D. E. Larsen, DVM
I have told this story before with a little different format. That story was titled ‘The Elk Hunt.’ This story adds content and discusses current concerns about popular street drugs.
Frank and I waited in the truck while we watched the small elk herd make its way down to the apples we had scattered on the ground.
Every year, for the last several years, I had sedated Frank’s bull elk to saw his antlers off. If left with his antlers, he would kill the much smaller sika deer bucks during the rut.
I was anxious to see how a new capture drug would work this year. In previous years, I had just used Rompun. It did a good job for the most part, but it could all excited animals to take sudden defensive movements. I was constantly worried that I would end up like one of the little sika bucks with an antler through my chest.
Frank stepped out of the trunk when the bull was comfortable eating the apples we had scattered on the ground.
“I hope this drug works as well as you claim,” Frank said in a hushed voice.
He stepped in front of the truck and waited for the bull to turn broadside to us. Frank raised the capture gun to his shoulder, aimed, and fired all in rapid succession.
Whop! The dart stuck in the hind leg, a perfect shot. Frank returned to the truck, and we waited. The drug took effect quickly. The bull stumbled about a bit and then went down on his knees. He settled to the ground slowly and rested on his sternum briefly before flopping onto his side.
With the elk on the ground, I grabbed my bag and hurried over to him. I didn’t know how long I would have to work. I cut a four-foot piece of OB wire and hooked it to the handles. With long rapid strokes, I sawed through both antlers in a short period of time. The smell reminded me of the old slow-speed dental drills.
With the main job done, I drew a couple of tubes of blood for routine testing. I applied nearly an entire tube of ophthalmic ointment to his eyes for protection against drying. This class of anesthetic drug reduced the blink reflex. Then finally, I gave him a dose of the dewormer, Levasol.
Ten minutes after I was done, the bull elk righted himself onto his sternum, rested momentarily, and sprang to his feet. He was confused for a few minutes but quickly returned to normal and headed up the hill to join the group of cows.
“That was just about perfect,” Frank said. “It’s nice to have a drug that works so well.”
“Yes, I would have liked a little longer duration, but I would guess we could control that with a little Rompun or some addition Sernalyn,” I said.
I got my things back in the truck and headed for the clinic. I was pleased with the results and figured this would be a very useful drug for me in large animal anesthesia.
A couple of years later, Fred Briggs, the drug salesman, stopped by the clinic at the end of the day.
Fred always tried to arrive at the end of the day. That way, I usually had time to talk with him, and he lived in Albany, so it was a good way for him to wind up his day on the road.
“I have bad news for you today, Doc,” Fred said. “I know you have been using Sernalyn for several years.”
“Yes, it’s almost a perfect drug for the capture gun and has some use in large animal anesthesia,” I said.
“Ketamine has become a popular drug on the street,” Fred said. “And Sernalyn is twenty times more concentrated than ketamine. It is very valuable on the street, and the good old DEA and FDA are going to discontinue the drug.”
“When is this going to happen?” I asked.
“It has happened,” Fred said. “They are not recalling any product, and you can use what is on the shelf, but we can’t order any of it. We can sell our inventory, but then that’s it. I can sell you one last bottle today if you want it.”
“I guess I’m not keen on stocking discontinued drugs,” I said. “If they are going to be gone, you just as well learn how to get along without them. But I will talk with Frank and see what he wants to do.”
Sernalyn was gone, and we were back to using Rompun alone. Then, out of the blue, the DEA changed M-99 to a Class 2 drug, and this would allow for clinical use. I called Frank.
“Frank, they have changed M-99’s classification,” I said. “It is available for clinical use now. Are you still interested in ordering it?”
“I worry about this elk escaping, and we would have trouble capturing him,” Frank said. “It would be nice to have a dose or two available. I will pay to put it on the shelf.
So, I placed an order for M-99 and didn’t give it much thought. Then, when I returned to the office after lunch a few days later, two gentlemen dressed in suits and ties were waiting for me.
“You must be Doctor Larsen,” the first gentleman said. “We are from the DEA, and we are here to check out your facility for the use of M-99.”
“You changed it to a Class 2 drug,” I said. “I figured it was no different than any other Class 2 drug.”
“It is a thousand times more potent than morphine,” the second gentleman said. “That makes it very valuable on the street.”
“I have this client with a number of exotic animals,” I said. “He worries that we would have trouble capturing them if they escaped. We just ordered one vial to have on hand for an emergency.”
“Okay, that sounds reasonable,” the first gentleman said. “Now we need to look at your inventory sheet and then check your Class I safe.”
“I don’t have an inventory sheet,” I said. “I just placed the order.”
“In that case, your inventory sheet should read zero,” the second gentleman said.
“And what is a Class I safe?” I asked.
“It is like the safe that would be in that bank across the street,” the first gentleman said.
“Well, I have a safe deposit box in that bank across the street,” I said.
“That would work just fine,” the second gentleman said. “You could store the M-99 in your safe deposit box.”
“But if it is in that vault, I wouldn’t have access to it during an emergency when that bank is closed,” I said.
“I guess not, but that is the storage requirement,” the first gentleman said.
“Well, I won’t mess with the order then,” I said. “If I can’t access it, there is no reason to go to the expense of putting it on the shelf.”
That ended the discussion. The DEA downgraded the drug, but they still considered it required special handling. And Frank and I were stuck with using Rompun.
Currently, in 2023, this country is seeing a new craze for street drugs. Rompun, xylazine, is combined with many drugs, fentanyl, heroin, and others.
The news media is doing a great job directing those interested in acquiring the drug to any small veterinary clinic where a simple burglary would yield the desired product.
When I practiced in Enumclaw, Washington, in 1975, there was a rumor of a guy who broke into a veterinary clinic in Seattle and stole some Rompun. They found him not far away, flat out in the street, unable to move. I have no first-hand knowledge of that event, but it was repeated often at every veterinary meeting of the time.
This new problem with “Tranq” threatens the availability of a long-standing drug in everyday use in veterinary medicine.
Photo by Jonathan Cooper on Pexels.
One thought on “Consequences of a Popular Street Drug ”
It is too bad that what is needed in (vet) medicine is also what is desired by junkies.
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