Ketamine is a silly drug which tends to turn people into gibbering window-lickers. The drooling and the eye-rolling are temporary, I grant you, but it's not for me. Still, live and let live (or "do what you're told", depending on your politics).
Alas, according to the newspapers I am in the minority. The country has been infested with rampant ketamine abuse. Middle England, your epidemic for the week is: horse-tranquilisers.
Ketamine tops cocaine as new drug of choice (The Independent)
Health fears as ketamine use rockets (Metro)
As usual this news comes to us from a 'charity', in this case an organisation called DrugScope.
As the Beeb explains:
There has been a rise in the number of young people taking the Class C drug ketamine, a charity warns.
Oh dear. I wonder why.
A gram has dropped in price by a third during the past three years and now costs £20 - half the price of a gram of cocaine.
In the past three years, eh? Did anything significant happen three years ago?
Ketamine was made illegal three years ago after a surge in the number of people using it as a recreational drug.
So prohibition was a miserable failure? Banning a drug actually led to lower prices and greater demand? Say it ain't so!
To quote The Independent:
The government’s decision to make ketamine a class C drug in 2006 does not appear to have impacted on the drug’s availability, popularity or price on the illegal market.
Well, I'll be a baboon's bare-arsed uncle. Can we give this prohibition shit a rest now or shall we give it one more century? Oh go on then, just one more century. You guys!
Making ketamine illegal has, predictably enough, done fuck-all to discourage people from taking it, but has ketamine use really "rocketed"? Or could it just possibly be another load of old bollocks to guarantee more funding for some fake charity?
For a start off, this is the evidence given for ketamine's rise in popularity:
Drugscope found the use of ketamine – also called raver's smack – was on the rise in nine out of 20 areas it surveyed around the country.
Keen scholars of mathematics will notice something about these figures. If ketamine was "on the rise" in 9 out of the 20 areas, it must have been "on the slide" in 11 out of 20 areas. So not quite the "surge" in use that the headlines might have led you to believe.
The other evidence DrugScope uses to justify its tales of reefer madness comes from the British Crime Survey [pdf]. That's only been recording ketamine use for the last two years, so it's a bit of a bullshit exercise to quote it at all. Still, here goes:
Percentage of 16-24 year olds who have used ketamine in the last year:
Percentage of 16-24 year olds who have used ketamine in the last month:
Keep your eye on that top figure, for it forms the entire basis of the headlines shown above. An increase from 0.8% to 0.9% is, to use a statistical term, "fuck all", especially when you only have one year to compare it with. The fact that ketamine is taken by 0.3% of 16 to 24 year olds on anything like a regular basis is also "fuck all", and that last figure, you will have noticed, has not budged in the last two years.
Okay, if you want to split hairs, I suppose that The Independent is technically correct when it says:
The British Crime Survey shows that use of the drug last year increased nationally by 10 per cent on 2006-07.
But to go on to say, as it does, that...
Ketamine—once the drug of choice for ravers—is now in widespread use
... is the sheerest bollocks. Out of the 807,000 16-24 year olds that took drugs last year, only 19,000 of cheeky little scamps took ketamine even once.
As for ketamine "replacing cocaine as the substance of choice among Britain's recreational drug users" (The Independent), the British Crime Survey shows that 5% of people took cocaine last year—more than five times as many—and 18% smoked cannabis.
Still, I am grateful to DrugScope for pointing me in the direction of the British Crime Survey website, where I found this very interesting little graph.
Do my eyes deceive me or has drug use been falling continuously for ten years? Funnily enough, I don't believe I've ever seen this graph in the newspapers. Doesn't quite fit the narrative, does it? (And there is a similar, if less dramatic, graph for alcohol consumption)
And who the fuck are DrugScope anyway? As is becoming customary, let's have a butcher's at the accounts of this 'charity' [pdf]:
Department of Health S64 Grant: £300,000
Other Government departments and EU: £710,629
Out of this huge wedge of (taxpayers') bunce comes the CEO's salary of over £70,000. His name is Martin Barnes and he was available for interviews yesterday with such wise words as:
"The very fact that the price is falling shows how popular it is becoming."
Yes Martin, prices fall when things become more popular and prices rise when they become less popular. That's how supply and demand works. Fucking hell.
Another fake charity on the make. Another bogus scare story. Go away Drugscope, and give me my money back.