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Colorado on Ketamine: First Responders Waiver Programs

Colorado on Ketamine
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There is a long and storied history of psychedelics being used as a weapon against civilians in acts of state violence, and today, ketamine has become the weapon of choice. Though safe in small doses, and extremely useful for certain ketamine treatments and medical conditions, ketamine used incorrectly can be deadly, which raises concern regarding its use by first responders.

Police and fire safety teams in some states, like Colorado, are legally allowed to administer ketamine to an individual if they are showing signs of “excited delirium” or “extreme agitation.” Though , in theory, theoretically used in order to prevent an individual from doing harm to themselves or others in a state of delirium, ketamine in these situations itself has quickly proven to do more harm than good. 

Ketamine Waiver Programs

On Mon. August 10, 2020, a Colorado state health panel met to review and recommend new and existing ketamine waiverwaver programs be allowed to continue. These programs enable organizations of varying sizes “from the South Metro Fire Rescue Authority to the ski patrol team at Loveland Ski Area” to use ketamine in order to subdue or sedate individuals experiencing the rare condition called “excited delirium” which is described by Colorado’s Emergency Medical Practice Advisory Council as:

“A rare medical emergency [where a person develops] extreme agitation, aggressiveness, overheating, and exceptional strength that cannot be managed by routine physical or medical techniques.”

Despite being considered a rare condition, Colorado officials have dosed 902 people with ketamine for excited delirium in the last two and a half years, prompting the beginnings of controversy around the use of the psychedelic against civilians by state officials. Public scrutiny has only increased after a young Black man named Elijah McClain was dosed with 500 milligrams of ketamine, enough to sedate a 220lb individual, despite the fact that Elijah weighed only 143lbs. Elijah died six days later in the hospital as a result of the fatal injection. 

Aurora City Councilperson Asks Officials to Reconsider Ketamine Waiver

Aurora City Councilperson Nicole Johnston spoke before the board charged with overseeing Colorado’s Ketamine waivers, requesting that they suspend all existing waivers and put a memorandum on new waivers while reassessing the methods and policies surrounding the excessive use of ketamine. Despite Johnston’s comments, the board elected to move forward, and to renew both existing waivers and to grant waivers to all new applicants. No waivers were recommended for denial. 

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