Ketamine-also known as Special K, Kit Kat, Cat Valium, Dorothy, vitamin K, is a commonly-used anesthetic for animals, but it also functions as a pain and depression treatment for human users. Despite its intended purpose, Ketamine has long been used and abused as a recreational drug. But what exactly makes the drug so potent for its users, and how did we get to this point? For today, all of that and more will be answered, as we deep dive into the history of Ketamine and Ketamine Addiction.

The Use of PCP Anesthesia in the 1950s

The history of Ketamine and Ketamine addiction dates back to the 1950s. During this time, doctors and chemists collaborated to synthesize new anesthetic drugs with analgesic properties. Physicians were on a mission to find a better method for reducing surgery pain and treating pain management cases. PCP (phencyclidine) was originally discovered by Parke-Davis and Company’s laboratories in Detroit, Michigan and appeared to meet the criteria for what was needed. 

Even though PCP was efficient in providing analgesia in animals, some problems did persist on the animals that were tested. Muscle relaxation was insufficient, amongst a host of other unwanted symptoms. The hope was that human trials would prove to be more successful. PCP was dubbed the trade name of Sernyl and was green lit for human patient use. It had potential as a powerful anesthetic, but the debilitating side effects were worse than other comparable medications. As more time went on, a unanimous decision was made to shelf PCP, since it was not suitable as an anesthetic with analgesic properties.

Introduction of Ketamine in the 1960s

Researchers found that Ketamine shared a close structural analog with its predecessor (PCP). It was first synthesized in 1962 and was first tested on volunteer prisoners in 1964. The participants in this trial described the feeling like they were “floating in outer space”, unable to feel their limbs. Other patients described feelings of dying. Ketamine embodied a variety of the same anesthetic and analgesic properties as PCP, but it did not produce as many adverse side effects. Upon completion of the initial research, Ketamine was then characterized as a dissociative anesthetic.

The Expansion of Clinical Trials in France

Enter the 70s, and the clinical trials for Ketamine infusions have expanded in places like France. Researchers discovered that Ketamine was a potent analgesic, but was significantly less potent and shorter in duration than PCP. One of the main side effects of the drug was hallucinations, which was viewed as undesirable for clinical practice at this time. Meanwhile, in the US, the FDA had given the seal of approval for Ketamine as a field anesthetic for soldiers in the Vietnam War. Yet, its perceived abuse potential and psychedelic-induced symptoms lead to a decline in usage by the end of the 1970s. From 1978 onward, Ketamine became a Class III substance under the US Controlled Substances Act in 1999. 

We have reached the conclusion of part 1 on the history of ketamine and ketamine addiction. In part 2, we will discuss its continued prominence in society and how Ketamine addiction could be a growing problem for a myriad of users.

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