Health Ministry officials confirmed Wednesday that they will includeketamine in the list of controlled substances in Costa Rica. The drug is primarily an anaesthetic for humans and animals, but also is used as a recreational drug and as a so-called date rape drug. It’s commonly known as “Special K” and, in Costa Rica, as “Keta” or “Vitamin K.”
The ministry’s public health director William Barrantes said listing ketamine will allow authorities to enforce stricter controls over its sale. Listing also will make it easier to confiscate the drug from illegal distributors.
Ana Salas Herrera, director of the National Poison Control Center, noted that ketamine can only be administered by medical or veterinary professionals, and it requires a special prescription. “However smuggling and street vending are making it easier to get,” she said.
In the past year, National Police reported at least two seizures of ketamine bottles from street vendors in San José and Alajuela, while Border Police officers seized more than 300 bottles entering from Nicaragua earlier this year.
Salas said authorities have handled 10 cases of people intoxicated by ketamine in the past three months. Most of the patients were young girls between the age of 10 and 14. There were also cases of adult women and men between age 14 and 45.
The reported cases mainly involved people who attended private parties or were likely intoxicated at bars in San José and Alajuela. There were also cases in rural areas of San Carlos and Limón.
“We received calls from parents saying they found their daughter unconscious in the doorway after attending a party or a bar. We even treated a case of a 10-year-old girl who got very sick after drinking a cold beverage during a recess at school, and test results were positive for ketamine,” Salas said.
She also recalled a recent case of a 45-year-old man who called the Poison Control Center hotline saying he was with a group of friends at a bar and the next thing he remembered was waking up the next morning on a sidewalk without any money or other personal belongings.
The biggest problem is that ketamine produces anterograde amnesia, Salas said, meaning people do not retain recent events, “therefore victims often cannot remember who gave them the drink.”