Ketamine is an essential medicine used for anaesthesia. It is the only available anaesthetic for essential surgery in most rural areas of developing countries, home to more than 2 billion of the world’s people. Scheduling ketamine will leave these populations with no alternative anaesthesia for essential surgery, and will further deepen the already acute crisis of global surgery.

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs, 58th Session, has been asked to review a proposal to place ketamine in Schedule I of the 1971 Convention (E/CN.7/2015/7 and E/CN.7/2015/81). As per the terms of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence (ECDD) critically evaluated ketamine in 2006, 2012 and 2014. Based on accumulated evidence and data on non-medical use, diversion and trafficking, and evidence of ketamine’s therapeutic value, the ECDD does not recommend that the CND place ketamine under international control.

A wide range of national and international civil society organizations, including medical associations, such as those endorsing this fact sheet, have voiced concern about the proposal. This basic fact sheet provides compelling legal, medical and social arguments against placing ketamine in any schedule of the 1971 Convention.

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