Ketamine, also called escatimine — which has a reputation behind the scenes as a party drug, known as ‘Special K,’ for its sedative and sometimes hallucinatory effects — is currently most widely employed as a veterinary tranquilizer, though the Food and Drug Administration first approved human use in 1970.
With off-label uses including treatment for pain, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others, ketamine’s latest FDA approval will be testing as “breakthrough therapy” in treating major depressive disorder.
According to the CDC, from 1999 through 2014, the age-adjusted suicide rate in the United States increased 24%, from 10.5 to 13.0 per 100,000 population, with the pace of increase greater after 2006. Over 41,000 people kill themselves in the United States every year.
Now, a new study published on December 5, 2017, in the American Journal of Psychiatry appears to back up the idea that ketamine could also be effective as a fast-acting treatment to prevent this rise in suicides.
According to a report in Gizmodo,
In the study, depressed patients who got an infusion of ketamine reported rapid relief from suicidal thoughts—many as soon as a few hours after receiving the drug.
Doctors recruited 80 clinically depressed volunteers who checked themselves into the New York State Psychiatric Institute to take part in a randomized trial. The volunteers, all actively having suicidal thoughts, received either the sedative midazolam (intended as a control) or a low-dose infusion of ketamine. The patients were then tracked for at least six weeks while they underwent a standard course of psychiatric treatment.
By the first day and even hours in, more ketamine patients responded to their treatment and experienced fewer suicidal thoughts than the control group. Some of this was due to the drug improving people’s depression, but it also seemed to have a direct impact in relieving their ideation. Better still, this reduction lasted throughout the remaining six weeks, likely because of the added treatment they were getting. The improvement was so dramatic that the researchers decided to dose patients who failed to respond to midazolam with ketamine a few weeks into their regimen, and these patients showed similar improvement.
“It does suggest ketamine treatment can help someone who’s in a really serious suicidal state get out of that quickly,” study author Michael Grunebaum, an associate professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center, told Gizmodo. “Certainly, it would be a relatively simple treatment to provide at hospitals.”
Though expanding potential uses for ketamine, widely considered little more than a party drug, marks necessary progress, cannabis activists should immediately note the glaring hypocrisy by the FDA, DEA, and pharmaceutical industry.
As TFTP previously reported, like ketamine, cannabis has proven time and again enormous flexibility for treating a full spectrum of illnesses, disorders, and psychiatric conditions. Yet less than one week prior to fast-tracking ketamine for FDA approval, the DEA — which falls under the FDA’s regulatory control — humorlessly announced it would not move to reschedule cannabis from its current status of a narcotic substance lacking any potential medical benefit.
Innumerable anecdotal accounts from doctors, researchers, and patients show cannabis — both smoked and in its derivative cannabidiol form — performing what would otherwise be called miraculous healings of conditions ranging from chronic seizures to PTSD. However, cannabis remains classified by the US government as having no medical use.
Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of patients successfully treated with cannabis in the U.S., alone, would vehemently beg to differ.
Beyond the obvious benefits, cannabis has provided directly to drug war profiteers — the for-profit prison industry, police and the government’s militarization handout, the unfathomable total local and state governments reap in court fines and costs, etc., ad infinitum — the biggest benefactor is the elephant-in-the-room: Big Pharma.
In fact, if any doubt lingered about the connection between government and the insidious pharmaceutical industry, the contrasting decisions in failing to reschedule cannabis versus greenlighting the sometimes-party drug ketamine handily annihilates any uncertainty.
To call the decision hypocritical would not only be an egregious understatement, it would obfuscate the glaring relationship between Big Pharma and its lapdog government overseer.
Of course, this isn’t meant to downplay the importance of loosening controls on ketamine, since the drug certainly provides relief for many who desperately need it. But the criticism stands as further validation the drug war was never about drugs — it’s about the profits via the politicization of control.
Decades of inexcusable false propaganda from the government — first in the attempt to essentially criminalize black people and hippies, then through scaremongering on the nonexistent dangers of cannabis — have left an untold number of people without critical treatment the plant could provide.
Beyond even that, these arbitrary disproportionate handouts by the government further prove how useless the war on drugs turned out to be.
Were the government actually interested in preventing injury, the drug war would end entirely — with it, incidentally allowing doctors to treat patients with whatever substance they choose; halting violent and deadly raids on otherwise law-abiding civilian homes; emptying the prison industry’s compartmentalized, overcrowded, and equally problematic penitentiaries; many military operations abroad would need to be abandoned; and removing the so-called need for the government’s military surplus handouts to police departments across the country.
But it isn’t interested in that — because the corporate plutocracy masquerading as our government must feed its gluttonous lust for profits, or it will simply wither and die. And the legalization of cannabis, ketamine, and every other so-called illicit substance pose an existential threat to the State and its cohorts.