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Recent years have seen an increase in recreational (ab)use of ketamine by the young and misguided or perhaps just the misinformed. I guess there's always going to be a sector of society who when faced with somebody saying, "...take this it's fab" are prepared to pop anything in their mouths. Vets are people like anybody else and just as a tiny proportion of doctors and pharmacists succumb to drug abuse so do a minuscule number of vets; yet I doubt many vets will have tried ketamine for recreational purposes though as, like me, most will have seen wild-eyed cats recovering from anaesthesia after ketamine bouncing around their cages and will therefore not have been able to see the attraction.

Ketamine is sometimes called "special K" by recreational ketamine users and it is a very special drug. It never was my first choice of anaesthetic for cats but the fact remains that for some feral cats in some situations it's the only thing that it's feasible to use, probably in combination with something else. The same goes for horses where much of the volume of veterinary ketamine goes and there are no doubt certain situations where nothing else that's available fits the bill quite as well. Those of us old enough to remember having to anaesthetise or sedate horses prior to the introduction to the market of detomidine will remember when the veterinary anaesthesia armoury was much more limited that it is today and where some drugs, e.g. immobilon, involved considerable hazard not just to the patient but also to the surgeon and sometimes to other people nearby. Of course ketamine is often used successfully and very safely in combination with other veterinary drugs and it remains an important part of the veterinary armoury.

So I guess some people will always want to get out of their heads and give themselves nightmares. Probably they are doing themselves less harm with ketamine than with LSD, although I fail to see the attraction of either, or of any other hallucinogenics. But all those people popping tabs and giving themselves nightmares have created a practical problem for those of us who are more concerned about animal welfare than getting spaced out. A recent press release from the WSAVA raises concerns about proposed changes to the way ketamine is regulated and accordingly WSAVA is asking for veterinary support.

The WSAVA has raised concerns about availability of ketamine in developing countries. But it's not just developing countries where we would feel the loss of this drug. I've used it in cats and horses of course, but also in combination with xylazine to anaesthetise rams. Badger culling is very much on the agenda these days but I've had 'badger-hugging' groups come to me to treat injured badgers and I've used ketamine on these animals as raising a vein on a badger is not something to be recommended. It's not just developing countries where we feel the loss of drugs like this. Even in the developed world vets are involved with such a wide range of species and environments that we see third-world problems and pathology right here. Even if it's not perhaps our first choice of anaesthetic we might regret losing it if when faced with an unusual species or situation we find ourselves thinking, "...actually a bit of Special K right now is just what I need."

Perhaps if you have a moment you'd like to lend the WSAVA your support.