Article first appeared at The Free Thought Project.
Glaring evidence of the government’s drug war hypocrisy in the name of profit emerged Tuesday, with the announcement by Janssen Pharmaceuticals that the FDA placed ketamine on the fast track for approval to treat major depression.
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, as CNN noted, ketamine’s latest FDA approval will be testing as “breakthrough therapy” in treating major depressive disorder.
“In the U.S. alone, there are more than 41,000 suicides each year, many of which result from untreated or poorly treated major depression,” said Husseini K. Manji, M.D., global head of Janssen’s Neuroscience and Therapeutic Area, in a statement Tuesday. “This designation reinforces the potential of esketamine as a novel treatment for patients with major depressive disorder who are at imminent risk for suicide, a condition for which there currently is no approved treatment and which represents a major public health challenge. We are currently conducting clinical trials to further evaluate the clinical benefit of esketamine and look forward to working closely with the FDA throughout the development and review process to bring this important potential new therapy to patients in critical need.”
Scientists and doctors have much research to perform, since — though ketamine has been shown effective for treating numerous ailments — how it works isn’t entirely clear.
“We don’t exactly know how it works,” said Dr. Julie Coffman of OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital’s department of internal medicine, hospice and palliative medicine, who isn’t affiliated with Janssen.
Animal studies indicate ketamine remodels nerves by triggering “neuroplastic processes” that form new connections among brain cells, explained Dr. Dan Iosifescu, associate professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, reported CNN.
“What’s unique about ketamine is, this happens in hours or days, while with other depression medications, this happens in weeks to months,” Iosifescu explained.
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.
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 the former, 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. DEA chief Chuck Rosenberg, however, chose to blatantly ignore both those accounts as well as rapidly growing majority public sentiment approving full legalization — not just for medical use — of the plant.
“This decision isn’t based on danger,” Rosenberg said of the absurdly unjustifiable choice not to remove cannabis from the same category as cocaine and heroin. “This decision is based on whether marijuana, as determined by the FDA, is a safe and effective medicine. It isn’t.”
Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of patients successfully treated with cannabis in the U.S., alone, would vehemently beg to differ.
“It’s really sad that the DEA has chosen to continue decades of ignoring the voices of patients who benefit from medical marijuana,” said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, in a press release following last week’s announcement. “President Obama has always said he would let science — and not ideology — dictate policy, but in this case his administration is upholding a failed drug war approach instead of looking at real, existing evidence that marijuana has medical value.”
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.