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Anaesthetic drug ketamine, notorious for its use as a date rape drug, has finally been included in the stringent schedule X of the Drug and Cosmetics Act to curb its easy availability. Now, its buyers and sellers have to maintain extensive documentation and be ready for governmental checks.

A hallucinogen, ketamine leaves the user with a sense of euphoria or "feeling of detachment," say experts. Available in liquid and powder form, its overuse is capable of numbing senses and playing havoc with the body’s motor control. Doctors abroad have documented life–threatening conditions, such as cardiac arrest and paralysis, occurring from its overuse. In India, though details of its abuse are scarce, de–addiction centres teeming with victims–mostly teenagers–indicate the problem is severe here too.

"Its misuse is rampant. Its powdered form has been associated with sexual assault cases world over," said Sanjay Kale, joint commissioner of Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA). "This new move will deter chemists from blatantly selling it without proper prescription from registered medical practitioners."

USE & ABUSE

Ketamine is a general anaesthetic drug that is commonly used as a veterinary tranquillizer. It is economical and efficacious

It is occasionally used on humans for anaesthesia, particularly on children for procedures that last for less than 30 minutes

Doctors say it is abused because it can disturb motor control, distort senses, create confusion and produce hallucinations

Government Makes ‘Date Rape’ Drug Ketamine Harder to Buy, Sell

In November, the Union health ministry shifted ketamine hydrochloride from schedule H to schedule X

The inclusion in schedule X means extensive documentation and checks are required both for buyers and sellers Till a few years ago, Maharashtra had six manufactures actively producing the drug for medical purposes. As its demand, mainly in powdered form, rose globally, many illegal units sprang up. But the authorities woke up to ketamine’s abuse potential only when headlines began appearing frequently of major consignments of the drug getting sent to Southeast Asia and Europe.

Just a fortnight ago, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence seized ketamine worth Rs 118 crore from Jalgaon and arrested the racket’s alleged kingpin, an MTech graduate from Powai.

Ketamine was included in the list of psychotropic substances under the National Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, as recently as 2011. Its shift now to the stringent schedule X is expected to deter chemists and wholesalers from selling it over the counter. The Union health ministry communicated the decision on the shift to all state FDAs recently.

As per the new amendment, chemists wanting to sell ketamine will have to seek special licence from the FDA and maintain detailed records, including contact details of buyers, for two years.

A 20–year–old Delhi girl, who was in a rehabilitation centre in Mumbai for ketamine abuse, hailed the government move. "I got hooked on ketamine at age 16. It was cheap, about Rs 100 a vial, and easily available at any pharmacy. On a good day, four of my friends and I would purchase about 40 vials and inject all of it on the same day," she told TOI on phone. "Its effect lingers. You feel like a zombie, with some sense of things happening around you, though you are tranquillized."

The youngster said she "gradually started disliking the feeling of not being able to walk or speak" and has been sober for over a year.

Dr Yusuf Merchant has treated 12 teens in his Drug Abuse Information Rehabilitation and Research Centre at Kushivali in the past one year. "Out of the dozen, nine were from Delhi and three from Mumbai. The percentage of girls addicted to it is the same as boys," he said.

Psychiatrist Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla of Mumbai’s JJ Hospital added that many doctors are also hooked on the drug–which "is unfortunate since the drug is showing a lot of potential as an antidepressant".

Source
Times of India
17 November 2013,
Mumbai, India
by - Sumitra Deb Roy

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