Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Experts recommend Ketamine should be a Class B drug

Ketamine. Image is licensed under the 
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The increase in recreational use of the drug ketamine is a cause for concern.  So much so that in the latest report published today (10 December 2013), the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is recommending that the drug ketamine should be upgraded from a Class C drug to Class B.  Under this new classification, illegal possession of ketamine could lead to a five-year jail sentence and suppliers could face fourteen years.

The new report, “Ketamine: a review of its use and harm”, builds on the evidence of a previous report published in 2004, and covers public health issues – in particular new evidence on severe damage to bladders which, in the most serious cases, users have had to undergo surgery to have their bladders removed.

Ketamine, best known by the street names K, KET, Special K and Vitamin K, is widely used in veterinary medicine and in some areas of human medicine as an anaesthetic and analgesic.    But it is also a drug of misuse and it’s estimated that in 2012/13 around 120,000 people had misused ketamine.

Professor Fabrizio Schifano, John Corkery and Dr Ornella Corazza from the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Clinical Practice, Safe Medicines and Drug Misuse Research, have been studying the use and impact of ketamine, providing evidence to support the ACMD’s recommendations to the UK government.

Professor Schifano and John Corkery are part of the national programme on Substance Abuse Deaths (np-SAD) which is based at the International Centre for Drug Policy, St George’s University of London, and which contributed data to both the 2004 review and the report published today.

Dr Corazza and Professor Schifano have researched the recreational use of ketamine and its new derivative methoxetamine.  Ketamine abuse is often associated with physical and psychological side effects, of which the worst is the effect on the bladder.  More recently methoxetamine, known on the streets as Special M or MXE, provides the same effects as ketamine but slower onset and longer duration but without the bladder damage.  However, it is also associated with worse side effects than ketamine, ranging from mood disturbances and suicidal attempts to acute cerebellar toxicity. The paper  ‘From “Special K” to “Special M”: The Evolution of the Recreational Use of Ketamine and Methoxetamine’ was published in CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics.

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