Urologists in the UK are reporting a growing number of young people seeking treatment for what they think might be cystitis but which turns out to be the effects of the recreational drug Ketamine, otherwise known as ‘Special K’ or ‘K’.
Ketamine is used in the induction and maintenance of anaesthesia for large animals as well as for humans. It has now become a popular recreational drug for its hallucinogenic, ‘out-of-body’ experience and is widely (and cheaply) sold in clubs as powder, tablets or capsules.
Adrian Joyce, President of the British Association of Urological Surgeons and Consultant Urologist at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds, said,
‘Examination of the urine reveals no infection, so many GPs refer patients with cystitis symptoms to consultant urologists. Endoscopic inspection of the Ketamine user’s bladder reveals a characteristic picture of inflammation and, in severe cases, ulceration.
‘One of the first questions I now ask a patient in their late teens or early twenties is whether they are using Ketamine. The toxic effect of the drug is to markedly reduce bladder capacity. The long-term consequences are serious, including the development of a small contracted bladder, and kidney failure - often irreversible – with the need for major reconstructive surgery to restore bladder capacity and to try to preserve kidney function.
‘This has major consequences for the rest of their lives. Explaining these facts to a young person often evokes disbelief. But the severity of their symptoms often forces them to understand the reality of their predicament.
‘The effects of such drugs on the central nervous system and respiratory and cardiovascular functions are well known. The use of Ketamine introduces a new syndrome affecting the bladder - with long-term consequences for the kidney and bladder.’
UK usage statistics are few, but figures from America’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that children in the USA as young as 12 are taking Ketamine, and Hong Kong’s Central Registry for Drug Abuse (CRDA) reports the drugs most commonly abused by people under 21 are ketamine (74.4%), “ecstasy” (34.1%) and cannabis (18.3%).
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