Canberra: New ketamine like drug detected for the first time in Australia

A mysterious new drug has been detected by scientists in Canberra, with concerns that Australians could harm themselves using the drug that hasn‘t been detected in our borders until now.

The drug, which scientists have labelled ‘CanKet’, is similar to the drug ketamine, but experts are warning that they don’t know how dangerous it is to consume.

“Structurally it‘s quite similar to ketamine, you might expect it to have ketamine-like properties, but if you make small changes to a drug it can have big effects,” said Professor Malcolm McLeod from ANU.

“We just don‘t know for sure with this substance whether the impact of small changes is going to have on people.”

Ketamine is a powerful anaesthetic-related drug that‘s often used as a horse tranquilliser.

Common side effects include nightmares, hallucinations and a phenomenon known as a “k-hole” — a state of disassociation similar to an out-of-body experience.

The scientists are warning that those who intend to purchase ketamine could end up with this product where the outcomes of use are unknown.

“One of the concerns is that in a tainted market, people will find they are consuming something they haven‘t bargained for,” Professor McLeod said.

“This could have significant psychological effects.”

The new drug was detected at Australia‘s first fixed pill testing site, CanTEST, with members of the community bringing in substances they wish to be tested.

“We‘ve had five presentations of this compound at the site so far, and in each case, the clients have been expecting it to be ketamine,” Professor McLeod said.

Some of those who presented the “CanKet” substance to get tested decided to dispose of it at the site, while others took the drug home.

The “cousin of ketamine” has been popping up across Canberra according to ANU Associate Professor David Caldicott.

“It‘s turning up quite frequently now in Canberra, but it’s not turning up anywhere else,” he said.

“It‘s one that hasn’t really been seen with human consumption before, it’s only been identified on two occasions before, one in a Chinese lab and one on the Canadian border.”

The discovery proved why CanTEST‘s drug testing facility was “invaluable” to the community, Professor David Caldicott argued.

“It allows us to identify never before seen drugs, as well as common drugs, and provide people who use the service clear guidance on the likely health and other effects of these drugs.

“This can potentially save lives.”

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