Drug Study's Ethics Questioned!

Drug Study's Ethics Questioned!
Posted by FoM on December 31, 1998 at 23:16:21 PT

BOSTON Medical ethicists are raising objections to a study in which 100 healthy volunteers were given a powerful hallucinogen in an effort by scientists to better understand mental illness. 
In studies conducted at the National Institute of Mental Health, Yale University and several other places, test subjects took small doses of ketamine, also referred to as ``Special K.'' It is also commonly known as a ``date rape drug.'' Scientists conducting the study said volunteers were carefully screened for mental illness and signed consent forms that warned of side effects such as hallucinations and mood changes. But some critics said the risks of the drug are not fully known and questioned the ethics of inducing psychotic behavior in healthy people. ``The idea of inducing psychosis, in psychology or psychiatry, is the worst thing that can happen,'' Carl Tishler, an adjunct professor at Ohio State University, said Thursday. ``If you are a cardiologist do you induce a heart attack in someone to see what it's like so you can study it?'' Ketamine is a trendy new designer drug used mainly by young people who pay $20 to $40 per dose. Nationwide, the drug has been connected to at least one death of a teen-ager who mixed it with heroin; numerous sexual assaults; and thefts from veterinarians' offices and hospitals. Often used as a prescription surgical anesthetic for people and animals, the Food and Drug Administration-approved drug can cause mild hallucinations, confusion and fear with regular use. Severe hallucinations are possible with large doses. The Boston Globe reported Thursday that healthy subjects run the risk of flashbacks months after using ketamine. ``If this is what they do to normal (people), God help us with the cognitively impaired,'' Adil Shamoo, a University of Maryland bioethicist, told the newspaper. But scientists say ketamine can help unlock the mysteries of mental illness, especially schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease, by giving researchers insight into the nature of hallucinations and mood disorders. The experiments began in the early 1990s and ended more than a year ago. They were designed to provoke symptoms of schizophrenia in healthy people during a one-time exposure, said Dr. Trey Sunderland, chairman of NIMH's review board. He said the volunteers were screened for mental illness, drug use and medical problems before being injected with approximately one-twentieth of an average surgical dose. Some subjects were paid between $30 and $40, he said. Sunderland said that there is no documentation that ketamine has ever caused flashbacks in surgical patients and that no NIMH volunteers have complained of side effects from the study. But Tishler said the NIMH project had serious ethical shortcomings and more research into ketamine's long-term effects is needed. ``They're saying that this is a safe thing, when maybe it's not,'' he said. 
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Comment #1 posted by FoM on January 01, 1999 at 05:05:26 PT
Why not test Marijuana?
If our government has done studies with a powerful hallucinogen for years why in the world won't they do a study on such a minor psychoactive drug like Cannabis?
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