ABSTRACT: Between the year 2000 and 2010, Romania has seen the emergence of a subculture of recreational ketamine use. This study describes the evolution of this phenomenon in Romania, based on participative and non-participative observation in contexts of drug use, distribution and treatment and on a series of semi-structured and informal interviews with professionals such as psychotherapists, anti-drug officials, harm-reduction workers, anti-prohibition activists, dealers and drug users. I hypothesized that the legal status of the substance was one of the main factors, among others, which led to the spread of its use and that successive changes in this status, towards increased control and prohibition, led to a significant decrease in the prevalence of its use and consequent social costs. Nevertheles, I argue that this does not entirely legitimize the prohibition paradigm of drug policy, since only banning the sale of the substance, and not its possession in small quantities for personal use, might have the same or more beneficial effects.
KEYWORDS: drug policy, ketamine use, decriminalization, prohibition.