JEDDAH , Asharq Al-Awsat- Ketamine means different things to different people. To a veterinarian, it is an animal tranquilizer, but to ”ravers” and ”club goers”, it is a ”disco drug”. Equally as popular as Ecstasy, ”Special K” (its club name) is available in Jeddah, over-the-counter and without prescription.
As sold in its liquid form, it is of little use to those who seek intoxication, but once converted into a fine powder, it is snorted in much the same way as any other narcotic.
Manufactured by Alfasan Pharmaceuticals of Holland, Ketamine has been marketed in the US as a fast acting general anesthetic used in both human and veterinary practice since 1971. Chemically it is related to PCP (Phencyclidine). The effects of Ketamine are similar, although less intense and shorter in duration to those of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) or PCP.
Containing no cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, amphetamines or any other widely recognized controlled substance, it only became classified a controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, for the first time, in 1999.
According to www.projectghb.org, a website providing information for parents on the myriad of ”rave” and ”disco” drugs, Ketamine, "does not depress critical body vitals as much as other anesthetics, and is often used on burn victims. It produces a dissociating state in the central nervous system in which amnesia and profound analgesia (loss of pain) are induced. This ability to induce a lack of awareness to one”s surroundings is the effect that users crave."
One user of the drug explains, "Most of the time, I felt like a flowing light burning brightly. I could have stayed in this state forever, as it felt beautiful. Other times, I would have conscious thoughts. I loved myself and it felt great. When I would think of my friends, I would feel very warm towards them but when I tried to express this feeling, the words would come out slurred, and I would lose such sentiment."
In Saudi Arabia, Ketamine sales are not regulated, as it has not yet been recognized as an illegal narcotic. Most police officers would not identify it when faced with it in its liquid form, as it resembles any injectable medicine found at any pharmacy in the kingdom, thereby facilitating its transport throughout the country.
A visit to a veterinary pharmacy located directly in front of the Ministry of Agriculture”s building on Mecca Road”s Kilo Ten found 100 milligrams of Ketamine for sale for 110 Saudi Riyals (SR). In the US, on the black market, the same amount of Ketamine is sold for double that price. In Saudi Arabia, once converted into a powder form, it can be sold on our black market for hugely inflated prices in the same manner as illegal drugs and alcohol.
One young Saudi, 24, who used Ketamine whilst studying in the UK, expressed great surprise that ”Special K” was available in Jeddah. "I would have never imagined it. I just never thought about it. Considering that one hit of Ecstasy is sold on the black market here for 1000 SR, I know some people in Saudi who would pay more than that for a vial," he told Asharq al-Awsat.
For liquid Ketamine to be converted into ”Special K” it is simply poured out into a glass plate and left to dry for six hours until it crystallizes. It is then finely crushed into powder form using a razor blade and then snorted.
"Amnesia may be present for one or two hours. A dose of just 0.07 grams of powder may produce common symptoms of intoxication and a mechanical buzzing in the user”s ears. Users of 0.2 grams may enter a mellow, colorful ”K-land”, while 0.5 grams is more likely to take you to a ”K-hole”, with out-of-body, near death encounters, hallucinations, delirium, etc. Effects usually last an hour or less, but judgment, coordination and senses may be affected for as long as 18 to 24 hours," the website states.