Remember the youth soccer team – 12 Thai boys and their coach – trapped inside an underground cave in Thailand? Well, they were saved by Ketamine.
In the summer of 2018, a local Thai soccer team, consisting of 12 boys and a coach, rode their bikes to the mouth of the Tham Luang cave, entered with torches to guide their way, and ended up going missing after heavy monsoon rains flooded a chamber deep inside the cave.
Later that same day, parents of the children began to worry. They read online that the boys were headed to the cave and so they went to see if everything was alright. When they arrived, they found bikes, bags, and some shoes. Inside the cave, the water from the storms outside elevated the pool of water in chamber, forcing them to go farther into the cave in search for dry land. They were found grouped and huddled together on a dry, rocky area.
The initial plan was to wait out the rainy season but there was a threat of more rain. The major concern was that the chamber – and others between that one and the mouth of the cave – would flood entirely, creating a more dire situation with each passing day. Also, at some point the rescue teams noticed that oxygen levels were dropping – even though the walls were made of porous limestone.
The town leaders, the Thai Navy Seals, and other rescue team members were brought in from all over the country to try to find the team. After considering drilling in, crawling in, and even pumping out the water, they decided to dive in and extract the team one by one.
Ketamine Saves Lives
The final solution was to give each of the boys an unspecified dose of ketamine (to make them unconscious during the trip out of the cave). Each boy was also fitted with a full-face mask (to supply oxygen) and a wetsuit. Then, they were each placed on a stretcher, and guided by divers through the passageways and chambers, and out of the cave and into the fresh air.
Ketamine was first synthesized in 1962 and was used as a painkiller and sedative during the Vietnam War. Today, ketamine is used as an anesthetic and used in emergency rooms all across the globe.
In this particular case, ketamine was administered because if the children woke up at any time during the trip out of the cave, they might have panicked. This would have created a dangerous situation for the boys and for the diver.
See also: Prehospital Care of the 13 Hypothermic, Anesthetized Patients in the Thailand Cave Rescue, New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)
There were definitely risks. Ketamine also decreases shivering in the human body, and shivering is a natural defense mechanism against the cold. Since the cave and water were at a very low temperature, the main concern was that the body was at serious risk of hypothermia (a dangerous drop in body temperature) and would not do what it should do, which is to shiver.
See also: How Ketamine Treatment Works at KureIV
In the end, and even with that level of risk, ketamine was chosen because it kept their blood pressure stable and allowed the boys to breathe on their own. In addition to being an anesthetic that has soothing effects, ketamine also offsets the drop in pressure by constricting blood vessels, which reduces shivering. This made it a good choice under these circumstances.
While you are not in a cave, you may sometimes feel like it. If you suffer from severe depression, anxiety, PTSD or another psychiatric disorder, help from treatments like ketamine might work. If you or a loved one are struggling with these or any other psychiatric condition, ketamine may be the treatment you’re looking for.
If you want to learn more and want to know if you are a good candidate for this treatment option, call today to make an appointment