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Club drug ketamine cures depression instantly: How?

From CBS News:

What's the latest recreational drug to make its way to the medical field? Ketamine, also known as "Special K." The club drug, typically used by veterinarians as a cat tranquilizer, is said to provide patients an "instant" relief from depression, according to a new study.

Doctors at Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston are now experimentally using the drug to treat some patients who come to the emergency room with suicidal depression, NPR reported.

Dr. Anu Matorin, medical director of the Psychiatric Emergency Center at the hospital, told NPR that antidepressants may help suicidal patients eventually, but often take weeks or months to kick in. During the critical few days when very depressed patients have suicidal thoughts, they may be a threat to themselves or to others and are sometimes admitted to inpatient units.

That's why researchers at Ben Taub are among a growing number of scientists trying to transform psychiatric care - with the help of the club drug. Previous research suggests the anesthetic ketamine could help treat depression almost instantly.

Ketamine works differently than other antidepressants. While pills like Prozac boost the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin to make people feel less depressed over a period of time, an injection of ketamine works on an entirely different neurotransmitter, glutamate. It blocks the receptors critical for receiving glutamate's signals which quickly improves the brain cell's electrical flow. That in turn reduces depression, according to the NIMH.

Dr. Asim Shah, who directs the mood disorder program at Ben Taub General Hospital, told ABC News the researchers hope the effect lasts.

"Will it cure depression for a year or longer? I don't think so," Shah said. "But we're hoping it will work for a few months"

But that doesn't mean people should self-medicate with the illegal drug. Ketamine is popular and "dance clubs and raves," and can be injected, consumed in drinks, or added to smokeable materials, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Some users fall into a dissociative "trip" on the drug, which is called a "K-hole."

Posted: 1/31/2012 3:12:00 PM

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Was Demi Moore Smoking K2 Spice Before Seizure? Drug Expert Weighs In

From Radar

Demi Moore’s frantic 9-1-1 phone call has shed more light on the night she had a seizure and was rushed to the hospital, and it may have also revealed the substance that she was smoking.

As previously reported, a friend of Moore’s can be heard on the call explaining to the operator: “She smoked something, it’s not marijuana, it’s similar to incense. She seems to be having convulsions.”

A likely possibility is that Demi was smoking K2 Spice, a “currently legal herbal incense product spiked with powerful designer drugs” that don't show up in tests, according to WebMD. spoke with addictions specialist Dr. Phil Dembo, who said judging by the description on the 911 call, he believes Moore was smoking K2 Spice, which is currently legal in the U.S. but under investigation by the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Dr. Dembo said Demi’s convulsions could have been a result of smoking the substance.

Posted: 1/30/2012 8:29:00 AM

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Flesh-Eating Disease Blamed on ‘Bath Salts’

From ABC News:

Flesh-eating bacteria devoured the muscle and skin on the arm of a New Orleans woman after she injected “bath salts,” an increasingly popular stimulant drug. Doctors say the infection is unusual, but might become more widespread as more users inject the drug to get high.

Dr. Robert Russo, an orthopedic resident at the hospital, said he’s uncertain how the flesh-eating bacteria got into the woman’s arm. It could have been lurking on the needle she used or in the bath salts themselves. But he said he worries that the drug’s growing popularity means more people will be at risk for infection.

“Just from people using more needles, you could see a rise in these kinds of cases,” he said. “And the risks of using this drug, it’s not just getting your arm taken off. The drug is crazy.”

Bath salts are a powder made of amphetamine-like chemicals, such as methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MPDV), mephedrone and pyrovalerone, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Once sold legally online and in drug paraphernalia stores, users mostly snorted or swallowed it to get high. Recently, injection has become a more popular route, because it delivers the drug’s effects faster and more powerfully. The Drug Enforcement Administration made the drug illegal in September.

Posted: 1/30/2012 8:26:00 AM

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Active Agent in 'Magic Mushrooms' May Be Therapeutic

From Medscape Today:

A new imaging study supports a growing body of evidence that the hallucinogen psilocybin, the active ingredient in 'magic mushrooms', may have potential in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and possibly cluster headaches.

A study of 30 healthy volunteers showed decreased brain blood flow and venous oxygenation in the cingulate cortex and the medial prefrontal cortex after the participants received intravenous injections of psilocybin.

"We were surprised because we thought that psilocybin was going to increase brain activity in regions like the visual cortex, which would explain the visual changes. But it actually switched off certain areas," coinvestigator David J. Nutt, FMedSci, psychiatrist and professor of neuropsychopharmacology at the Imperial College London, told Medscape Medical News.

"Remarkably, the decreases were localized to important connector hubs in the brain that serve as key junctions for information transfers. Knocking out these key hubs with psilocybin appears to allow information to travel more freely, probably explaining why people's imaginations become more vivid and animated and the world is experienced as unusual," added lead author Robin Carhart-Harris, PhD, also from the Neuropsychopharmacology Unit at Imperial College London.

He noted that these areas of the brain are known to be overactive in patients with depression and that antidepressants, psychotherapy, and even meditation are used to bring the activity in these regions "back to normal."

Dr. Carhart-Harris said that although the study's results are preliminary and that more research is needed before definitive claims can be made about the therapeutic value of psychedelics, "the initial signs are promising."

The study was published online January 23 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Posted: 1/24/2012 3:45:00 PM

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New dangerous drug on rise


A surge in patients under the influence of a dangerous drug called Cloud 9 is being reported by one local hospital.

Cloud 9 is marketed as a fake insect repellent and it produces the same dangerous side effects as drugs sold as fake bath salts, said Geisinger spokesman Matthew Van Stone. The Plains Township facility's emergency room has seen an increase of patients under the drug's influence.

Side effects include paranoia, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts and physical effects such as rapid heartbeat and hypertension, said Dr. Sam Saylor, an emergency medical physician at Geisinger.

People sniff, inject or smoke Cloud 9, Saylor said. Fake bath salts and fake insect repellent contain stimulant drugs like mephedrone and MDPV, he said.

Posted: 1/16/2012 9:48:00 AM

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New painkiller has abuse experts worried

From Fox News:

Four companies have been working to develop pure forms of hydrocodone, the main ingredient in Vicodin, Lortab and other painkillers. They have been mostly quiet about their plans.

But William Marth, chief executive of the company's North Wales, Pa.-based North American division, gave a preview of TD Hydrocodone during an investors' conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.

"We believe that's another product that will get approved and can be a three-, four-, $500-million product in a couple of years," Marth said.

He said the drug could be on the market in the "relatively near future," adding it should replace revenue lost when the patent on another Teva drug, the multiple sclerosis treatment Copaxone, expires in 2014.

Hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine fall into a category of painkillers known as opiates because they are chemically similar to opium. They are extremely powerful and can create a physical dependence. Users who try to stop can suffer intense withdrawal symptoms, from muddled thinking to stomach cramps, heart palpitations and nausea.

Experts in pain management say opiates are needed for legitimate pain control, especially as the U.S. population gets older. Analysts say the market is worth billions of dollars.

But critics fear the new hydrocodone drugs could unleash a new wave of abuse like the one that accompanied the debut of OxyContin in the 1990s.

The TD in TD Hydrocodone stands for tamper deterrent, said Judson Clark, an analyst with the Edward Jones investment company who follows Teva. Addicts crush extended-release opiate pills to get the full impact of the medication and increase the high, so drug companies have been trying to develop tamper-resistant technologies to combat abuse.

Posted: 1/16/2012 9:27:00 AM

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FDA: Novartis recall may also affect painkillers

From The Bellingham Herald:

The Food and Drug Administration is warning patients about a potential mix-up between powerful prescription pain drugs and common over-the-counter medications made at a Novartis manufacturing plant.

The issue stems from manufacturing problems at a Lincoln, Neb., facility which triggered a recall Sunday of 1,645 lots of Novartis' over-the-counter drugs, including Excedrin, Bufferin, NoDoz and Gas-X.  Consumers are advised to stop using the products and contact the company for a refund.

FDA officials warned Monday that some of Novartis' over-the-counter pills may have accidentally been packaged with powerful prescription painkillers made at the same facility. The opioid drugs are sold by Endo Pharmaceuticals as Percocet, Endocet, Opana and Zydone.

Endo Pharmaceuticals Holdings Inc., of Chadds Ford, Pa., said it is not aware of any confirmed product mix-ups that reached patients or caused any injuries. A spokeswoman for Novartis said late Monday that only Gas-X is produced on the same manufacturing line as the opioid drugs.

FDA officials say they are not recalling the painkillers because they are essential medications for many patients and the risks of stray pills are low.

Posted: 1/10/2012 11:51:00 AM

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