Get Ready for Your Mum To Ask You a Lot About Ketamine

‘There is much more to ketamine use than entering oblivion through a k-hole. For most people.’
Adele Luamanuvae
Sydney, AU
Mother And Ketamine
Mother vs. Ketamine: Getty Images

Ketamine, K, Special K, Kit Kat, Horse Tranq – whatever you call it, wherever you snort it, ketamine is not a new, ominous drug.

It doesn’t lurk under your bed or in your closet like a mythical monster. It doesn’t creep up on you like a spider. Maybe you’ve seen someone spaced out, sinking into the couch at a dimly lit house party like they’ve just seen a ghost. But ketamine has been around for a lot longer than you think.


This Sunday’s Daily Telegraph investigation explores the popularity of ketamine in recent times, coining it as the latest drug that party goers are choosing for a hit cheaper than cocaine. The article warns that experts say ketamine can be “highly addictive, dangerous and almost impossible to quit without significant health treatment”, and is particularly potent when mixed with other drugs (who would’ve thought). The trigger, of course, was Friends star Matthew Perry’s untimely death.

Recreational drug use isn’t groundbreaking. The kids have been at it for years. And, really, it’s just the next chapter in an ongoing story about drugs, young people who take them, and police, politicians and parents trying to figure out “why”.

The 70s saw a cannabis and psychedelic wave, the 80s became the era of glamour and cocaine, and the 90s and 2000s had pills popping. It’s all the same party, just with a different drug.

So, why is everyone acting brand new about it?

Like any 20-something, I love the feeling of getting high. Losing control of your senses for momentary joy is one of life’s simple pleasures. But outside of the allure of an out-of-body experience, the way we look at and speak about ketamine often dilutes how much of a medical necessity it is.


For a drug that has been around for more than 60 years, the topic of ketamine borders two main conversations: one about getting high and one about overdosing. Both happen, both can fuck you up, and both are common.

What’s often missing from the conversation is a history of medical trials, drug regulation, and a fight to remove the stigma around ketamine usage for people who battle with mental illness. Ketamine is often used as the hot, fresh buzzword in conversations on the war on drugs – a spooky substance for your grandparents to scold you about over family dinner.

Ketamine has been used medically since the 1960s, being utilised as a field anaesthetic for soldiers during the Vietnam War. Doctors and vets still administer ketamine today for pain management, but more recently, they have been doing so as ketamine therapy. Ketamine therapy has been used recently to trial the treatment of a variety of mental health conditions. Studies were already taking place in the 90s and suggested that ketamine can help temporarily treat chronic depression, with public ketamine clinics popping up all over the world to regulate the drug for patients with hard-to-treat depression. 


While it’s easy to imply a state of emergency, young people throwing themselves at drugs for reckless abandon, there is much more to ketamine use than entering oblivion through a k-hole. For most people.

And while your parents might be clued into this new phenomenon now, it won’t be the last time we see a headline splash striking fear into the heart of anyone with money to spend and children to worry about. Next up: reporters going undercover to “discover the black market” of this “elusive party drug” you’ve been able to pick up at just about any house party in a major city for years.

Well, here we go then.

Adele is the Junior Writer & Producer for VICE AU/NZ. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter here.

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