Is There a Rise in Young People Taking Ketamine?

Published by Raffa Bari | Last updated: 10th June 2024 | All Sources

Is There a Rise in Young People Taking Ketamine?

Ketamine is a substance that is traditionally used within medicinal settings but has also been, unfortunately, abused outside of this. In recent years, the use of ketamine has almost doubled since 2016 – a trend which has raised significant concerns as a result of the long-term effects of the drug.

In this blog, we look at why people are turning to ketamine and answer the question, ‘Why are more young people using ketamine?’ Plus, we’ll outline some treatment options available if you or someone you know is struggling with a ketamine addiction.

What Is Ketamine?

Ketamine is a dissociative anaesthetic commonly used in medical and veterinary settings as pain relief. It’s often given to individuals and animals who are about to undergo surgery or those who require strong painkillers. However, beyond this, ketamine is used as a recreational drug because of its dissociative and hallucinogenic properties.

In the UK, ketamine is a Class B controlled substance, which means that possession and supply of it is illegal. When ingested, ketamine affects the brain and body, reducing awareness, pain and coordination. Common side effects include feeling disorientated, and it can also create feelings of euphoria in individuals experiencing a detachment from reality.

Latest figures show that ketamine use in England and Wales is at an all-time high, with younger adults aged between 16-24 representing the most avid users. This alone has prompted councils and the government to work together to campaign for more awareness of the risks of ketamine, especially when it is abused or used outside of medicine.

How Ketamine Affects The Brain And Body

As soon as ketamine is ingested, it travels to the brain, where it binds to receptors and results in various effects, including euphoria, hallucinations and a sense of detachment. Physically, users also experience increased heart rate, higher blood pressure and altered motor function. There is also what’s known as a ‘K-hole’, which is where users experience a deeply dissociative state.

As with any drug, long-term and excessive use of ketamine can lead to several serious health issues. This includes memory loss, cognitive impairments, and permanent dissociated states. Ketamine has also been linked to bladder damage, which has been called ketamine bladder syndrome. In the worst cases, individuals can suffer from severe pain and urinary incontinence. There is also the risk of developing tolerance and dependence on ketamine, which can lead to withdrawal symptoms without the substance and even overdose as users consume larger doses in a bid to feel the desired effects.

The Rise In Ketamine Use Among Young People

Recent studies have shown a significant increase in the number of young people taking ketamine. The number of individuals reporting issues with ketamine has increased, rising from 512 people (4.5%) in the period of 2021 to 2022 to 719 people (5.8%) this year. Hospitals across the UK have even revealed that people as young as 19 are being admitted because of ketamine use, and many are facing major surgery to treat a range of problems that have been caused by ketamine addiction.

While young adults aren’t the only age group to be using ketamine across the UK, the prevalence of ketamine use among other groups has remained stable, which makes this current trend particularly alarming.

What’s Causing The Increase In Ketamine Use In Youth?

While we can’t say for sure precisely what is causing the increasing popularity of ketamine, many experts are putting it down to the fact that young adults are typically more likely to experiment with perceived party drugs and the desire to fit in with peer groups and experience new things can lead to an interest in new substances.

Unfortunately, the accessibility and affordability of ketamine are also likely to play a significant role in its rising use. Compared to other drugs, ketamine is relatively easy to obtain and can often be cheaper, which can be attractive for young people looking for an affordable high.

20% of young adults also experience a mental health concern, including anxiety, depression or trauma, and this too can contribute to drug use. As a known pain relief and dissociative drug, ketamine may be used as a form of self-medication. The substance is also going through rigorous testing for its antidepressant effects, but this is yet to be determined. It’s also important to remember that using ketamine outside of a controlled medical setting can be very risky.

Physical And Mental Health Risks Of Ketamine Abuse

The most common immediate health risks associated with ketamine include overdose, loss of consciousness, respiratory depression and even death. Ketamine can also lead to impaired judgement and coordination, which can increase an individual’s likelihood of accident and injury.

Long-term, ketamine can have severe effects both physically and psychologically. This includes bladder damage, mental health concerns, kidney problems and persistent cognitive deficits. Those who abuse ketamine are also more at risk of developing psychosis.

Recognising Ketamine Addiction

Signs And Symptoms Of Ketamine Abuse

If you are concerned about your own ketamine use or a loved one, being able to identify the signs of ketamine abuse is crucial in getting the right help. Behavioural signs of addiction include a preoccupation with using and getting ketamine, neglecting responsibilities and withdrawing from friends, family and social activities. Physically, someone might suffer from bladder issues, memory problems and significant weight loss.

It’s important to remember that this isn’t an exhaustive list. If anything has made you question a loved one’s or your own behaviour, consider seeking advice from a team of professionals.

Treatment Options For Ketamine Addiction

There is help out there for those who have a ketamine use disorder, either through inpatient or outpatient programmes. Both are successful, but they differ in their approaches. Inpatient treatment, which is more structured, provides intensive care and support around the clock. Outpatient treatment, on the other hand, is a little more flexible and allows individuals to recover at home while receiving treatment in a clinic.

Again, while every rehab centre will have its own approach to therapy, one of the most common treatment types includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is proven to help individuals understand their thought patterns and address behaviours that could lead to drug use. In addition to this, counselling with a trained professional provides users with a safe and supportive environment to discuss how they’re really feeling and to develop healthier coping mechanisms.

Reach Out For Ketamine Addiction Support Today

For young adults struggling with ketamine addiction, professional help is the first step towards recovery. At Cassiobury Court, we have a range of addiction recovery treatment programmes tailored to individuals, including the needs of young people. Not only do we provide detox, medical care, therapy and support, but we can also offer relapse and aftercare prevention advice to help you turn your back on ketamine for good.

So, if you or someone you know has a ketamine addiction, why not reach out? You can learn more about our specialist treatment programmes and take that first all-important step towards a drug-free life.

Raffa Bari

Raffa Bari - Author Last updated: 10th June 2024

CQC Registered Manager

Raffa manages the day to day caring services here at Cassiobury Court. Dedicated to the treatment and well being of our visitors she is an outstanding mental health coach registered with BAAT (British Association of Art Therapists). Raffa has outstanding experience in managing rehabs across the country and is vastly experienced at helping people recover from drug and alcohol addictions.