The Rise of Ketamine Use in the UK and Ireland

The Rise of Ketamine Use in the UK and Ireland

In recent years, the UK and Ireland have witnessed a worrying rise in ketamine use, particularly among young people. This blog will delve into the trends, causes, and implications of this increase, as well as the necessary responses to address this growing public health issue.

Increasing Prevalence

Ketamine, originally an anaesthetic for animals and humans, has become a popular recreational drug due to its hallucinogenic effects. The rise in its use is stark, with increasing reports of misuse across the UK and Ireland. For instance, the UK has seen significant seizures of ketamine, indicating a rising demand. The office for National Statistics reported a notable increase in ketamine use among young adults, with about 3.8% of 16–24-year-olds using it in 2023, a significant jump from previous years (Office for National Statistics (2023).

Similarly, Ireland has experienced a rise in ketamine usage, with admissions to Irish drug-treatment facilities linked to the drug rising year on year, with over 500 cases over the past five years (Irish Independent, 2024). Furthermore, eight ketamine-implicated deaths were recorded by the National Drug-related Deaths Index between 2011 and 2020, five of which occurred between 2018 and 2020.

Causes of the Surge

Employees who misuse drugs are more likely to have an average productivity of 25% less than other employees (Wilcox, 2015), increased likelihood of making errors and higher absenteeism, in the UK, alcohol misuse alone is estimated to cause up to 5% of all absences, impacting overall productivity and efficiency (TUC, 2019). By conducting random drug tests, employers can discourage drug use among their workforce, leading to higher productivity levels, better work quality, and fewer disruptions.

Reducing Costs

Several factors contribute to the increasing misuse of ketamine:

  • Cost and Accessibility: Ketamine is relatively cheap compared to other drugs like cocaine. Its affordability makes it more accessible, especially to younger users (, 2024).
  • Perceived Safety: There is a common misconception that ketamine is safer than other illicit substances, which can encourage its use (Beerten, Matheï and Aertgeerts, 2023).
  • Social Media Influence: Dealers increasingly use social media platforms to market and sell ketamine, making it more accessible to young people (, 2024).

Ketamine Use in the Workplace

The rise in ketamine use has significant implications for the workplace. Substance abuse can severely impact an employee’s ability to perform their job safely and effectively, leading to increased accidents, absenteeism, and reduced productivity. Here’s how ketamine use is affecting the workplace:

  • Safety Concerns: Employees under the influence of ketamine may experience impaired motor skills, hallucinations, and dissociation, increasing the risk of workplace accidents and injuries. This is particularly concerning in industries that require high levels of attention and coordination, such as construction and transportation (UCL, 2020; Williams, 2023).
  • Productivity Issues: Drug misuse is linked to higher absenteeism and decreased productivity. Employees using ketamine might frequently miss work or perform their tasks at a lower efficiency, affecting overall workplace productivity and leading to increased costs for employers (Beerten, Matheï and Aertgeerts, 2023).
  • Health Costs: Long-term health issues associated with ketamine use, such as urinary tract problems and cognitive impairments, can lead to increased healthcare costs for businesses. Employers may face higher insurance premiums and increased sick leave costs (, 2024).
  • Work Environment: A workplace culture that tolerates drug use can lead to lower morale and higher employee turnover rates. Employers need to ensure a safe and supportive work environment to maintain employee well-being and productivity.

Response and Mitigation

Addressing the rise of ketamine use requires a comprehensive approach:

  • Education and Awareness: Public health campaigns are crucial to educate young people and employees about the risks associated with ketamine use.
  • Support Services: Enhanced support services, including counselling and rehabilitation programs, are necessary to help those struggling with addiction.
  • Drug Testing Programs: Implementing random drug testing in the workplace can help identify employees who may be under the influence and provide necessary interventions to ensure workplace safety (Beerten, Matheï and Aertgeerts, 2023).
  • Policy Initiatives: Implementing robust policies to reduce demand and provide better healthcare support is essential for mitigating the issue.

To Conclude

The surge in ketamine use in the UK and Ireland is a pressing issue that demands urgent attention. By understanding the factors driving this trend and implementing comprehensive strategies to combat it, we can work towards a safer and healthier society.

At Randox Testing Services, we are committed to providing effective drug testing solutions to help address this challenge and support communities in maintaining drug-free environments.

For more information or to discuss our services, please contact us at


Beerten, S.G., Matheï, C. and Aertgeerts, B. (2023). Ketamine misuse: an update for primary care. British Journal of General Practice, [online] 73(727), pp.87–89. doi:

Hennessy, M. (2015). Ketamine use is on the rise in Ireland – who’s using it and where does it come from? [online] Available at: [Accessed 29 May 2024].

Irish Independent. (2024). Fears grow over ketamine use in wake of five deaths. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Jun. 2024].

Office for National Statistics (2023). Drug misuse in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics. [online] Available at: (2024). The Rise of Ketamine Use in the UK. [online] Available at:

UCL (2020). Ketamine use on the rise in UK. [online] UCL News. Available at: [Accessed 29 May 2024].