The Sad Demise of Nancy Lee, One of Britain’s Ketamine Casualties
by Max Daly (VICE)
"Cocaine, MDMA, mephedrone, and LSD can end up damaging people and some can become addictive, but it appears none of these drugs has the ability to wreck the body or leave users mentally marooned in the way that ketamine does. Rather than being a window into the soul, for some ketamine has turned into a way of mollifying pain or getting through the day" -Max Daly
"If I didn’t commit myself 40 hours a week to my job I would be on it all the time, or struggling with myself not to be. Even though I’m ‘clean,’ this is only by default, from changing my social groups and prioritizing life, love, and work over ketamine. If you put the stuff in front of me now I’d still do it. It’s more powerful than I ever anticipated" -Laura, call-center manager from Bristol
Ketamine is that crazy wobbly-leg drug. The wacky-student drug, the post-club chill-out aid, the new-gen LSD that gives users the power to become—according to 1970s K-hole explorer and dolphin whisperer John C. Lilly—“peeping toms at the keyhole of eternity.” But its reputation as a popular recreational drug, since filtering into the mainstream via the gay-clubbing and free-party scenes in the 2000s, does not tell the whole story of what’s going on in modern British K-land.
Apart from a brief paragraph in the Brighton Argus’s obituary column, Nancy Lee’s drug death went unreported. There was no shock factor: She hadn’t collapsed in public from a toxic reaction to a pill or a line of powder in a club. Instead, at the age of 23, Nancy had died slowly over seven years, her body trashed by a steady diet of ketamine.
Nancy started using ketamine at age 16 when she made new friends. Most teenagers getting high in the local Brighton park were necking cider and smoking skunk, but Nancy and her group of indie-kid outsiders used the open spaces to take ketamine. It was cheap, at 12 grams for about $150, and, important for Nancy, it transported her away from real life.
“She was sensitive and very caring, but Nancy was a misfit,” her father Jim, a college lecturer, told me. “She was bullied at school because of a bad squint and for being a tomboy. She had a victim mentality, a feeling that the world was against her.” It’s just that Nancy ended up finding solace in ketamine. “If someone were to design the perfect drug for a teenager who is depressed and doesn’t have much money, this would be it,” Jim said.
Nancy’s older sister Libby told me that when Nancy starting using the drug regularly it left her stuck in a teenage world from which she was never able to escape. “When I asked her why she couldn’t just stop taking it she said ketamine allowed her to get away from her life,” Libby said. “She told me she took it because she didn’t want to be herself.”
Meanwhile in reality, outside of ketamine’s cartoon world, Nancy’s body was beginning to disintegrate because she was taking ketamine but rarely eating, exercising, or drinking water. At 21, because of the effects of heavy ketamine use on her bladder and appetite, Nancy was incontinent, suffering from a weak heart due to malnutrition, and weighed 73 pounds. Her kidneys and bladder were barely functioning. She slept in the day and went out at night and flitted between her mother’s and various friends’ places, so no one knew how seriously ill she was until Jim intervened and took her to the hospital, where he was told by doctors that her condition was life-threatening.
After spending five weeks on a urology ward surrounded by elderly patients, Nancy was discharged, but she was warned that she could have caused long-term damage to her body. In the end, it proved worse than that.
(Continue reading here)