Pubdate: Tue, 29 May 2007
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Times Colonist
Author: Rob Shaw
Bookmark: (Heroin)


Ketamine Mixed Into Street Drugs Is Causing Hallucinations, Violent

A vicious new mixture of heroin that gives users severe hallucinations
is circulating on local streets, warn Victoria police.

Heroin is being combined with ketamine, an anesthetic commonly used by
veterinarians, said Sgt. Grant Hamilton. Users aren't told about the
mixture when buying their drugs and when they inject what they think
is clean heroin, they get hallucinations that make them anxious,
excitable and violent, said Hamilton.

In the past few days, police have seen more than 20 cases of such drug
overdoses. Officers have had to wrestle with -- and often restrain --
users before they can administer medical attention, Hamilton said.
Police are starting to circulate notices through the street community
warning about the current quality of heroin.

"Hallucinations are something heroin users are not at all accustomed
to," said Const. Conor King, Victoria police drug expert. "They react
like you or I would react if we took Aspirin and all of a sudden the
TV got up and started walking across the room."

About 2,000 intravenous drug users live in the capital region,
according to numbers cited in a Vancouver Island Health Authority
research proposal for safe injection sites earlier this year.

Those users will likely be surprised by the hallucinations, because
they are not normally associated with heroin, which is a depressant.

It costs around $20 to get 0.1 grams (called a point) of heroin on the
street. When injected, it provides a mellow, numbing high that staves
off the harsh affects of heroin withdrawal, said King.

But ketamine dramatically alters that high by causing hallucinations
and, in some cases, memory loss.

Known on the street as Special K, ketamine is more commonly used as a
rave drug where it produces a dreamy out-of-body effect, with
numbness. It is known as being in "K-land" or in the "K-hole."

"In the last week it has just seemed crazy for the drug overdoses and
erratic behaviour," said Const. Brent Keleher, a downtown bike
officer. "I don't remember in past months Welfare Wednesday being that
noticeable. It was out of control, with the people whacked out all
over the place. Even your regular users were in conditions they
weren't normally in."

It's all part of the dangerous world of street drugs, where users
never really know what they are buying. Drugs are mixed by dealers
without any thought for safety or quality control, said King.

Street drugs such as heroin are rarely pure, he said. Dealers "cut"
them with another substance similar in colour and texture to dilute
the product and increase the profit margin. In the case of heroin,
it's usually a white powdery substance such as talcum powder or
powdered milk, he said.

Ketamine also makes a good mixing substance, because it is cheaper
than heroin -- especially if it is stolen from a medical centre in
liquid form, and then evaporated to leave the pure powder, said King.
It is also possible that powder methadone is being cut into the heroin
supply, said Hamilton. However, King said that would not produce
hallucinations or violent behaviour.

Police say they'll watch to see if the tainted supply dwindles on the

"I would say it will sort itself out in a few days," said King. "But
there's nothing to say that there aren't hundreds of little packages
with heroin cut with ketamine out there. We will just have to watch
and see what happens in the next days or weeks."
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