K Day

Ketamine is the fastest growing drug of abuse in the UK. Research, conducted primarily at UCL, has now shown that ketamine can be highly addictive and lead to severe physical and psychological problems.

At present, virtually no information about these problems is available to users. More alarmingly, there is presently no NHS service provision for ketamine users. Individuals who may be at high risk of psychological or physical problems are frequently being turned away from primary care and addiction services as they are told that ketamine is a ‘recreational’ drug.

There was a lack of engagement between researchers, healthcare professionals, users and policy makers. ‘K-day’ aimed to address this problem by bringing these groups together.

The event was centred around activities, stalls and workshops run in a ‘village fete’ format. It was informal in set up with background music and a relaxation area where people could chat on sofas and with a film showing in a corner. Stalls - manned by professionals, users and scientists- gave users practical tips on dealing with their ketamine use, and discussed with them current scientific and medical findings as well as asking their opinion on various research projects, what the problems associated with ketamine are and where we should be going next with ketamine research and treatment.

The stalls were “Ketamine and your Brain”, “Ketamine Cystitis”, “Pain and K-Cramps”, “Release, Drug Use and Law (Free Legal Advice)”, “Nutrition”, “Detox”, “Psychology and Psychiatry in Drug Services”, “Respect Drug Users Group” “Acupuncture”, which was administered by a group of qualified ex-drug users, “Bristol Drugs Project” and “Take Part in Further Research”.

There was also a “Kreativity Korner”, using art and music therapy to get users to creatively describe their ketamine experiences. In a separate room a representative from Breathing Space, mindfulness therapy ran mindfulness based relapse prevention sessions. Two additional rooms ran focus groups with users and professionals discussing various issues around ketamine use throughout the day. Each attendee was given a bag at the beginning containing various informational leaflets we prepared for the day and further contact details as well as details of current research projects.


As a result of the day, increasing numbers of collaborations, events, movements and treatment initiatives are occuring. These include an experimental ketamine detox service being trialled in Devon, using the professional and user reports from the day as well as the collaboration facilitated between the professionals we gathered together. A UK ketamine-urology research group has been set up at UCLH. The UCLH pain consultants who attended on the day knew nothing of ketamine use, but subsequently are preparing to conduct some work examining k-cramps, a severe gastrointestinal pain associated with ketamine abuse / withdrawal.

One of the key aims was a ketamine harm reduction briefing, prepared by Matt Southwell and the Gold Standard Team with input from UCL researchers, to be circulated on the day. The network of professionals assembled on the day was crucial to the success of this document. It will now be disseminated through the Royal College of GPs, the Royal College of Psychiatrists, the Royal College of Nursing and the British Psychological Society.

The data collected from the focus groups is being prepared into a paper that concerns issues around ketamine use from a multi-disciplinary perspective for dissemination in primary care and addiction services. 

Project partners

Gold Standard Team- Matt Southwell

Respect Drug User Group- Hazel West

Bristol Drugs Project- Rachel Ayres and Pete Weinstock

Bristol University Urology- Angela Cotrell

UCLH – Brigitta Bradner, consultant anaesthetist and others from her pain team and Dan Wood consultant urologist

[NHS National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse - Colin Bradbury & Dima Hussein ]

Royal College of General Practitioners special interest group on addiction – Dr. Chris Ford

Home Office Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs / Talk to Frank campaign – Ali Mohammed, Janet Searle

Drugscope – Max Daly

Release (Legal Advice for Drug Users) – Niamh Eastwood

NHS Addiction Services: Psychiatrists and Psychologists from Islington, Camden, Birmingham, Exeter NHS trusts who currently work with drug users

Social Services, Radstock Youth Project – Jayne Lewis