberation-of-consciousness phenomena which point ultimately to the type of experience variously known as union with all consciousness, communion with the Cosmic Consciousness, One, AUM etc.
Here is where the quantum non-local effect comes into play. Since Circuit Eight is non-local in time as well as in space, such time-bridging abilities as precognition and retrocognition come into play. Often, precognition is a matter of trusting your own perceptions more than anything else, rather than dismissing them as "only" imagination or fantasy. Indeed, neither the future nor the past can be described as fixed, since each person's reality differs so widely, and many possibilities in the running may or may not materialize at any given point. With activation of this circuit, comes the increasing awareness that various realities are more or less arbitrary and equally valid depending on the framework being used, a logical progression from the metaprogramming discoveries of Circuit Seven. Finally, the most obvious indicator of Circuit Eight in operation is an expansive, "cosmic" feeling that defies description but feels utterly marvellous.
Ketamine boosts the ego. The focus upon the self produces a huge egotistical monster which can happily boom laughingly down the street and into any social situation without realising that its presence is blatantly, obviously apparent. This is like the loss of all social mores in the way that you don't care what people think. Thus develops a mindset perfectly suited for today's society—one which favours self gratification and selfishness within a vast empty and lonely social structure.
In any case, these encounters of the Ultimate kind seem practically beyond description. As is usually experienced with ketamine, words appear completely inadequate to describe or even understand the experience; only repeated trips by the ketamine psychonaut seem to offer a way of understanding and keeping hold of any meaningful context. However, as repeated elsewhere in the essay this method is fraught with danger to the individual psyche, so if one really would like to navigate this level of conciousness and aim for actual transformation of reality, we would recommend other less narcotic methods, like wide-spread rebellion against the ruling order and the immediate total liberation of every aspect of our lives. Unfortunately these take more work and more time to achieve- but the satisfaction is surely worth it.
If you allow it to become habitual then Ketamine can take an extremely heavy toll on you physically. It is a corrosive alkaline hydrochloride salt so your nose will slowly disintegrate from the inside out, and a good wake up call is if you blow your nose and big lumps of flat snot come out—it's not snot, it's your nasal lining! This is caused by the fact that when you snort it (in large amounts) it sits around waiting to be absorbed into the bloodstream, but while it there it is eating away at the soft tissue inside your head from the inside.
It also has a huge detrimental effect on your urinary/renal system, causing an extremely painful form of cystitis where you will suddenly need to urinate very badly, with strong burning pains in your bladder. however when you attempt to urinate you will find that you are unable to immediately and will have to wait, whilst in the meantime it can be painful to walk. Once it does come you will feel like you are not be able to hold it in, but it will still not come out for a few minutes. When it does it can burn intensely. It is very important to drink lots and lots of water in order to flush the alkaline through your system as all the time it is burning and eating at your kidneys and bladder and can lead to infection in both.
In fact it attacks your whole water system as your body recognizes it for the poison that it is. Your nose also runs and your spit glands go into overdrive. It is extremely important to spit when you feel like it. Although this is not socially polite, if you swallow the spit you may find yourself with k-cramps as the alkaline burns your stomach lining—this is excruciatingly painful and can leave you doubled up in agony. It is important to make sure that you always have food in your stomach.
Excessive intake when ketamine is snorted can cause a build up of salts in the renal system leading to high blood pressure and hypertension. This causes anxiety and is detrimental to eyesight function.
The level of ph is affected by ketamine as your blood becomes more astringent. This causes itches and rashes but is also highly dangerous as you have an alkaline coursing through your body destroying the cell walls. In effect you are burning your body from the inside out, corrosively degenerating your kidneys, liver, heart etc.
You almost feel as if your entire body is becoming alkaline and astringent, you can taste it in your saliva and you feel like you are becoming like the properties of an alkaline-astringent, sharp, edgy, tetchy, agitated: corrosive
Ketamine is a seriously dehabilitating drug that causes psychological dependence resulting in a loss of autonomy which is antithetical to the survival of the human spirit. If you really want insights into the human condition or just want a drug to use recreationally to escape the pressures of modern life then I would suggest you look elsewhere.
It is a perfect dumb down drug for the modern generation for all that ultimately does is distract you from reality
Ketamine offers a lot but produces nothing. It offers a vision of perfection but removes the tools with which you would need to get there.
Ultimately ketamine is a death drug: it kills your body, it kills your spirit and reduces your autonomy for the sake of a perceived artificial reality which only contributes to the social disintegration which is an endemic symptom of post-industrial, post-modern society.