You think I’m talking about cereal, don’t you? Far from it. Special K, K, or Cat Valium are street names for ketamine. When used responsibly, ketamine is an effective anesthetic for animals and humans, especially kind to the respiratory system. In an expert’s hands, the drug is effective, especially as an anesthetic for infants because their respiratory system is still developing. On the street, ketamine is a hallucinogen, sold in powder or pill form. A two hour high might be the result; if you’re one of the 10-20% adversely affected by the drug, you might be looking at a nightmare. Too much of the drug and you’re a corpse.
Why care about K? For CEZANNE’S GHOST, I was looking for a drug which subdues a kidnapped victim over a period of weeks. I did my research and picked ketamine. My heroine, an FBI agent, must fake ingesting the drug, so I had to understand how she would react to it. Mind you, with only a couple of experiences with pot in my twenties and too few examples of feeling tipsy with booze, I had a lot of research to do.
Then…I had some minor surgery, just days ago. Same-day service. A mild anesthetic, I was told; a local used on the operating surface of my body. No big deal, right?
Until the anesthesiologist shot me up with twenty-five milligrams of ketamine (I found out later). Guess what? I’m one of the 10-20% adversely affected by the drug. The dysphoria I felt was truly alarming. I heard my voice over my body saying: “Help! Something’s wrong! What’s happening? I’m in trouble. Help me!” I could not see the room; only a beige atmosphere surrounded me. I heard disembodied voices soothe me. I think someone touched me to show me they were there, but none of that helped. Distressing does not describe the incident well enough.
Later, the anesthesiologist explained what happened and assured me he offset the ketamine with a drug that calmed me. When I explained to him my research on ketamine and we agreed I had an episode of dysphoria, he seemed pleased with my level of knowledge. In fact, he gave me his card and said he’d help with any information I needed about drugs for my novels.
Yup, novel writing is full of adventures and surprises. And coincidences galore! I can now describe what my victims endured when they suffered from ketamine’s effects. Even better, I’ve got an expert to consult when I have questions about drug use. My scary out-of-of body experience? Ah, what the heck. It’s all for the good cause of writing an accurate suspense/mystery novel!
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