The parents of Louise Cattell, a 21-year-old who died in her Hackney flat after using ketamine, are launching a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of the drug.
Louise’s parents, Vicky Unwin and Ross Cattell, want to highlight the potentially “lethal” effects of the horse tranquiliser, which is currently a class C drug, although an upcoming review is expected to recommend an upgrade.
Louise died when she feel asleep in the bath after taking the drug with friends at her Clapton flat in March. She had recently applied to study at the Chelsea College of Art, and had worked as an assistant at London Fashion Week.
“She had everything to live for,” her mother wrote in the Evening Standard last week. “Louise was in clover with two cats, a flat in Hackney, its vegetable garden and ambitious plans for growing kiwi fruits this summer.”
Now Vicky Unwin wants to challenge the notion that ketamine is a “safe” drug.
“There was a torrent of abuse on various blogs about how ‘safe’ ketamine is ‘if you follow the rules’; and that ketamine did not kill our daughter – she drowned in the bath, albeit after taking ketamine,” she said. “The point most of these critics seem keen to miss is that ketamine is a powerful tranquilliser which affects the brain and renders the taker unconscious if too much is taken. How, then, can you remember the “safe” rules of the game?”
Ms Unwin said ketamine had soared in popularity as the party drug of choice because of its “cheapness”: “A friend of Louise’s told me that when she first came to London she could buy enough ketamine to last a month for just £20; the same amount would barely buy alcohol for the week.”
“What very few people know now, is the terrible effect [ketamine] has on the kidneys. A friend who is a vascular surgeon tells me he frequently performs bladder removals on young people, the end result being that the patient requires a urine bag for the rest of their life.”
Addaction, a UK charity that helps people with drug problems, has meanwhile reported a 68 per cent increase in the number of inquiries from teenagers using the drug. A spokesman for the charity said: “Because it’s class C – less than cannabis – there’s a feeling among young people that it can’t be that bad.”
Louise’s parents are planning to make teenagers and adults more aware of the dangers of occasional drug use by making a short film, which they will release on Youtube and Facebook. The film will combine details of Louise’s life, discussions with her friends and peers, and “stark facts” about drug use. They also plan to become engaged in the discussion about the reclassification of ketamine, from a class C drug to class B.
They have set up a tribute site, LouiseCattell.com, where people can leave messages and learn more about Louise’s life, and those who wish to become involved with the campaign should contact them on firstname.lastname@example.org.