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Mixed Messages About Ketamine From Medicine, Law, And Society


Ketamine is the world’s least dangerous anesthesia drug.  It is PCP lite.  Ketamine is nitrous oxide for grownups.  Ketamine captures the ethos of Generation Z, giggling apathetically like minions, the way that cocaine, heroin, LSD, and weed (then known as pot, marijuana, reefer, doobies, and a host of other outdated nicknames) captivated the imaginations of previous generations.  It is the perfect club drug when you’re too cool to dance and too broke to pay the price of admission to the club, especially since you never got around to getting a driver’s license, even though the only way to go anywhere in Florida is to drive, or else wade through alligator-infested swamps.  Whatever.  Ketamine might be just what you need to cure your depression, addiction, or PTSD if you thought about trying ayahuasca but changed your mind when you heard that it almost invariably makes you puke.  Ketamine is a lot of things, but if police find it in your backpack or in your vehicle, what matters is that it is a schedule III controlled substance.  Here, our Miami drug crimes defense lawyer explains how ketamine is illegal, except when it is not.

Angel Dust for Mere Mortals

Ketamine is derived from an older drug called phenyl cyclohexyl piperidine (PCP), which was first synthesized in 1956 and quickly gained widespread use as an anesthesia drug from humans and animals.  It relieves pain and causes a trance-like state, but it was disallowed for use in humans in 1965 and for use in animals in 1978.  The reason for the discontinuation of the medical and veterinary use of PCP was its high incidence of severe side effects, including seizures, aggression, and psychotic symptoms.  Today, PCP is a schedule II controlled substance.

In the 1970s, PCP enjoyed popularity as a recreational drug.  Known as angel dust, PCP powder was often added to tobacco and cannabis for smoking.  Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 painting Dustheads depicts two men high on PCP, one of them grinning maniacally and the other, shifty-eyed with trepidation.

When used for anesthesia, ketamine does what medical researchers had originally hoped that PCP would do.  It accomplishes the desired effects of anesthesia, namely pain relief, sedation, and lack of memory of the surgical procedure that took place while the patient was under anesthesia.  Even better, it carries less risk of respiratory depression and reduced heart rate than other commonly used anesthesia drugs.  Ketamine was first synthesized in 1962, before the ban on medical use of PCP.  Today, it is a Schedule III controlled substance, which means that it is a useful pharmaceutical drug, but it has a high potential for abuse.

Is Ketamine the Latest Counterculture Drug That Promises to Cure Addiction?

In recent years, there has been a growing trend in research toward investigating the potential of drugs long prized for their recreational use to treat difficult to manage conditions such as chronic pain and mental illness.  The most obvious manifestation of this is the widespread adoption of medical cannabis in Florida and other states and of the patchwork of state and local laws nationwide decriminalizing possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use; some states even have legally regulated recreational cannabis industries.  The rationale is that eating cannabis edibles daily for pain management is no worse than one’s health than daily opioid use for pain management.  Likewise, daily vaping, tobacco smoking, and alcohol consumption to manage anxiety are no healthier than daily cannabis use for anxiety management, although all of these practices are common and have been for years.

Meanwhile, a growing number of studies indicate that hallucinogens can treat mental illnesses, including substance use disorder.  Under certain circumstances, you can take psilocybin or even LSD in a medical setting.  Ketamine clinics throughout Florida offer intravenous administration of ketamine to treat depression and other conditions.  A recent study in the academic journal Addiction even indicated that ketamine could be a beneficial treatment for cocaine use disorder.  If you think ketamine is right for you, the place to get it is at one of the ketamine clinics in Miami, Pompano Beach, West Palm Beach, or elsewhere in Florida, not on the street or on the Internet.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys

Ketamine may be inching its way into a legal gray area, but you can still get into serious legal trouble for possessing it.  A South Florida criminal defense lawyer can help you if you are facing criminal charges for possession of ketamine or other controlled substances.  Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami, Florida for a free, confidential consultation about your case.





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