By Bisola Obembe for The Guardian. My supply of ketamine is under threat and you should be worried.
I’m not a recreational drug taker. I’m an anaesthetist, and for me ketamine is medicine.
In rural hospitals in Nigeria, injecting the drug is essential for pregnant women to have safe ceasareans, and for us to be able to insert IVs for fluids and attach the required monitors to children prior to an operation without a struggle. It can be used for preventing pain during or after surgery. Some of my colleagues even advocate the use of oral ketamine in soda for procedures in the accident and emergency department.
Because it is very cheap compared to other anaesthetic drugs and can be administered in many different ways, ketamine has become the preferred anaesthetic agent in low and middle income countries (LMICs). It is on the essential drug list of the World Health Organisation with a potential to offer safe and affordable surgical and anaesthesia care for the 5 billion people, who would otherwise lack access to basic surgical care. It is the one anaesthesia drug that non-trained anaesthesists such as nurses and health assistants can be taught how to use safely to supplement the surgical workforce shortages in many developing countries. It is also the only anaesthetic that does not require piped oxygen, electricity or anaesthetic equipment.