Twelve boys trapped in a Thai cave were given ketamine to help protect them from hypothermia during the harrowing rescue, the effort’s medical team wrote in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine.
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The boys’ wet suits fit poorly and the water was cold, the medical team said in its letter to the Journal, published online Wednesday. Rescuers wrote that oxygen levels were falling and they needed to keep the boys from developing hypothermia, so they gave them “unspecified doses” of ketamine and a face mask filled with oxygen.
Ketamine is an anesthetic that has soothing effects. It also narrows blood vessels, which lessens shivering, and can prevent large dips in a person’s core temperature, making it a “good choice” for patients at risk of hypothermia, the authors said.
Ketamine is often misused as a club drug, earning it the nickname “Special K.” However, it is finding more clinical applications. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved Johnson & Johnson‘s esketamine, a nasal spray related to ketamine for treatment-resistant depression.