Toxicology news roundup

needle-vaccine-syringe-vial_blogU.K. reviews ketamine classification

Officials in the United Kingdom (U.K.) are reviewing whether ketamine should be upgraded from a class C drug to a class B drug, a move that would increase penalties for illegal possession.

Ketamine is an anesthetic used in veterinary and human medicine that often is used as a club drug. It gives users the feeling of being detached from their surroundings and can cause delirium and hallucinations, amnesia and immobility. Although it has a medically-approved and legal purpose, its use as a recreational drug has led it to be listed as a class C drug in the U.K. and as a schedule III non-narcotic substance in the U.S.

As a class C drug, illegal possession of ketamine can lead to up to two years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. However, if ketamine is reclassified as a class B drug, the penalty for possession jumps to up to five years in prison and/or an unlimited fine. Class B drugs include amphetamines, cannabis, synthetic cannabis and barbiturates.

Ketamine abuse has been linked to severe bladder damage that has led to bladder-removal surgery, according to the BBC.

Read the full Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report here.


Uruguay legalizes marijuana

Uruguay is taking a novel route to fighting back against illegal drugs by legalizing marijuana.

On Tuesday, lawmakers in Uruguay voted to legalize as well as regulate the drug via its new Institute for the Regulation and Control of Cannabis. The government has 120 days to put the blueprint in place, according to the Washington Post.

The new law will allow people 18 years and older to buy up to 1.4 ounces per month of pot from government-approved and regulated vendors. Buyers also will have to be registered in a database. Those growing pot can have up to six plants in their houses annually so long as they don’t surpass 480 grams.

However, those looking to travel to Uruguay to buy marijuana will be disappointed – the law doesn’t allow tourists to purchase it nor will it be allowed to travel across the border, the Washington Post reports.


Synthetic pot linked to strokes in teens

Synthetic marijuana has been linked to strokes in the cases of two siblings, according to research from the University of South Florida (USF).

The researchers have outlined their finding in a report published in Neurology regarding two young siblings who both suffered ischemic strokes after smoking synthetic marijuana, also called spice. The reports are part of a growing body of literature linking strokes to the use of spice, according to USF. Other reported side effects have included heart attacks, seizures, and psychosis. However, the researchers cautioned that the number of spice-related strokes is relatively low when compared against the wide range of spice use.

Initially, researchers investigated if there was a genetic component to the strokes since the two patients were siblings; however, they didn’t find a connection. The authors urge other doctors to ask about spice use since patients typically don’t freely give that information.

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