Suffolk: Fears of rise in use of horse drug by youngsters

Deadly ketamine is “readily available” on our streets, experts reveal.

The number of young people taking horse tranquiliser ketamine is a “serious” problem in the county, experts have revealed.

In fact, a local drugs worker claims the problem is so prolific he could get ketamine “in five minutes” on the streets of Ipswich.

Both the police and those working to fight substance abuse in young people said usage has spiked in the past year.

Brian Tobin, founder and director of addiction rehabilitation centre Iceni, said: “Last year we saw a marked increase in the number of users in the 18 to 22-year-old age group.

“If there is demand there will be supply. I could walk out onto the street in Ipswich and get ketamine in five minutes, it is readily available.”

This is not the first time Suffolk has been revealed as a hotspot for ketamine dealing and abuse.

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In 2009, addiction charity Drugscope said the drug - known as Special K or Raver’s Smack - was on the increase in Ipswich.

The popularity of this drug appears to be a problem distinct to Suffolk.

Nationally, Home Office statistics showed cannabis is the most popular drug of choice with 16 to 24-year-olds, followed by cocaine which is on par with Mephedrone - commonly known as meow meow.

However workers at Iceni and Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team (DAAT) said they had only seen “one or two” young people abusing meow meow and on those occasions it was being used in tandem with another drug.

Simon Aalders - co-ordinator of the drug and alcohol unit at Suffolk DAAT - said cannabis, alcohol and ketamine are the substances being abused in this county by people under 19.

“I think these things take hold in certain areas,” he said. “In central Hackney in London, Mephedrone might be the drug being used by young people but here in Suffolk it’s ketamine.

“There could be more suppliers here but it is hard to say why – with these things there is never just one reason.”

He added: “We are concerned about the increase in the number of people using ketamine and we have been aware of it for a while.”

The resulting risk of physical deterioration is perhaps the most worrying side effect of abusing this drug. In many cases, it can lead to severe bladder and urinary problems.

Mr Aalders said: “Ketamine users will see blood clots coming out with their urine.

“There’s potential to pass lumps of congealed blood and users tend to have abdominal pain. Both these things are symptoms of deterioration of the urinary tract from the kidneys right the way down.”

He added: “Ultimately this can lead to the bladder being removed and when you consider how young these people are this is a real concern.”

Robin Pivett, control drug liason officer for Suffolk Constabulary, believes young people using ketamine are not aware of the physical problems it can cause.

He said: “I know of at least one person who has had to have their bladder removed.”

Mr Pivett believes the drug is being sourced internationally and then smuggled into Suffolk.

He said: “It is coming from overseas - from China and India. The Borders Agency have found it being posted.

“A myth I would like to dispel is that ketamine is being supplied by veterinary practice or the horse-racing fraternity,” he added. “This has nothing to do with them.”

Mr Pivett urged parents who suspected their children are using ketamine or think there are dealers nearby to get in touch with Suffolk police or Crimestoppers.

He also appealed to them to seek help for their children at the Matthew Project – an organisation helping under 18s with drug abuse problems.

He said: “This is something we need to work on and try to tackle together.”

Has your life been affected by drugs? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, Ip4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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