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What employers need to know about the sharp rise in ketamine use

Recent news reports have detailed an alarming rise in the use of ketamine in the UK. Health officials detected this phenomenon after a spike in bladder issues among young people.

The Office for National Statistics reported for the year ending March 2023 that general use of different drug types was below 1%. The exceptions were ketamine, which was 3.8%, and new psychoactive substances, which was 1.4%.

Other reports indicated that ketamine use in England and Wales had more than doubled since 2016 and more than tripled in people under the age of 25. Studies further show that individuals as young as 21 years need major surgery as a result of chronic ketamine use.

 Ketamine: Class B drug

The UK government categorises controlled or illicit drugs in line with the potential degree of harm that stems from their misuse. There are three categories.

Ketamine is a widely used anaesthetic, sedative and analgesic in healthcare. As a hallucinogenic, it is also taken socially or as a ‘party drug’ dubbed Special K, which is sold as a crystalline powder or liquid.

Continued misuse damages the lining of the bladder. Some urology departments have established specific clinics to deal with the influx of people with bladder-specific ailments. The British Association of Urological Surgeons is compiling guidelines for other health workers to help them identify what has been called ‘ketamine bladder’.

Recognising the warning signs of ketamine misuse

Ketamine misuse symptoms vary from person to person. A user starts craving the drug when it leaves the body and often increases dosages to prolong the drug’s physical and psychological effects. Research shows that ketamine is often used with other substances or as a bridge to use stronger psychoactive substances.

Interventions to decrease or halt ketamine misuse trends

By the time patients seek treatment for urological problems, ketamine misuse is advanced. Drug testing is the most effective intervention for the early identification and treatment of a ketamine misuse issue.

Partnering with a drug testing specialist such as Matrix Diagnostics empowers employers to implement efficient workplace drug testing programmes. Regular drug testing helps employers spot ketamine patterns and problems. They can then refer workers for professional interventions and appropriate care to avoid the escalation in ketamine misuse.

Matrix Diagnostics provides objective advice and reviews existing workplace drug policies in line with legislation. Matrix Diagnostics has a network of collectors and help employers establish drug testing programmes.

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