My beautiful daughter took ketamine and drowned in her bath – it’s become ‘Russian Roulette’ drug for teens in lockdown

2 months ago 14

TALENTED and fun-loving with celebrity friends including Amy Winehouse, Pete Doherty and Kate Moss, Louise Cattell had an incredibly bright future ahead of her.  

But it was taken away when, at the age of just 21, the 5ft 1ins student overdosed in her bathtub after taking ketamine.

Louise Cattell (right) with her mum Vicky Unwin before her tragic death

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Louise Cattell (right) with her mum Vicky Unwin before her tragic deathCredit: Supplied

Now, on the 10th anniversary of her death, her mother Vicky Unwin is sending a stark warning about the dangers of the popular party drug.

Figures released this month show that one in 10 teenagers admit to taking hard drugs including ketamine – which is commonly used as a horse tranquilliser or anaesthetic - as it has become the cheap, lockdown drug of choice.

As one 25-year-old told a newspaper: “These days everyone does ketamine.”

In an exclusive interview, writer Vicky, 63, says: “One of the things that’s worrying about lockdown is that teenagers are taking drugs in the secrecy of their homes and you just don’t know what they are buying on the dark web.

Vicky has remembered her fun-loving daughter ahead of the 10th anniversary of her death

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Vicky has remembered her fun-loving daughter ahead of the 10th anniversary of her deathCredit: Supplied

“These kids are getting depressed because they can’t go out and have a good time and the parents often have no idea what they are getting up to."

'You are completely out of control'

Vicky says: “Ketamine has become one of the party drugs of choice because it’s cheap, but it’s also very dangerous and there is still a lack of education about its effects.

“Everyone wants to experience this so-called 'K-hole' where you get into a catatonic state and have a psychedelic trip.

Vicky Unwin is warning others of the huge dangers of ketamine

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Vicky Unwin is warning others of the huge dangers of ketamineCredit: Supplied

“But people do really stupid things on ketamine because they’re half asleep – they fall off buildings, fall under buses, choke on their own vomit.

“Louise took too much and fell asleep in a bath and drowned.

“You cannot stop yourself from falling into this deep coma and that part is incredibly dangerous because you are completely out of control.”

Young people have been warned they are playing “chemical Russian Roulette” by taking ketamine, which is also known as Special K or Super K.

'Every parent's worst nightmare'

Senior coroner Timothy Brennand spoke out after apprentice plumber Matthew Dutton, 22, fell into a canal and drowned having mixed ketamine with two pints of lager and three alcopops at a pub in Wigan, Greater Manchester, on August 23 last year.

Matthew Dutton died after falling into a canal and drowning

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Matthew Dutton died after falling into a canal and drowningCredit: MEN Media

Other recent casualties include Cardiff University law student Megan Pollitt, 18, who died on November 16, just days after she was found motionless by a flatmate at her halls of residence.

The teen, from Rugby, Warwickshire, was one of two people to die from a suspected overdose on the same weekend, with police blaming a rogue batch of ketamine.

Her family later released a statement, saying: “We will miss her beautiful bright smile and positive energy that would lift the spirits of anyone.”

Megan Pollitt passed away days after she was found motionless by a flatmate at her halls of residence

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Megan Pollitt passed away days after she was found motionless by a flatmate at her halls of residenceCredit: Wales News Service

Megan was one of two people to die from a suspected overdose on the same weekend

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Megan was one of two people to die from a suspected overdose on the same weekendCredit: PA:Press Association

Former deputy head girl Jeni Larmour, 18, collapsed and died after it's feared she took ketamine at Newcastle University, where she was studying architecture and urban planning.

Tragically, she was one of four suspected drug deaths in the city on the same weekend.

Her heartbroken mum Sandra Foster Larmour, of Newtownhamilton, County Armagh, paid tribute in the days that followed, writing on Facebook: “My beautiful Princess my best friend x”.

Jeni Larmour was studying architecture and urban planning at university when she died

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Jeni Larmour was studying architecture and urban planning at university when she diedCredit: The Royal School, Armagh

Jeni was remembered by her loved ones in emotional tributes

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Jeni was remembered by her loved ones in emotional tributesCredit: Facebook

Her friend Piper Hebditch, 18, insisted: “I don't believe she would willingly have taken drugs” and TV presenter Eamonn Holmes described her death as "every parent's worst nightmare".

'Zombies are chasing me, just leave me to die'

Customer services agent Joe Robinson died on June 14 last year after attending an illegal rave at Daisy Nook Country Park in Oldham.

The 20-year-old collapsed in the early hours of the morning after mixing ketamine with MDMA and shouting: “Zombies are chasing me, just leave me to die," according to the Manchester Evening News.

Joe Robinson died after mixing ketamine with MDMA

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Joe Robinson died after mixing ketamine with MDMACredit: MEN Media

His brother Dean Robinson, 28, told the inquest at Stockport Coroner's Court: "He was a much-loved member of the family."

Model Madalyn Davis, 21, plunged to her death in the early hours of the morning of January 11 last year after taking a cocktail of drugs including ketamine while backpacking in Australia.

The talented make-up artist, with thousands of Instagram followers, is believed to have been watching the sun rise and taking photographs at a beauty spot in Dover Heights near Sydney when she became disorientated.

Madalyn Davis fell after going to watch the sunrise with friends near Sydney

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Madalyn Davis fell after going to watch the sunrise with friends near SydneyCredit: Instagram

Madalyn took a cocktail of drugs including ketamine before her death

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Madalyn took a cocktail of drugs including ketamine before her deathCredit: Instagram

She had been backpacking in Thailand before arriving in Australia

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She had been backpacking in Thailand before arriving in AustraliaCredit: Instagram

Her grandfather Paul Davis, 76, told of the family's devastation afterwards, revealing: “She was intelligent, very stylish and had a magnetic personality. Everybody liked her. She had it all. It has broken our hearts.”

'She thought she was being smart'

Vicky’s daughter was similarly loved.

Known as ‘Little Lou’ to her friends in north London, she moved with a fast crowd that included the late singer Amy Winehouse, the heroin addicted musician Pete Doherty, now 41, and his then girlfriend, model Kate Moss, 47, and other members of the Primrose Hill set.

A talented singer, dancer and photographer, she got through to the second round on X Factor in 2009, two years before she died, and was planning on going to arts college.

Louise has been remembered as a talented singer, dancer and photographer

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Louise has been remembered as a talented singer, dancer and photographerCredit: Supplied

Louise had just returned from travelling in Australia and was staying with her unnamed best friend in Clapton, east London, when she took a lethal dose of ketamine on March 2, 2011.  

Speaking from her home in Belsize Park, north London, her mum recalls: “Louise was tiny, 5ft 1ins, but she was feisty and beautiful and used to wear the most amazing clothes and make-up with different hair colours.

“She was such an attractive personality that people were drawn to her.

“We did have conversations about drugs because I knew what teenagers do.

“The really sad thing is she said, ‘Don’t worry mum, I know about drugs and I see what a mess Pete (Doherty) has made of his life with heroin'.

Louise and her mum always shared a very close bond

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Louise and her mum always shared a very close bondCredit: Supplied

Louise's family have worked to raise awareness of the dangers of drugs since her death

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Louise's family have worked to raise awareness of the dangers of drugs since her deathCredit: Rex Features

“She promised, ‘I will never take anything like that, I am much wiser'. But because there wasn’t much education about the dangers, she had little idea how dangerous ketamine was.

“She thought she was being smart. The night she died she weighed out the ketamine on a scale to check the dosage.

“But she hadn’t had any drugs for two or three months so her body wasn’t used to taking the same amount as her friends.

“Louise and her flatmate were watching something on TV and she decided to finish it in the bath when the other girl crashed out asleep in bed.

She promised, ‘I will never take anything like that, I am much wiser'. But because there wasn’t much education about the dangers, she had little idea how dangerous ketamine was.

Vicky Unwin

“When the friend woke up, she realised Louise wasn’t there and she went and found her - she was already dead.”

'Louise’s death was a big wakeup call to her friends'

Despite the dangers, ketamine use by young adults aged 16 to 24 has almost doubled in the decade since Louise’s death, with 3.2 per cent admitting taking it – the highest number ever recorded by the Office for National Statistics – compared to 1.7 per cent in 2010.

Use of the drug in the general population is also at the highest on record, at 0.8 per cent, despite the fact that ketamine can cause respiratory failure and is particularly deadly when combined with alcohol.

Dangers of ketamine

Professor Owen Bowden-Jones, Consultant Psychiatrist, CNWL Club Drug Clinic says:

"A very unexpected harm of regular ketamine use, which we often see at the clinic, is bladder damage. While no one knows exactly why this happens, people describe intense pain over their bladders and when they urinate.

"They will often see blood in their urine and this is a sign that the bladder has been seriously damaged. Fortunately, with treatment, most people are able to reduce and stop using ketamine and the bladder usually recovers. 

"Ketamine is attractive to some users as an emotional anaesthetic, taking away difficult or unwanted feels and replacing them with an emotional numbness.

"While this may feel good in the short term, it means that the person needs to keep taking more and more ketamine to control their emotions, putting them at risk of becoming dependent."

If you are experiencing problems with your use of ketamine and would like more information please see talktofrank.com/drug/ketamine or call Club Drug Clinic on 020 3317 3000 for advice.

Louise's mum says her tragic death proved a wake-up call for some of her friends

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Louise's mum says her tragic death proved a wake-up call for some of her friendsCredit: Collect

Louise believed she was taking the drug safely, her mum says

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Louise believed she was taking the drug safely, her mum saysCredit: Supplied

University College London’s Millennium Cohort Study recently showed that 10 per cent of children have tried hard drugs by the age of 17.

There has also been a sharp rise in people being referred to hospital with ketamine-related bladder issues and long term users often end up needing bladder transplants.

Government statistics show 445 people were treated for ketamine-related health issues including addiction in 2018, the last time the figure was recorded.

Nearly one in five ketamine users end up addicted to the Class C drug, according to the Global Drug Survey.

Vicky is now a Trustee of the Transform campaign group and, on the 50th anniversary of the Misuse of Drugs Act, she is calling for substances including ketamine to be decriminalised so they can be labelled and regulated.

Louise's mum Vicky is now working to warn others, so they can avoid the hell she's been through

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Louise's mum Vicky is now working to warn others, so they can avoid the hell she's been throughCredit: Supplied

She said: “Louise was part of that east London set at the end of the noughties and ketamine was the party drug of choice.

“In those days I think it cost just £12 a bump and because alcohol was so expensive and these were young people with arty jobs, they would stay in and take ketamine.

“Louise’s death was a big wakeup call to her friends.

“Some of them told me they were already steering away from ketamine because they had such bad experiences with it and being out of control.

“One in particular, a musician, said he had a really scary experience and stopped taking it.

Ketamine is commonly used as a horse tranquilliser

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Ketamine is commonly used as a horse tranquilliserCredit: Alamy

“The ones that were addicted had to be locked in a room and were sick as they went cold turkey.

"I’m not angry with her friends but it’s such a stupid waste of life. As a bereaved parent you learn to live with the loss, but the feeling is always there.

“Some people can’t bear it but we made the decision to continue living our lives.

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“We have a lovely son Tommy, who is 33 now, and we have to keep on living and we have to try to make sure others don’t die unnecessarily.

“That’s why I joined Transform and started campaigning to get some form of decriminalisation.

“If gangs were taken out of the equation and people know what they are buying and can get advice from someone like a chemist, lives will be saved.”

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If you are experiencing problems with your use of ketamine and would like more information please see talktofrank.com/drug/ketamine

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