Not so special K?
Ketamine is becoming a common drug on the club and festival circuits these days. Rhian, 22, and Phil, 24, share their experiences of taking the illegal drug.
Rhian* used to take ketamine (K) on the weekends, at parties, clubs and festivals. After a 12-hour memory blank she decided to change her habits.
I'd snorted lines of K plenty of times before at clubs, free parties, house parties and festivals. Sometimes I'd got into pretty messy states, but I always stayed with close friends when I took it. Any memory blanks from when I was on K had been minimal - there were just very short periods of time that I couldn't remember afterwards, like those you get after a bingey night out on the lash. This time it was different, though.
I was at my usual club haunt with my mates, but I can't remember anything of the night. I'd been caning it a bit that week as I was on holiday from work. I guess my tolerance levels were up, so I had to snort a lot more K than usual to get any effect. I'd drunk shedloads before I even got to the club, too. Piecing together fragments of the night from those who saw me, I was apparently stumbling about the place, hammering myself and others into walls in a dancing frenzy, kissing other boys in front of my boyfriend, taking MDMA, snorting more lines of K, and generally acting like a twat.
My boyfriend left and went off to a party. He was clearly pretty annoyed with me, and was fairly mangled himself. I don't know what happened; no one knows where I went after the club. I woke up at my flat at 5pm the next day, but I haven't a clue how I got there, what time I got in, where I'd been or whether I lost consciousness. Frankly, anything could have happened. I went to the local GUM clinic to be on the safe side, but thankfully got the all clear. The whole experience really humbled me.
When you're young you can feel like you're invincible, but this clearly isn't the case. I used to take any drug I was offered if I thought it'd give me a good time at the weekend. Often, I wouldn't even look at what was going in my mouth or up my nose. I've not stopped taking drugs recreationally - K included - but I'm much more sensible when it comes to what I take these days, and I don't mix anymore. I know my limits and I don't feel the need to push them any further.
Phil* thought he had died when having an out-of-body experience under the influence of ketamine.
I was 21 when I first tried ketamine, which was legal at the time. I'd already tried mushrooms, cannabis and ecstasy with my mates, and one day we got hold of a bottle of liquid K from some guy who was at veterinary college. We boiled it down to a powder and snorted it. We just did a little bit at first, and felt a rush of euphoria. We also felt a bit tingly and numb - not in an uncomfortable way like having pins and needles, but in a nice, soothing way. In small doses, that's pretty much all you get from ketamine. We stuck to small doses at first, and while we were on it we used to go out in the country, ride our bikes and look at cows. It was really pleasant.
Then, a few weeks later, a flatmate of mine got some more, and we properly caned it, listening to music at home while it took effect. After this I started to take it more and more in increased doses. I also began to have psychedelic trips. My life was fairly dull at the time, so ketamine offered a way to exist in another reality of sorts. When you 'K-hole' it feels just like a daydream and you forget your surroundings. It's a completely internal experience - external stimuli don't affect you, so you just drift off into your own consciousness.
I found it very spiritual, but the experiences were incredibly scary at times. At one point I felt like I had died on it. I've had two out-of-body experiences on ketamine, and in one I stood up and had no memory of who or where I was. I thought I'd broken my head and killed myself. But then I went downstairs later and I was OK - panicky and scared, but OK. Another time, I passed out on a train in London, whacked my head and ended up in hospital. When I discharged myself I went home and took some more ketamine like nothing had happened.
After a few weeks, I found my tolerance to the drug had built up. It had lost its fun and I couldn't K-hole anymore, so I resolved to limit my usage. The more positive experiences I had on the drug encouraged me to change the direction of my life, and I ended up moving city and enrolling at university. Since that point, I've only taken ketamine once or twice a year as a treat. I've had a couple of binges since then, though, which have left me a bit edgy for a few days. It can be psychologically addictive, but not to the extent that, for example, cocaine is. When it's gone, it's gone. I forget about it and get on with my life.
*These are not their real names
Interviewed by Susie Wild