Ketamine Vs Opioids, What’s the Deal?

As overdose rates rise, governments seem more willing to loosen drug restrictions, than to find actual workable solutions. Opioids are responsible for the biggest number of these deaths and the numbers only grow more each year. What if a possible answer already exists, and we’re simply not being told about it? When it comes to opioids, the issue of pain is integral, and the question of ketamine vs opioids for modern treatment, is a thing. So how does ketamine compare to opioids for pain management, and can it be a substitute?

The opioid issue is getting to a fever pitch, and the question of ketamine vs opioids is gaining prominence, and for a good reason. We’re an independent news site focusing on the growing cannabis and psychedelics fields going on today. Keep up with everything by subscribing to the THC Weekly Newsletter, which is also a great source for deals on items like cannabinoid products including HHC-O, Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP HHC. Check out all your choices, and make sure to make the best purchase possible.


Opioids and the overdose toll

We’ve been talking about it for years now. How every year more and more people overdose on drugs, with the grand majority doing so on synthetic opioids. Opioids are a class of synthetically made drugs based on the opium plant. These are unlike the natural components taken out of the plant which are called opiates. Opiates are compounds like codeine or morphine. Opioids are represented by drugs like fentanyl and oxycodone.

Opioids attach to receptors in the central and peripheral nervous systems, and in the gastrointestinal tract. There are three main opioid receptor classes: μ, κ, δ (mu, kappa, and delta), though a total of 17 are known. Opioids are primarily used as pain relievers and anesthetics. They are also prescribed medically for issues like diarrhea and cough suppression.

Users experience an intense euphoria on opioids, which often leads to a sedation and a semi-unconscious state. Opioids are respiratory depressants, which is the main reason they cause so many deaths, as its easy to overdose on them. This happens a lot when tolerance to the euphoria or pain-killing effects increases, leading users to need more and more to get high. Other effects of the drugs include itchiness, nausea, confusion, and constipation.

Opioids can be deadly on their own, but become that much more dangerous when mixed with other drugs, particularly other drugs with a depressant effect. It’s common for overdose victims to have drugs like alcohol or benzodiazepines in their system as well. Alcohol is commonly mixed with other drugs (probably because of its own prevalence in society), and benzodiazepines are often used with opioids to combat the sickness they bring on.

In terms of where we are with overdoses, the latest numbers come from a CDC release on May 11th, 2022. These preliminary numbers show an overdose total of 107,622 for the year 2021. This number includes all drug overdose deaths, with no specific number given for opioid deaths. How do we therefore know the majority are opioid related? Well, we know that in 2020 there were 93,000 overdose deaths, and that there were 73,000 in 2019. We also know that of the 73,000 from 2019, 48,000 were from synthetic opioids, and that 68,000 of 2020’s numbers were related to synthetic opioids as well. It stands to reason that well over 70,000 of 2021’s overdoses, were due to these medications.

Ketamine

One of the big problems with the current crisis, is that its not just about getting people off of a drug they’re addicted to, but providing an ongoing way to handle the issue that got them addicted in the first place. If people are experiencing pain, and using opioids to treat their pain issue, it’s hard after acclimation to a working treatment, to not offer something else. Perhaps if a patient is never given such a medication, they may be fine without it. However, after acclimating a patient to a medication, it can create a situation where they now need it and its expected effects.

Obviously, people have undergone and withstood extreme pain for millennia without the help of synthetic opioids, so there is really no case to continue their use under the circumstances of their danger. However, the question of how to get people off these highly addictive medications still remains. And one of the best answers, is sadly not only not being used, but is barely mentioned at all. And this despite the skyrocketing death toll.

Ketamine is a dissociative hallucinogen created by Parke Davis Pharmaceutical company in 1962 and cleared by the FDA for use as an anesthetic in 1970. Though it was understood from preliminary testing on prisoners that ketamine could treat acute pain, and without the death toll of drugs like opioids, the FDA never officially cleared it for this purpose. It was, however, subsequently used on the fields of Vietnam, if this is any indication of its actual abilities.

Ketamine is legal for off-label use, and this has spawned a gray-market ketamine industry, whereby ketamine is prescribed and administered by doctors in medical clinics. In these settings, the ketamine is used for any purpose the prescribing doctor sees fit, and has become a new mainstay for the treatment of both pain, and psychological issues like depression.

Ketamine vs opioids

Alright, so they’re both painkillers, but the most important question in the conversation of ketamine vs opioids, is can ketamine work for the same things? After all, it wouldn’t make sense to try to replace one drug, with another that can’t help in the same way. Luckily, there is already research into this exact question, and the results look promising for ketamine use in place of opioids.

In 2020 a review was published called Ketamine vs Opioids for Acute Pain in the Emergency Department. The review looked at 870 adult patients who ended up in emergency rooms with acute pain. In all cases the pain could have been trauma or non-trauma related. The patients came from two meta-analyses, in which 11 trials were done in total. Pain measurements were made using the VAS – Change in Visual Analog Scale.

Of the two meta-analyses, Karlow et al. contained trials that directly compared “a sub-dissociative intravenous dose of ketamine with a single IV dose of opioid/opiate analgesia.” While ketamine was related to more adverse effects (e.g. agitation, hallucination, dysphoria, and confusion), the only life-threatening event was associated with morphine.

ketamine for pain

The other main part of the review came from the Ghate et al. systematic review which compared “low-dose ketamine with opioids in adults with acute pain in the ED.” The eight studies looked at included a total of 609 patients. The review found that “Both low-dose ketamine (dose range: 0.1-0.6 mg/kg IV/SC/IM) and morphine (dose: 0.1 mg/kg IV or 0.5 mg hydromorphone IV) appeared to provide some level of analgesia in individual studies (compiled data was not reported), but no significant difference was demonstrated between the two agents.” This review also found more adverse effects with the ketamine, but nothing life-threatening.

Between these two separate reviews, the authors concluded that “ketamine appears to be comparable to opioids for acute pain control.” They did stipulate that there were several limitations to the studies done, including comparing single doses rather than longer term treatment. They end by saying more research into the matter should be done.

More research…

As emergency rooms are a great place to try out pain medications, yet another emergency room piece of research backs up the efficacy of ketamine in comparison to opioids. A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Ketamine as an Alternative to Opioids for Acute Pain in the Emergency Department, looked at whether low dose ketamine is a safe and effective alternative to opioids in an emergency situation. The review covers randomized controlled trials which compare intravenous opioids to low dose ketamine.

As per the usual, more adverse reactions were seen with ketamine treatment, but none were deadly. The authors concluded “Ketamine is noninferior to morphine for the control of acute pain, indicating that ketamine can be considered as an alternative to opioids for ED short-term pain control.”

Another interesting piece of research came out in 2019, and is called Effect of Intranasal Ketamine vs Fentanyl on Pain Reduction for Extremity Injuries in Children: The PRIME Randomized Clinical Trial. The study examined intranasal ketamine vs intranasal fentanyl, specifically in children with pain in their extremities. The study included 90 children, half of whom were given ketamine, and the other half fentanyl.

Study authors found “Ketamine was noninferior to fentanyl for pain reduction based on a 1-sided test of group difference less than the noninferiority margin.” As with previously mentioned studies, there were more adverse effects in the ketamine group, but all effects were minor and went away quickly. The study authors concluded:

“Intranasal ketamine may be an appropriate alternative to intranasal fentanyl for pain associated with acute extremity injuries. Ketamine should be considered for pediatric pain management in the emergency setting, especially when opioids are associated with increased risk.”

What about chronic pain?

Emergency rooms are a great example of looking at the comparison of ketamine vs opioids for acute pain issues. But what about ketamine for chronic pain? Acute pain represents pain that’s intense and happening right now. Chronic pain denotes a pain issue whereby pain is experienced on a long term basis. Think of the difference between the pain of a standard broken arm, and pain from an ongoing bad back.

ketamine vs opioids

One of the interesting things found in this review, Ketamine for chronic pain: risks and benefits, is that ketamine treatment for at least some kinds of pain, can last way past the time of treatment. In fact, the review, which references several studies, says “Current data on short term infusions indicate that ketamine produces potent analgesia during administration only, while three studies on the effect of prolonged infusion (4-14 days) show long-term analgesic effects up to 3 months following infusion.”

They conclude, “Further research is required to assess whether the benefits outweigh the risks and costs. Until definite proof is obtained ketamine administration should be restricted to patients with therapy-resistant severe neuropathic pain.” Though the authors make a good point about needing more info, in this study, as per the rest, all adverse reactions were minimal. The main issues of concern brought up were around “CNS, haemodynamic, renal and hepatic symptoms,” though how much of an issue these actually are, is not very clear. Deaths did not come up at all.

Though indeed more research should be done, that several investigations have turned up this ability for such long-lasting effects from shorter treatment regimens, is not only incredible in general, but makes ketamine that much more of a better option vs opioids in the current situation. While we don’t know the extent that ketamine can do this, we do already know for sure that opioids will never last longer than the immediate time frame they are given in.

Another systematic review, Ketamine Infusions for Chronic Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials investigated “the effectiveness of IV ketamine infusions for pain relief in chronic conditions”, in order to “determine whether any pain classifications or treatment regimens are associated with greater benefit.” To do this, the researchers used Medline, Embase, Google Scholar, and clinicaltrials.gov to gather information. They used “randomized control trials comparing IV ketamine to placebo infusions for chronic pain that reported outcomes for ≥48 hours after the intervention.”

The results? Three of the seven studies usable for the review showed “significant analgesic benefit favoring ketamine, with the meta-analysis revealing a small effect up to 2 weeks after the infusion”, backing up the idea of long-term effects from short-term use. They also found “In the 3 studies that reported responder rates, the proportion with a positive outcome was greater in the ketamine than in the placebo group.”

According to the authors, “IV ketamine is effective for a wide array of chronic pain conditions, although the benefits dissipate with time.” How long? “Use of IV ketamine resulted in a reduction in pain scores between 48 hours and 2 and 8 weeks after the infusion, but the pooled difference in pain reduction at 4 weeks fell shy of significance.” As in, on average, the effects lasted up to about four weeks, but became less significant at that point. When you think about it though… up to four weeks of chronic pain relief with a non-lethal option, sounds pretty damn awesome. Especially in the current situation.

Conclusion

There’s still plenty to learn, and plenty to research, but when it comes to ketamine vs opioids, one of the most important things to consider, is that one causes mass death, and one doesn’t. Evidence shows ketamine as noninferior in terms of both acute pain and chronic pain, and unlike with opioids, it has the ability to reduce pain for weeks after administration, at least in some cases. What with the awfulness of the opioid epidemic going on, once again I have to ask, why isn’t ketamine being substituted for opioids, immediately!?

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When Your Doctor Is Your Dealer: Why Opioid Measures Won’t Work

Drug issues are constant in society, whether current or historically, but for the most part, the truly bad cases have only accounted for a small percentage of a population. The past decades have introduced a new phenomenon in the issue of drug use, whereby the doctor is the dealer, leading to a whole new level of confusion and difficulty in getting rid of this problem.

When your doctor is your dealer, how do you get off drugs? This is the main issue with today’s opioid crisis. This publication reports on stories in the burgeoning cannabis and psychedelic industries. Stay current by signing up for the THC Weekly Newsletter, and also get yourself some good deals on tons of cannabis products, as well as cannabinoid compounds like HHC-O, Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP, and HHC. There are tons of options out there, and we only promote consumers buy products they’re happy with.

The opioid issue

The overdose issue has skyrocketed both in the US, and abroad, and the main contributing factor for these increases is the use of synthetic opioids. Though opiates have been around for awhile (think Tylenol 3), the issue of synthetic opioids is much newer. To clarify, an opiate is a naturally derived compound of the opium plant. An opioid is a synthetically made compound which is either based on opiates, but can’t be found in nature, or a synthetically made version of a naturally occurring compound.

In terms of how deadly they’ve proven to be, the latest preliminary number released by the CDC for 2021 for overdose deaths in America, is 107,622. These are not all opioid overdoses, but account for all drug overdose deaths. This rate is 15% increased from the 93,000 of 2020, which was a 30% increase from 73,000 deaths in 2019.

We don’t know how many of 2021’s deaths are opioid related, but we do know that opioid overdoses account for the grand majority, and we know this by looking at the numbers for other years. Of the 93,000 that died in 2020, over 68,000 were opioid deaths.  When looking at 2019 numbers, of the 73,000 overdose deaths, less than 15,000 were heroin, and 48,000 were from synthetic opioids.

Where did this come from?

Opioids came into the spotlight in 1996 when the pharmaceutical company Purdue released oxycontin, the first time release opioid medication, which kicked off tons of issues with patients getting addicted. Issues revolve around the strength of the medication, as well as lies about how long it lasts, which led patients to believe initially that they didn’t need to take as much as what they actually needed in the end.

These safety issues were buried for years, and prescriptions for opioid medications continued to grow. In 2006 8.4 billion opioid pills made it to market, and in 2012, the number was up to 12.6 billion. Consider what it might be now that 10 more years passed. Judging from the growing overdoses, it doesn’t imply the number went down. Between 2006-2012, over 76 billion opioid pills were sold, and three companies manufactured 88% of these: SpecGx, ­Actavis Pharma, and Par Pharmaceutical. The creator of this epidemic, Purdue, was the fourth largest producer.

These numbers are already old, and that’s because this information is repeatedly buried by both pharma companies and the US government. The US government, for its part, not only continues to allow these medications, but has gone as far as proposing to reduce prescribing guidelines for doctors, making them easier to get. The US government is the sole entity responsible for approving medications, regulating their use, and taking them off the market. So as this issue continues, there is only one entity responsible for its progression.

The problem here is that this isn’t a black market issue, this is a legal medical issue. In this case its not about back-alley deals, it’s about the doctor as the dealer. It was reported that for 2017, 191 million prescriptions for opioids were written in that year, and 45% were written by primary care physician, and not specialists. Primary care physicians are not supposed to write these prescriptions, and perhaps the current situation helps explain why. This massive number of prescriptions amounts to 58.7 per every 100 people.

The sad thing is though big pharmaceutical companies are now paying out billions in lawsuits because of the damage done by these medications, and the lies surrounding them, the doctors writing the prescriptions are not being held liable. Think of how many of those deaths came from patients taking what they were prescribed to take. It’s great that pharma companies must pay out for their crimes, but why aren’t the doctors? If their medical school training is not enough for them to conceptually understand the issue of prescribing addictive medication in large amounts, perhaps we need more stringent requirements for our medical professionals.

Portugal’s decriminalization

In 2001, Portugal shocked the world by creating policy to decriminalize all kinds of drugs. The whole point of the measure wasn’t to promote drug use in the country, but to cut back on the rising HIV cases that were spreading because of IV drug use. It was estimated that half of new yearly AIDS cases came from sharing needles.

Portugal decriminalized drugs

The law didn’t legalize drug use or possession, but it did change it from a criminal offense with jail time, to an administrative offense, so long as the user is only caught with a 10-day supply. The main idea is to identify people who require more help, and to get them the help they need. From 2001-2015, Portugal saw a 50% decrease in drug convictions for drug traffickers.

Portugal has seen mainly positive benefits from this move, including a reduction in convictions, a drug-related death rate below the EU average since 2001, and also drug use rates lower than the EU average. This isn’t to say there aren’t issues and ambiguities involved, but it certainly didn’t become a nightmare situation, and does seem to have done some good.

In terms of deaths, since that’s what we’re focused on here, Portugal saw a major drop in overdose deaths for the first several years after the law was enacted. Though they went up again slightly for a few years following, by 2011, deaths were once again down, with a total of only 11 overdose deaths in 2011. The rate does fluctuate, but has never gone as high as 2001 when there were 76 recorded overdose deaths. These numbers, of course, are significantly smaller than the numbers seen in the US.

The doctor is the dealer

The thing is, Portugal was fighting an illicit drug issue. It wasn’t trying to lessen drug use, while having its doctors simultaneously providing them. It was just trying to reduce illicit drugs. The problem with nearly every measure taken in the US (and Canada), from safe use sites, to the decriminalization of hard drugs, which Canada’s British Columbia is about to do, is that these measures are being done while doctors are still prescribing the medications. And as long as the doctor is the dealer, there isn’t a reason for drug use to go down.

In order for that to happen, regulation must surround the ability to get prescriptions, as well as the use of alternate treatments like ketamine. The US was perfectly happy to get rid of Quaaludes, despite claiming the whole country was addicted to them, which would have been horrifying it that was true (it wasn’t). In order to do this, the US went around rooting out producers in the entire world. So why are opioids still around if the US is so willing to get rid of drugs which it claims are bad for its people, but which show no comparable death count?

And why isn’t ketamine in the conversation at all. This non-death-toll dissociative hallucinogen has been associated with acute pain control since the 1960’s, and is the subject of specific studies which show its ability to replace opioids for pain management. Add on that ketamine helps with the circular thinking behaviors of addiction, and one could say its criminal that governments are ignoring it in favor of promoting big pharma and the further proliferation of opioids.

doctor is dealer

This idea that the doctor is the dealer is a strange one in today’s world of drug addiction, and its not a problem we’ve encountered before. In all other ‘drug wars’, the culprit was always a black market enterprise. But the US (and other countries) isn’t waging wars on doctors and pharmaceutical companies. It’s instead attempting to make opioids easier to get, allowing their continued sale, and practically ignoring all the doctors who function as nothing more than drug pushers.

If the US government likes to prosecute drug dealers, then shouldn’t every doctor that carelessly wrote opioid prescriptions also get prosecuted? We prosecute drunk drivers if they hurt someone else, even if they had no intention to do so. Yet every doctor writing unnecessary prescriptions that lead to death, are just as guilty as any drunk guy who gets behind the wheel and kills another person.

Conclusion

If anyone expects the current tactics now being employed to fight the opioid epidemic to help, then they’re not paying attention. As long as the doctor is the dealer, and the prescriptions keep coming, this problem will never go away, and will only continue to grow.

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Record High Opioid Deaths For a Record Low in America

We’ve been talking about it for a while. About the addictions, and the misuse, and the overdoses, and the death. We’ve been talking about it for years now, and the only thing to happen, is for numbers to go up. A recent report points to record high opioid deaths in the US, and a record low in dealing with them.

Opioid deaths are on the rise, fueling the enormous drug overdose rate in America. What will be done to end this epidemic, and where does ketamine fit in? We report on the growing cannabis and psychedelics industries. You can keep up with everything by subscribing to The Cannadelics Weekly Newsletter, which will also put you in first place to receive promotions for psychedelic products, as they become available to the general public.


What’s the latest?

On May 11th, 2022, the CDC released preliminary data about overdose death rates for the previous year. In 2021, according to the CDC, there were approximately 107,622 overdose deaths, which is a 15% increase from 2020. 2020 set its own record that year, going up 30% from the year before. The overdose death number for 2020, was over 93,000. To be clear, these are only overdose deaths, not specifically opioid deaths. But opioid deaths most certainly drive these numbers, accounting for over 68,000 of the 2020 deaths. So it suffices to say that a quickly rising death rate, is spurred on greatly by opioids.

This is called ‘provisional’ data in that it’s not final numbers, but rather, a first peak into the numbers for the year. Though it’s possible these numbers could change by the time of official release, they are not likely to change in a way that brings the numbers down to acceptable levels. So whether they’re the final and official numbers is inconsequential in this matter, as they show well the scope of the opioid issue in America.

What was the official response to these numbers? White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Dr. Rahul Gupta stated how it was not acceptable to lose so many lives (at the rate of one every five minutes). He went on to say, “That is why President Biden’s new National Drug Control Strategy signals a new era of drug policy centered on individuals and communities, focusing specifically on the actions we must take right now to reduce overdoses and save lives.”

In April, Biden did send a strategy to Congress for dealing with national drug control, which involves dealing with the overdose epidemic. What that means has not been discussed. But other things have happened in the recent past to indicate that not only is the government not going to do anything useful, but that it actually intends to make the problem worse. Keep reading.

Lower prescribing guidelines?

If the whole idea is to try it actually minimize the opioid deaths issue, the government has made only moves in the opposite direction, and this is more than concerning. In 2016, the CDC issued guidelines for prescribing opioids, which were meant to limit their unnecessary prescription. These guidelines were not legal requirements, but they did set a certain standard for doctors writing prescriptions.

In the midst of this growing issue, what did the CDC do? In February 2022, as in, about three months before these new numbers came out, the CDC proposed loosening these guidelines, which clearly haven’t worked to begin with. The backwards reasoning used relates to doctor’s having to cut off patients prematurely who need their opioids. As the issue has only deepened, this doesn’t make a lot of sense, and signals that its quite the other way around.

To add to the confusion, the CDC doesn’t regulate these things anyway, that’s mainly for the FDA and DEA. And since they therefore aren’t legal regulatory changes, why they exist, or are the basis for news stories, is even more confounding. Loosening guidelines that technically never existed as anything more than illusion, therefore, isn’t a huge thing. But the more fear-inducing aspect is that in the midst of the rising death toll, that this story is the story to come out at all. It shows a lack of understanding of government bodies, and a lack of desire to make real changes that can improve the situation.

What about the lawsuits?

If there’s any question outside the horrifyingly high OD numbers that there’s a substantial and preventable issue – especially concerning opioid deaths, just look at the massive lawsuits against the pharmaceutical companies that make them. Just these lawsuits should indicate an immediate need to remove these medications, but even with this information in our faces, the government continues to not only allow these medications, but to promote their use by accepting money from the companies that make them, and not changing regulation for using them.

One of the big lawsuit stories involves the Native American community, which has been hit particularly hard by this epidemic. In February 2022, Johnson & Johnson, along with AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson, offered a settlement of $590 million to members of any of the federally recognized tribes that are a part of the suit. This means tribes that did not initiate this lawsuit, can still take part in the settlement. It says quite a bit about understanding their own wrongdoing, that these companies offered such a high settlement. Obviously they didn’t want to go to court.

opioid settlement

And maybe that’s because these same companies have already agreed to pay out another $26 billion globally for their actions. Funny enough, this statement was made by Johnson & Johnson upon agreeing to this deal in February 2022: “This settlement is not an admission of any liability or wrongdoing and the company will continue to defend against any litigation that the final agreement does not resolve.”

Really? Agreeing to settle global suits for an enormous $26 billion…because they feel like it? Imagine what the amount would have been if they had lost in court. Settlements aren’t made by parties that think they’re right, they’re made by parties who are afraid of the worse punishment they’ll incur by going to trial. However, all that aside, just the sheer amount is a clear indication of a mass amount of damage done.

But that’s not the end of it for these Big Pharma companies. Last week, officials in Idaho announced a $119 million settlement against J&J and the other three companies related to the Native American settlement. This settlement is also to help recoup some of the damage done by these drugs to the community, which has suffered a huge amount of opioid deaths. What if every state did this?

According to Governor Brad Little, “Idaho has made significant strides in recent years in combating the opioid crisis, and the culmination of our legal action against opioid manufacturers – led by Attorney General Wasden and his team – now offers additional resources. Altogether, our investments and activities will turn the tide on the opioid crisis.”

Of course, what should be noted, is that Idaho did not ban these drugs from its state. No specific place has made such a move. And this says quite a bit. While everyone wants to capitalize on the blame aspect, and take money from these companies, none want to institute an actual policy (like banning opioids) that could help solve it. Which means even as these settlements happen, the drugs remain available, making for a striking contradiction.

What about ketamine?

If you’ll notice, I implied that these drugs should be removed entirely. Let’s be realistic for a second, the world and its population survived without opioids in the past, so this idea that we need them so badly, is unrealistic at best. We never needed them, we just got used to them.

pain management

Now, the idea of removing a drug from someone that they are addicted to, is obviously not the answer either, as this can cause more trauma to the user, and possibly cause their death. So when I say the drugs should be removed, I certainly don’t mean without having another measure in place. And this is where ketamine comes in, as the obvious and practical answer to the opioid epidemic, which is roundly being ignored by the government.

The reason ketamine is so important is because it’s a dissociative hallucinogen which is tightly associated with two things: the ability to help with a range of psychological issues – including addiction, as well as the ability to help with pain management. Both of these aspects are incredibly important right now. Ketamine doesn’t cause addictions, and is known to help people with them, so the idea of replacing one with the other, actually makes sense. Ketamine can help ease the addiction issue, which is a huge part of this crisis. Add onto that that ketamine can then control the pain issues without causing the addictions and death rates of opioids, and its more than obvious. It becomes criminal that its not being used properly to end this.

If you’re asking yourself how that could be. That an answer could exist, and be known to the government, but ignored and not used in favor of more people dying, it’s actually not that far out. The government promotes plenty of bad things when money is put in representative’s pockets. Ketamine is easily created and exists as a wide gray market, unregulated by the US government. Ketamine is a synthetic product, so its pharmaceutical automatically. So why would the government care if one pharma product is used over another, if its main goal is to prop up pharma companies that give it money?

Ketamine is made everywhere by everyone, and doesn’t rely on Big Pharma specifically to produce it. Which means the big pharmaceutical companies that work in tandem with the government (this can be said due to the large amount of money the government takes from these organizations), can’t control the industry. The US legalized esketamine in 2019 as a showing of this understanding, in an effort to divert from the ketamine market. But even then, it left pain treatment out, even though its now the most important aspect considering the opioid crisis.

How long has it been known that ketamine is a great drug for pain which doesn’t cause the same issues of death and addiction? Since studies done on prisoners in the 1960’s. That means for almost 60 years this information has been known, and yet even now when its needed the most, its being suppressed in order to keep doling out the very drugs that are killing people. The very drugs that bring money into Big Pharma and therefore the US government.

Conclusion

When does this end? I suppose when people smarten up enough to let it. I think it really will require a better understanding by the population at large, of what exactly is going on and why. And the sad thing is, this might not happen, or could take years longer meaning more and more opioid deaths. Luckily, with ketamine on the rise, people should be making the connection soon enough, and hopefully if the pressure builds, the US government will be forced to do the right thing…finally.

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Biden Signs Bill To Take On Rising Meth Abuse

President Joe Biden on Monday signed legislation designed to address the rising scourge of meth abuse in the United States.

The new law, titled the Methamphetamine Response Act, “requires the government to declare methamphetamine an ‘emerging drug threat’ and to develop a response plan specific to methamphetamine,” according to a press release.

The bill had bipartisan support in the House of Representatives and Senate: its sponsors were Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Reps. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and John Curtis (R-Utah).

Feinstein, the senior California senator, thanked Biden for signing the bill into law, noting statistics that have shown meth abuse to have “soared in recent years.”

According to a study from the National Institutes of Health, “overdose deaths involving methamphetamine nearly tripled from 2015 to 2019 among people ages 18-64 in the United States.” That study, released last year, showed that the “number of people who reported using methamphetamine during this time did not increase as steeply, but the analysis found that populations with methamphetamine use disorder have become more diverse,” suggesting that “increases in higher-risk patterns of methamphetamine use, such as increases in methamphetamine use disorder, frequent use, and use of other drugs at the same time, may be contributing to the rise in overdose deaths.”

Earlier this month, the NIH reported that an “analysis of law enforcement seizures of illegal drugs in five key regions of the United States revealed a rise in methamphetamine and marijuana (cannabis) confiscations during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“After working on this critical issue for the last few years, I’m pleased to see our Methamphetamine Response Act has been signed into law after receiving strong bipartisan support from Congress,” Grassley said in the press release. “While meth isn’t a new drug, traffickers are finding ways to increase its potency and widen distribution, which has resulted in a spike in overdose rates. Our new law will help law enforcement better respond to the challenges presented by drug traffickers’ evolving tactics, and it will ensure our federal partners continue prioritizing a response and strategy to address the meth crisis. I’d like to thank Senator Feinstein for her partnership on this issue.”

Along with declaring meth an emerging drug threat, the new law will require the Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act to “develop, implement and make public, within 90 days of enactment, a national emerging threats response plan that is specific to methamphetamine.”

That plan, according to the press release, must be updated each year and include the following: “An assessment of the methamphetamine threat, including the current availability of, and demand for the drug, and evidence-based prevention and treatment programs, as well as law enforcement programs; short- and long-term goals, including those focused on supply and demand reduction, and on expanding the availability and effectiveness of treatment and prevention programs; performance measures pertaining to the plan’s goals; the level of funding needed to implement the plan; and an implementation strategy, goals, and objectives for a media campaign.”

Rep. Peters, a California Democrat, referred to his home district, which includes San Diego, in discussing his support for the new law.

“Once known as the meth capital of the United States, San Diego has a long history in working to combat methamphetamine production and addiction. Law enforcement officials still refer to our region as ‘ground zero’ for the nation’s meth problem, and a surge in the amount of the drug smuggled across the U.S.-Mexico border in recent years has caused overdose cases to skyrocket,” said Peters. “The new law will address this issue head-on by requiring the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to develop, implement and make public a national plan to prevent methamphetamine addiction and overdoses from becoming a crisis. As meth-related deaths continue to rise with each passing year, we must recognize meth as an emerging threat nationwide.”

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Researchers Developing Vaccine to Fight Opioid Use Disorder

Scientists with a new research center at the University of Washington are working on a vaccine to help fight the opioid epidemic in a bid to stem the tide of overdose deaths that has swept the nation over the past two decades. 

Marco Pravetoni, the head of the new UW Medicine Center for Medication Development for Substance Use Disorders, is leading the effort to develop the vaccine. Similar to immunization against an invading pathogen, the vaccine under development would stimulate the body’s immune system to attack and destroy opioid molecules before they can enter the brain. 

Such a vaccine would not prevent drug cravings commonly experienced by those with opioid abuse disorder. But the treatment, if successful, would block the effects of opioids including euphoria, pain relief and even overdose, thus likely reducing abuse.

The new research center opened this month and has raised more than $2 million in initial funding. Pravetoni hopes to raise enough money to complete further research on the vaccine under development.

“What I’m hoping to achieve is pretty much every year, we’re going to start a new clinical trial,” Pravetoni told the Seattle Times in early January.

An Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses

In November, provisional data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that during the 12-month period ending April 2021, 100,306 Americans died of drug overdoses. Synthetic opioids were involved in nearly two-thirds of the overdose deaths reported.

The overdose-reversal drug naloxone has been shown to save lives in emergencies. Additionally, treatments for opioid abuse disorder including methadone and buprenorphine can help those struggling with addiction, although opioid replacement therapy drugs have their own risk of addiction. New treatments could increase the chances of success for those struggling with opioid abuse, according to Rebecca Baker, director of the National Institutes of Health’s Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, a program that has helped fund Pravetoni’s research.

“(Existing medications) don’t work for everyone. And a lot of people don’t stay on them in the long term,” Baker said. “Would the outcomes be better if we had more options?”

The University of Washington’s opioid vaccine project is building on research published in the journal Nature in 1974. In that study, a rhesus monkey had been trained to self-administer heroin and cocaine. After being given an experimental vaccine to block the effects of heroin, the monkey continued to use cocaine but greatly reduced its use of heroin, suggesting the vaccine had done its job.

That study led to further research into the possibility of creating a vaccine for nicotine addiction. Although early results appeared promising, human trials showed the treatment was only as effective as a placebo. A vaccine developed to fight cocaine addiction saw a similar fate, and neither treatment received approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Kim Janda, a chemistry and immunology professor at Scripps Research Institute in California, has spent decades researching vaccines against addictive drugs. He believes that continued research could eventually produce an effective vaccine.

“We’ve learned a lot more [about] what is possible, what’s maybe not going to be as fruitful,” Janda said, adding that vaccines may not work against all drugs of abuse. “But if there’s enough money to put behind these vaccines, and you had the infrastructure to do it, then you could move it along fairly quickly.”

This year, Pravetoni and a researcher with Columbia University have launched the first Phase 1 clinical trial of a vaccine to prevent opioid abuse. The safety and efficacy of the vaccine, which is designed to block the effects of oxycodone, is being tested in people who are already addicted but not receiving the disease.

Is an Opioid Vaccine Worth the Cost?

But human drug trials are expensive. Pravetoni estimates that bringing an effective opioid vaccine to market could cost up to $300 million. Some addiction experts, including Dr. Ryan Marino, an emergency medicine physician and medical toxicologist at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, wonder if the money could be better spent.

“It is true that more treatment options are generally better,” Marino told Filter. “But what doesn’t make sense to me—as someone who treats both overdose and addiction—is putting so much funding towards this when we already have an antidote for opioids, a long-acting opioid blocker and two other evidence-based treatment options for opioid use disorder that both reduce opioid use and prevent overdose.”

Harm reduction activists working on the ground with people who have substance abuse disorders say that limited funds could be spent more effectively. Jessica Blanchard, the founder of Georgia a mobile harm reduction program called 229 Safer Living Access, distributes safer sex supplies and naloxone provided by other groups. But she personally covers the other costs to administer the program, which limits its operations substantially.

“With funding, not only could I afford to buy in bulk, greatly reducing cost, but I could also give participants more supplies to share with those unable to make contact with the program,” Blanchard said. “I would pay program participants to do secondary distribution. (They) are the experts here. They express a desire to participate in distributing supplies and educating their peers. But without the ability to compensate them for their time and lived-experiential knowledge, I simply can not ask them to help.”

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New York City’s Supervised Injection Sites Call for Biden’s Support

Only a few weeks after opening, supervised injection sites in New York City have potentially saved dozens of lives, leading city leaders to call on the Biden administration to authorize the use of similar harm reduction programs nationwide.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s health department announced on November 30 that the nation’s first publicly recognized overdose prevention centers (OPCs) had commenced operations in the city. Also commonly known as supervised injection sites, OPCs offer people a safe place to consume illicit drugs under the supervision of staff trained to intervene in the event of an overdose.

Other services including clean needle exchange, HIV testing and referrals to addiction treatment programs are often commonly available at supervised injection sites.

De Blasio, who has been calling for an OPC pilot program since 2018, noted that more than 2,000 people died of a drug overdose in New York City in 2020, the highest number since reporting began in 2000. Nationwide, more than 90,000 people died of an overdose in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the worst year ever recorded.

Supervised Injection Sites Save Lives

Internationally, supervised injection sites have been saving lives for decades. Research over 30 years at more than 100 such facilities has proven the efficacy of such programs. No overdose deaths have ever been recorded at a supervised injection site, and research has also shown that the sites reduce public drug use, litter from syringes and drug-related crime in surrounding neighborhoods.

“After exhaustive study, we know the right path forward to protect the most vulnerable people in our city, and we will not hesitate to take it,” de Blasio said in a statement at the time. “Overdose Prevention Centers are a safe and effective way to address the opioid crisis. I’m proud to show cities in this country that after decades of failure, a smarter approach is possible.”

Council Member Mark Levine, chair of the City Council Health Committee, said that “NYC has taken historic action against the mounting crisis of opioid deaths with the opening of the nation’s first overdose prevention centers.”

“This strategy is proven to save lives, and is desperately needed at a moment when fatalities are rising fast,” Levine added. “I applaud the city as well as the providers who offer these lifesaving services for this bold approach to stopping this crisis.”

The city’s OPCs are operated by outreach and education group New York Harm Reduction Educators, which has opened two supervised injection sites at existing facilities in Harlem and Washington Heights. As of December 14, only two weeks into the program, the two sites had registered 350 participants and staff had already reversed 43 overdoses, according to a report from WNYC/Gothamist.

City Leaders Seek Support from Biden Administration

The success of New York’s OPCs has led a group of city leaders to call on the administration of President Joe Biden to support federal authorization of supervised injection sites nationwide. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, it is illegal to operate, own or rent a location for the purpose of using illegal drugs. 

In an op-ed published on December 15, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance called on Biden to provide legal protection for OPCs to open across the country. 

They noted that in April, New York had joined the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Somerville, Massachusetts, in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking the Justice Department to deprioritize enforcement of federal drug laws against supervised injection sites. But so far, no response has been received from federal officials.

The civic leaders also noted that Biden had recently become the first president to include harm reduction in his drug policy priorities and said that New York’s OPCs could be a model for the nation. Under the American Rescue Plan passed by Congress in March, $30 million was appropriated to state, local and tribal governments and organizations for overdose prevention and harm reduction services.

“It is time to embrace bold strategies in the face of public health crises, even if they may seem radical at first,” they wrote in the BuzzFeed News op-ed. “Thirty years ago, in the midst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, New York City activists started one of the first syringe service programs in the country and, as a result, reduced HIV transmission among people who inject drugs, averting countless deaths.”

“We urge the Biden administration to endorse overdose prevention centers, empowering state and local jurisdictions to fully leverage their resources and authority to build healthier and safer cities, towns and communities,” the civic leaders concluded.

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U.S. Reports More Than 100,000 Overdose Deaths In One Year

More than 100,000 people succumbed to overdose deaths in the United States in the span of a year, a record death toll that underscores the continuing failure of the War on Drugs to keep the nation safe.

During the 12-month period ending April 2021, 100,306 Americans died of drug overdoses, according to provisional data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday. Federal officials point to the coronavirus pandemic and the proliferation of powerful synthetic opioids including fentanyl as major contributors to the spike in overdose deaths over the past two years.

“These are numbers we have never seen before,” Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, told the New York Times. Commenting on the human toll behind the statistics, Volkow noted that a majority of the deaths occurred among people aged 25 to 55.

“They leave behind friends, family and children, if they have children, so there are a lot of downstream consequences,” Dr. Volkow said. “This is a major challenge to our society.”

Overdose Deaths Add to Covid-19’s Toll

During the same time period, approximately 509,000 died from Covid-19 in the United States, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, while millions were left isolated due to quarantines and business closures. Volkow noted that the pandemic also led to border shutdowns that made powerful synthetic opioids including fentanyl easier to smuggle into the country than naturally produced but less potent and thus more bulky drugs including morphine and heroin.

“What we’re seeing are the effects of these patterns of crisis and the appearance of more dangerous drugs at much lower prices,” Volkow said to CNN. “In a crisis of this magnitude, those already taking drugs may take higher amounts and those in recovery may relapse. It’s a phenomenon we’ve seen and perhaps could have predicted.”

The new data, representing deaths from May 2020 through April 2021, reflects a 28.5 percent increase in the number of fatal overdoses in the United States compared to the same time period one year earlier and the first time deaths have exceeded 100,000 in one year. Synthetic opioids including fentanyl were up 49 percent over the year before, contributing to the vast majority (64 percent) of overdose deaths. Stimulants including methamphetamines were involved in about a quarter of overdose deaths, a jump of 48 percent over the previous year. The data also show more modest increases in the number of overdose deaths caused by natural opioids, cocaine and prescription medications.

Dr. Volkow said that while some drug users intentionally seek out fentanyl, others “may not have wanted to take it. But that is what is being sold, and the risk of overdose is very high.”

The pandemic also decreased the availability and access to treatment for substance use disorders. As the country reopens and life begins to return to normal, overdose deaths are likely to remain high if access to drug treatment and other interventions is not improved, experts says.

“Even if Covid went away tomorrow, we’d still have a problem. What will have an impact is dramatic improvement to access to treatment,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, medical director of opioid policy research at the Brandeis University Heller School for Social Policy and Management.

“These are deaths in people with a preventable, treatable condition. The United States continues to fail on both fronts, both on preventing opioid addiction and treating addiction,” he continued, adding that President Joe Biden should act on his campaign promises to address the continuing opioid crisis.

Access to Treatment Saves Lives

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy on Wednesday released model legislation to serve as a guideline for states to pass laws that increase access to naloxone, a life-saving drug that can reverse opioid overdoses. Other medications including buprenorphine can be prescribed to help those with opioid use disorder, but access to the drugs is also often limited. In October, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a plan to combat drug overdoses, including federal support for harm reduction and recovery services and provisions that lessen barriers to substance abuse treatment.

“If we really want to turn the corner, we have to get to a point where treatment for opioid addiction is easier to access than fentanyl, heroin, or prescription opioids are,” Kolodny said.

Beth Connolly, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts substance use prevention and treatment initiative, said that improving access to drug treatment and emergency interventions can help bring down the spike in overdose deaths.

“The evidence is really clear that using medications to treat opioid addiction disorders saves lives,” said Connolly. “As we see more and more evidence that (medication) does save lives, that will hopefully reduce stigmatizing and categorizing in favor of supporting individuals.”

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