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Ketamine use is on the rise in Ireland - who's using it and where does it come from?

We spoke to a member of the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau who said last week’s record seizure of the drug is a sign of things to come.

LAST WEEK GARDAÍ discovered more than €1 million worth of ketamine in Dublin and Kildare in the largest seizure of this substance in Irish history.

Seizures of this magnitude are rare when it comes to ketamine and gardaí see this haul as an indication of increased demand for the drug, with the expectation that further seizures of it will follow in the coming months.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie this week, Detective Garda Sergeant Brian Rogers of the Drugs and Organised Crime Bureau gave us an insight into ketamine use in Ireland, which he says has been on the rise in the last two years.

When a drug increases in prevalence, the seizures will reflect that so we could see more of the same,” he said. “Across the board, in the EU, there are changing trends in drug misuse year-on-year. This newer generation of drug users are more willing to interact with psychoactive substances like ketamine.

So where is it coming from?

Though the drug is commonly known for its use as a horse anaesthetic, gardaí are confident that there is no diversion from the pharmaceutical industry into the illicit market.

“That means the supply is by chemists working on behalf of criminal groups,” he said.

With criminals behind the production of the drug, there is concern about what might be in the end product people are buying and taking. In recent times, seizures of ketamine by gardaí have been cut with benzocaine, an ingredient that is contained in many over the counter pain relievers.

This points to criminals maximising on the product, with a total disregard for how they may present a health risk to the consumer. The key point is, when someone buys a bag of ketamine, they have no assurance of what’s going to be in it.

Most of the supply in Ireland is coming from Holland, Belgium and China like other psychoactive substances. Though it appears to be growing in popularity, the price of the drug on the street has remained fairly static at €60 or €70 per gram.

Behind closed doors

The reason we do not hear more about the drug in this country is that it is “very much an indoor drug” because of the effect it has on people. Unlike other psychoactive drugs, ketamine does not make users more active or alert.

The effect of ketamine is dissociative, your cogitative processes slow down and mostly people are taking it in an indoor party setting with friends. That’s where it exists. People have a limited capability because of the effect rendered on them but it’s the hallucinogenic episode that is sought.

However many people who have tried the drug report having bad experiences with it and refuse to do it again.

“The biggest danger with ketamine is trauma. When someone is debilitated they don’t have proper control of normal functions. Accidents happen that they might not be aware of. The second biggest is poly-drug use and this is seen in most of the drug implicated deaths in the country.”

For An Garda Síochána, the 2010 legislation which outlawed legal highs made a huge difference to the prevalence of psychoactive substances in the country.

“What we have prior to 2010 was a retail industry with shops all over the country legally selling these products. That was shut down overnight so it’s been hugely effective.”

However it is clear the demand for these types of substances among drug users continues to grow in Ireland. Last week’s record seizure may soon be surpassed.

Read: Three men charged following largest ketamine seizure in Irish history>

Read: Loophole means ecstasy and loads of other drugs are now legal (but only until Thursday)>

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