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Ketamine: The Pros and Cons of a Worldwide Ban on the Drug

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Ketamine is used as an anesthetic on animals and in some cases, on humans, due to low cost and ease of use as an anesthetic in the developing world for decades. However, in many countries ketamine addiction is on the raise. For instance, China recently put forth a motion to the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs calling for ketamine to be added to the list of internationally controlled narcotics.

For medical use on humans, ketamine is administered for sedation, pain relief, and depression, the last of which has been a main focus of research over the past few years. The results of these studies and others for using Ketamine on people have shown promising results as a form of anaesthesia (to put patients to sleep for surgery) as well as a pain reliever during certain medical tests or procedures. However, the benefits of the drug don’t come without dangers and controversy— for instance, ketamine (Special K) is commonly used for recreational purposes in many countries (notably Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Australia, and Europe) with serious side effects.

Seeing both the need for ketamine for medical purposes (particularly in developing countries) and the danger of ketamine addiction, consider the following pros and cons of a worldwide ketamine ban…

1. Pro: Effective Method of Sedation

Veterinarians have been using Ketamine for a long time because of one simple fact: it works. It’s a viable option for vets when they need to restrain an animal, knock them out for a short period of time, or sedate them. Depending on the type and size of animal, the way it’s used in veterinary practice varies, and quite often another drug is used in combination with Ketamine in order to properly anesthetize an animal—on its own, Ketamine is unable to provide the level of muscle relaxation required for full sedation.

Like humans, animals with certain medical conditions can’t be given some types of drugs, and Ketamine is one of them. But in general, the drug works well on many small animals that don’t have specific conditions, and is known for its range of safety (i.e., including a safe and wide dose range). This means there’s a lot of wiggle room for how much ketamine an animal (or human) is given, and the drug won’t harm the animal (animal) within that range.

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