The drug ketamine is in the public spotlight as China calls for a worldwide ban on the drug, the BBC reports. Despite the fact that the majority of ketamine is produced in China, national representatives will propose a ban on the drug before the annual session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs.
Ketamine was originally developed as a horse tranquilizer, but now the drug is mainly used in hospital settings around the world for starting and maintaining anesthesia. Like most drugs of this nature, there is a high potential for abuse, and ketamine is often found being used as a “club drug” known as ‘Special K.’ When ketamine is used outside of medical settings it can be extremely dangerous – overuse can be fatal.
Prof Zhimin Liu, vice director of the National Institute on Drug Dependence at Peking University, according to the article, is worried by the increased use of ketamine in recreational settings in parts of Asia, Europe and the United States. However, many disagree with China’s move to ban the drug internationally, arguing that control of the drug domestically is the better course.
“China is regularly under pressure especially from other Asian countries where ketamine is coming in from [China], so it’s a gesture of goodwill that they are actively promoting international control even though they can domestically already do much more to control the illegal exports from their pharmaceutical production,” said Martin Jelsma, of the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute.
Furthermore, international bans on ketamine could severely impact developing nations who rely on the drug for a number of medical procedures, the article reports. In Zambia, “Two thirds of Zambians live in remote places and when they need an operative procedure the only drug that is available is ketamine,” says Dr Jane Kabwe, a registrar in anaesthesiology.
“There are no readily available anaesthetic manpower, no equipment, so it’s safe for anaesthetists to use. For us in the developing world ketamine is not something we can do without.”