A whole new kind of K ration
December 3, 2004
A whole new kind of K ration: If it's good enough for ravers, it's good enough for U.S. troops. That's the thinking, apparently, behind the Army's decision to test the animal tranquilizer ketamine as a way to soothe injured soldiers.
The drug -- known in clubs as Special K -- has been reducing partygoers to gurgling blobs for more than a decade. This year, the Army has been running final, phase III Food and Drug Administration trials on a quarter-dose nasal inhaler of ketamine to see if it can substitute for morphine.
"With morphine, the soldier's just gorfed, he can't do anything," said Col. Bob Vandre, of the Army's Medical Research and Materiel Command. "With this, he can drive his truck, or shoot his gun."
Vandre said he knew full well that ketamine "had been snorted by people at rave parties" and that "it makes you kind of weird, sort of like acid."
However, he promised, the military's dose of ketamine would not have the same effects.
"It doesn't make you weird," Vandre said. "But it does reduce pain."
The ketamine snort is one of several novel treatments Vandre was showing to people at the conference. Further up the treatment-development pipeline is a temporary blood replacement. The magic ingredient comes in a tiny bottle, which is filled with small bubbles just 2 microns across. The bubbles in this dodecafluoropentane emulsion swell to double size when they get in the lungs. Once they flow to the rest of the body, the bubbles distribute oxygen more efficiently than normal red blood cells, Vandre said. Forty cubic centimeters -- just 8 teaspoons -- would be as good at delivering oxygen as all of the blood flowing inside a person.
"We've taken mice, drained out all of their blood, and replaced it with a saline solution and this," Vandre said. "They walk around like nothing's happened."
At least for a half hour or so. That's when the bubbles begin to lose their fizz, and the mouse needs its blood back.
THERE'S MORE, DUDE: Back in '64, the Army decided it'd be a good idea to give 60 of its soldiers inhalable LSD. Here is what they found.
AND MORE: "Ketamine is already FDA approved in humans as an anesthetic drug and has been for years," reader 5911674 notes over on the Defense Tech forum. That's right: in kids, "K" has been okayed for, among other things, "induction of general anesthesia" and "sedation in the intensive care unit." 5911674 is also right that I should've mentioned this before. Good catch.