Pubdate: Mon, 14 Oct 2002
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2002 San Francisco Examiner
Author: Angelina Malhotra-Singh
Bookmark: (Club Drugs)


Doctors call it ketamine, and some say it may save your life. Ravers call 
it Special K, and some say it changes your life.

"It's a remarkable drug that has made many impossible operations possible," 
says Dr. James Li, an emergency medicine specialist at Harvard Medical School.

Hunter, 22, a club kid from the Castro, feels differently about the drug.

"You feel dissociated, floaty and dreamy. Like you're on PCP," he says.

And therein lies the problem. Ketamine, a highly effective anesthetic that 
can be snorted or injected, is so popular with drug abusers that medical 
advocates have found resistance to it within their own ranks.

Emergency room visits caused by the drug have increased tenfold since 1994, 
and its reputation as a date-rape drug has further tarnished its image. 
Many doctors have been reluctant to use the bad boy anesthetic. Ironic, 
because ketamine was approved for medical use more than three decades ago, 
long before it became the high du jour.

But all that may be about to change. Dr. Barry Friedburg, a Los 
Angeles-based anesthesiologist, is waging a high-energy campaign to use the 
street drug for outpatient surgery. He says it is easy to monitor, has a 
quick post-op recovery time, and promises there is no danger of addiction.

"Unconscious patients don't experience the high that recreational users 
do," Friedberg says.

Those who have been won over include emergency room doctors at San 
Francisco's Kaiser hospitals, as well as physicians at UCSF Medical Center, 
who have used it while operating on brain tumors.

Still nervous about being put under something sold as "Kit-Kat" on the 
streets of Tijuana? Think of it this way: whenever you take Fluffy to the 
vet for surgery, she's given a dose of K.
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