For decades, ketamine was only manufactured by pharmaceutical companies. Technically, it was too complicated to be made by amateur chemists. But in the past five years, that has changed. Chinese drug gangs have cracked the code, figuring out how to manufacture large batches of cheap ketamine. Drug traffickers don't bother to steal ketamine from legal sources anymore. Instead, they're making their own. It's largely a Chinese breakthrough.
The international drug control regime is facing the most profound challenge of its existence. Member states have for some time been experimenting with new responses to the ‘world drug problem’; however, the advent of legally regulated cannabis markets has resulted in a ratcheting up of these challenges to expose the system to new levels of strain. With the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem fast approaching, how will the international community make use of the opportunity it provides for a free and open debate?
The war on drugs is edging towards a truce. Half of Americans want to lift the ban on cannabis. America’s change of heart has led many to wonder if the UN conventions might be reformed to legalise some drugs and treat the use of others as a problem requiring health measures, not criminal or military ones. But as America has drawn back from prohibition, new drug warriors are stepping up to defend it. Russia is foremost among them. “The Russians have taken over the hard-line role that the US used to play,” says Martin Jelsma of the Transnational Institute.
China is proposing there should be a worldwide ban on ketamine - the drug that can lead to users needing to have their bladders removed. But ketamine is used as an anaesthetic drug in much of Africa, and there are fears further international controls could affect medical usage too. The Chinese say that they are requesting the lowest level of restriction - known as schedule four - which would not affect its use for medical purposes. But Dr Kabwe in Lusaka's main hospital says any restriction will create a level of bureaucracy that will prohibit its use.
Judge Gerard Hogan made an unexpected decision to allow for the possession of some drugs in a ruling on an appeal with the backing of two of his judicial colleagues at the Court of Appeal who agreed with his assessment of Ireland’s drug laws. His 30-page ruling can be read in full here. The Dáil will sit late tonight to pass emergency legislation in order to reclassify drugs – including ecstasy, ketamine and magic mushrooms.
In a dispute that pits the war on drugs against global health needs — and one UN agency against another — a pair of Canadian researchers is spearheading a last-ditch bid to keep a widely used anesthetic from being declared an illicit narcotic.
Scheduling ketamine would restrict its availability worldwide, which would lead to harmful impact on animal health and welfare, as well on public health. The World Medical Association is urging its 111 member associations to lobby their governments to oppose scheduling the anaesthetic agent Ketamine as a controlled drug.
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna will decide next week between two opposite proposals by China and the WHO about international control of ketamine, an essential anaesthetic in human and veterinary medicine. China originally proposed bringing ketamine under the 1971 Convention’s most severe control regime of Schedule I, which would dramatically affect its availability for surgery in poor rural settings and emergency situations. The WHO Expert Committee reviewed all the evidence and advised against any international control of ketamine, arguing it would trigger a public health disaster.
A proposal that is about to come before the UN to restrict global access to ketamine, a drug abused in rich countries, would deprive millions of women of lifesaving surgery in poor countries, according to medicines campaigners.
The UN Commission considers to bring ketamine under the control of the 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances contrary to WHO recommendations. The 58th Session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in March 2015 has been asked to consider a Chinese proposal to place ketamine – an essential medicine used for anaesthesia – in Schedule I of the 1971 Convention (E/CN.7/2015/7 and E/CN.7/2015/81). Ketamine 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 under any of the 1971 treaty schedules will reduce its availability and further deepen the already acute crisis of global surgery.
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.
David Bewley-Taylor, Martin Jelsma, Christopher Hallam
16 June 2014
Scheduling is mostly prioritised in its repressive pole, though present debates are increasingly highlighting the need to modify the balance of the system in order to affirm the importance of the principle of health.
The largest study to date confirms that ketamine — a “club drug” that is also legally used as an anesthetic — could be a quick and effective way to relieve depression. The results were presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association and represent growing excitement about ketamine’s potential. The study included 72 patients who had previously failed to respond to at least two other medications.
Partial reforms have their limits. Most drug crime is not cannabis-related. Moving from punishment to harm reduction may help drug users, but it leaves gangsters in control of supplies and revenues. Many countries still stick to prohibition. The votes in Colorado and Washington were hardly imaginable ten years ago and make deeper change likely. They weaken the Single Convention, the illegal trade, and the prohibition industry that feeds on it.
A so-called legal high used as an alternative to ketamine will be the first drug to be banned under new government powers. Methoxetamine, or mexxy, will be made illegal for up to 12 months while the government's drugs advisers decide whether it should be permanently controlled. It follows concerns that two people whose bodies were found in February may have taken some form of the drug after buying it over the internet. Anyone caught making, supplying or importing the drug will face up to 14 years in prison and an unlimited fine.
A new study sheds light on why the anesthetic and “club drug” ketamine can relieve depression rapidly — in hours, instead of weeks or months. The findings may help provide new targets for developing antidepressants and increase researchers’ understanding of the devastating disorder. The study, published in the journal Nature, offer support for wider use of ketamine in depression.