Ketamine: The New Ecstasy among Students

From the mid-1990s through until the mid-2000, the cheap drug of choice among students was ecstasy. However, much negative press surrounding the drug reduced its popularity among young people looking to get high with little perceived risk. Fast forward to the start of the current decade and a new drug has stepped in to take of its place: ketamine. The pinkish powder also known as ‘K’ is the new ecstasy among UK students.

Ketamine is sometimes referred to as a horse tranquilliser because it is mainly used as an anaesthesia for animals under the care of a veterinarian. It can be used as a prescription painkiller or sedative for humans as well. However, what is sold on the street is neither legal nor safe. It is a dangerous drug that can cause serious injuries or even death. Young people who use it carelessly are jeopardising their futures, if not their lives.

Cheap, Easy Hallucinations

The history of ketamine goes back to 1962. It was developed as an alternative to PCP as a dissociative aesthetic. It was used successfully to treat injured soldiers during the Vietnam War. During the 1970s, it became a popular alternative for LSD in the American drug culture, but it remained largely under the radar while drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and amphetamines became more popular. It was not until the intense anti-drug education of the late 1990s that the growth of ketamine as a student drug really began to take off.

Today, ketamine is a favourite among students because it is cheap and easy to get. According to a London Evening Standard report from 2011, one gram of ketamine could be had in London for just £20. It is even cheaper outside of London. At that price, a few hits of ketamine would keep a student going all night for less money than an evening of drinking at the local pub.

Students say they like the drug because of how it works. They say you get high almost instantly, it lasts about two hours or so, and the comedown is pretty easy. The dangerous thing, they say, is mixing the drug with alcohol or other illicit substances. That is when it gets dangerous.

Blissfully Unaware

Experts say young people have no problem using ketamine because they are blissfully unaware of the potential dangers involved. Unfortunately, the fact that it is extremely difficult to overdose on K leads many people to believe the drug is perfectly safe. However, it is not. The primary danger of ketamine is that it causes a person to disassociate him or herself from their body, otherwise known as ‘having an out of body experience’.

This self-disassociation can lead a person using the drug to endanger him or herself without even knowing it. There are plenty of horror stories testifying as much. There is also the issue of ‘falling into the K hole’.

The K hole experience is one of being perfectly aware of your surroundings but being physically unable to control your body. Some people find that they are unable to speak; others lose total control over their motor skills. Some have likened it to being totally paralysed yet with the capacity to still see, hear, and think.

It took decades for ketamine to become a drug of choice among students. The only benefit in that is the fact that the drug has been around long enough for us to know what it can do. Nonetheless, that does not make K any safer. If you are using ketamine, we urge you to stop. Addiction Helper can assist you with free advice and referral services when you call.  Inform yourself about children and students with addictions in our student addiction guide.


  1. London Evening Standard
Who am I contacting?

Calls and contact requests are answered by admissions at

UK Addiction Treatment Group.

We look forward to helping you take your first step.

0800 024 1476calling