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Bladder cells killed by ketamine

16th June 2011

British scientists have raised concerns over growing evidence that chronic use of the recreational drug ketamine is linked with severe bladder problems.

Ketamine has been used safely as a medical anaesthetic and analgesic for many years.

But more recently, it has gained popularity as a recreational drug.

Scientists and surgeons have carried out a review of the drug’s usage and highlight effects such as incontinence and bladder shrinkage, as well as kidney damage in people using ketamine frequently.

Dan Wood, a consultant urologist at University College London Hospitals who led the review, has seen 20 chronic ketamine users with urinary problems in the last three years and had to remove four patients’ bladders.

He said: “It has a major impact on users such that they can be incontinent or have enormous pain.”

Heavy users are more likely to suffer symptoms and up to a fifth of people who have taken high doses of ketamine several times a week for some time experienced urinary tract problems.

Recreational use of ketamine is increasing in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and south-east Asia, especially in Hong Kong.

Ketamine has also been shown to have potential in treating depression and is also the subject of a study by Simon Baker and Jennifer Southgate at the University of York.

Baker said: “We are excited that ketamine could be the basis for a whole new generation of drugs, but concerned that these might show similar side effects to ketamine. Understanding more about ketamine’s actions could support the development of antidepressants without these negative effects.”


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Article Information

Title: Bladder cells killed by ketamine
Author: Mark Nicholls
Article Id: 18824
Date Added: 16th Jun 2011


New Scientist

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