The drug ketamine’s primary use is as a powerful general anaesthetic to stop humans and animals feeling pain during operations. It is classified as a Class B Drug and penalties for possession are up to 5 years in prison plus an unlimited fine. Supplying ketamine can result in penalties of up to 14 years in prison.
Across England and Wales, seizures of ketamine have increased by 32% over the course of the year, and there is increasing concern about the numbers of young people using the drug.
What are ketamine’s effects?
Ketamine causes a loss of feeling and paralysis of the muscles. Its use may also cause people to feel incapable of moving, experience hallucinations or lead to panic attacks, confusion and memory loss.
According to the drugs information site Frank, ketamine can also lead to people experiencing a distortion of reality, known as entering the ‘k-hole’. This feels like your mind and body have separated and you can’t to do anything about it, which can be very scary.
Regular users can seriously damage their bladders, which may need to be surgically removed. Other risks include raised blood pressure and heart rate.
How can ketamine be detected?
Oral fluid drug testing involves analysing a sample of saliva. Ketamine can be detected in saliva either by direct deposition in the mouth or by transfer from the blood stream following ingestion and absorption. The entire test, including all the paperwork, takes just 20–30 minutes and involves placing an absorbent collector inside an individual’s mouth for just a few minutes to soak up sufficient saliva. The period of detection of oral fluid testing is up to 48 hours after ingestion.
Ketamine that is present in the bloodstream is metabolised in the liver before being excreted in the urine. This means that ketamine and any other drugs appear in urine later than oral fluid. The drugs are also detectable for a significantly longer time in urine than in oral fluid. Urine drug testing involves a donor providing a sample of their urine in a fully-contained screening pot. This method is quick, accurate and provides an immediate result. Its period of detection is only a few days, which means it is possible to detect ketamine in a urine drug test for up to 4 days after someone uses it.
Determining long-term ketamine drug use
Hair drug testing is used to provide a more comprehensive overview of a person’s ketamine use and can determine a history of drug intake for up to 12 months. By segmenting head hair samples into monthly 1 cm sections, a month-by-month profile of ketamine use can be attained. Analysis of small segments can help establish a positive hair test in a narrow timeframe, but unlike oral fluid and urine tests, hair strand analysis cannot show recent drug history. It takes about 14 days for drugs to appear in the hair shaft, and between 7–10 days for the hair containing the drug to grow above the scalp.
Ketamine can also be detected in nails because when it is consumed, its metabolites circulate in the bloodstream. These substances pass from the blood vessels below the nail into the keratin fibres as the nail grows. Approximately 10 mg of nail (either fingernail or toenail) is required in total and they need to be collected as close to the nail bed as possible. Unlike hair drug testing, nail drug testing won’t give a historic segmented pattern of ketamine use, but it will give an overview of up to 12 months.
More information about ketamine drug testing
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