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Illegal drugs: Experts issue warning over 'safe ketamine'

A new drug, marketed as a 'safe' version of the equine tranquilliser, Ketamine, is becoming increasingly popular across the UK according to a recent study by charity Drug Scope.

The drug, Methoxetamine (MXE) or 'Mexxy' is manufactured to mimic the effects of ketamine.

Ketamine is used as a medical grade anaesthetic on both animals and humans. Taken at lower doses, party goers report feeling relaxed and as if they are floating. In higher doses users can experience a separation of mind from body, as the effect of the drug renders the user almost unable to move.

MXE is a 'controlled substance', which means that possession and distribution are illegal. However, it has avoided more serious classification under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 due to differences in its chemical structure. This has allowed those selling the drug to claim it as a 'legal high'.

Drug dealers are finding ways to sell such substances over the internet, avoiding the police by marketing them as 'not fit for human consumption'. The drug is also marketed as 'bladder friendly' as it has fewer effects on urinary continence, something which ketamine can seriously impact upon.

However, many of the reported effects of MXE are now being challenged by scientific experts. Fiona Measham is a researcher with the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs.

"The new kid on the block seems to be Methoxetamine. It is growing in popularity, not just in the UK but in northern Europe. It's so similar in chemical structure to ketamine there is no evidence to suggest that it doesn't carry the same risks, or that it is bladder-friendly," she said.

Users are impressed with MXE but often tell stories that are laced with tragedy.

"I have experienced the harmful effects of ketamine," said one regular ketamine user who has now switched to trying MXE.

"I lost one friend and have known two people [fitted] with urinary catheters due to bladder damage from ketamine. I ended up in hospital once due to ketamine cramps," they added.

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Independent)

Drugs and young people (FindLaw)

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