Ketamine Busts in Australia Spike To Hit New Record

Australian officials confiscated nearly 900 kilos of ketamine in 2023, setting a new record for seizures of the drug.
Ketamine
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Australian border authorities confiscated nearly 900 kilos of ketamine last year, setting a new national record for seizures of the psychedelic drug. The spike in seizures of ketamine is concerning to Australian officials, who worry that organized crime groups are now focusing on illicit sales of the powerful drug.

The 882 kilograms of ketamine seized last year is more than double the 415 kilos seized in 2022, according to a report from 9 News. Officials say that the majority of the ketamine seized by the Australian Border Force (ABF) was imported into the country by sea. 

Testing of wastewater in Australia has revealed a new high for levels of ketamine, confirming that the psychedelic drug has become increasingly popular with the nation’s residents. Ketamine use reached a record high in April 2023, according to the latest ACIC National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program report.

Authorities discovered 84 kilos of ketamine hidden inside the panels of two brand-new delivery vans on a ship bound for Sydney last summer. After receiving a tip about the illicit shipment, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) boarded the ship in Melbourne to inspect the cargo. Officials found a total of 79 bags of ketamine hidden in the vans. After seizing the illegal shipment, they replaced the bags with dummy packets before the vessel continued its route to Sydney. Police then apprehended the recipients of the dummy bags outside Sydney and arrested three men who were charged with importing a commercial quantity of controlled drugs.

“These criminal groups may think they’re being clever in the way they try to bring in these harmful substances, but they should know that the ABF is ready to respond,” ABF Assistant Commissioner James Watson said in a statement to Australian media.

Largest Ketamine Bust Ever Made Last Year

AFP agents made the largest ketamine bust in Australian history in July 2023 when they found 80 kilos of the drug in an ocean-going cement shipment from Spain. The bust was made after a tip from Spanish authorities and led to the discovery of 80 kilos of ketamine that had been buried at a residence. Another 14 kilos of the drug was found at a nearby storage facility and three men were arrested and face charges in the record bust.

The largest amounts of ketamine were confiscated from ocean-going shipments of the drug. Additionally, officials seized smaller quantities of the drug from travelers to the country. According to media reports, ABF agents routinely find smaller amounts of ketamine in passenger luggage and arrest travelers suspected of importing the drugs.

In October 2023, a Taiwanese national was arrested at Brisbane International Airport after border officials discovered 250 grams of ketamine in his luggage. Last week, an 18-year-old UK national was arrested when he arrived in Sydney and border officials discovered 20 kilos of ketamine in his luggage. The man was charged with importing commercial quantities of a controlled drug and has been denied bail in the case.

Although ketamine busts in Australia rose to record levels last year, officials note that seizures of the psychedelic are much lower than other drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine, according to AFP intelligence. As ketamine busts increase, officials are warning Australians about the risks associated with taking the drug.

“Ketamine is a dangerous and illicit sedative. Its dissociative effects block sensory brain signals and can cause memory loss, feelings of being detached from one’s body and prevent their ability to perceive danger,” AFP Detective-Superintendent Anthony Hall said in a statement cited by The Maritime Executive. “Unfortunately, in Australia, an average of 40 people are admitted to hospitals every week as a result of experiencing the harm caused by drug use.”

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