BRIDPORT is facing an epidemic of substance abuse with the new drug of choice being the animal tranquilliser ketamine.

Fran Abbott-Hawkins, manager of West Dorset CADAS (Community Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service) – part of the NHS community services – this week warned the number of youngsters taking the powerful drug was one of the biggest problems they faced.

The escalation of the problem is such that CADAS staff are being sent for special training at The Bristol Drugs Project and users have been sent to a new clinic there to get help with the physical problems the drug causes.

One 22-year-old West Dorset woman was close to having to have her bladder removed after taking the drug.

Mrs Abbott-Hawkins said: “We are desperately trying to get a message to the public about ketamine, which is becoming a favourite drug in the Bridport and Weymouth areas and tending to be used by the slightly younger age group of 25s and under.

“It is extremely cheap to buy.

“They buy heroin in £10, £20 wraps and ketamine is only a few pounds, nothing in comparison.

“Ketamine is injectable, can be snorted and does come in table form.

“It is an anaesthetic used in the horse world.

“It has horrendous physiological problems. Generally it creates difficulty with the bladder.

The Bristol Drug Project, the only centre of excellence in the country, has set up a special clinic with a consultant urologist from King’s College Hospital in London that anybody can refer into.

“We have referred people locally into this clinic. Once it hits their system it crystallises and it tends to crystallise in the kidneys, the urethra and the bladder and we have had experience of a young woman who came extremely close to having her bladder removed at 22 years old because of the problems the drug has caused her.

“That’s the big issue for us at the moment.

“I don’t think the youngsters are aware of the physical dangers.

“They are very aware of what it does to them psychologically because it creates a hallucenic effect because that is what they are after.

“They don’t really understand the danger they are putting themselves in or that these problems start to happen very quickly.

“With ketamine use the problems start to appear within a few months.

“It is such a new craze here.

“It has been around for years and people have dabbled a bit but it has never been the primary drug of choice but for a lot of people it has now become that because it is very cheap to buy.”