Prior to last year ketamine was a scheduled drug under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act which meant that there were strict regulations on the sale and distribution of the substance but possession was not illegal.

Legal changes made by the NSW Government put an end to that.

This week sees another major change around ketamine and the law.

Based on information which suggest that there is an increasing illicit use of ketamine which has been diverted from licit sources (i.e. veterinary suppliers and hospitals), and evidence of physical and psychological symptoms of ketamine dependence among some users, the National Drugs and Poisons Scheduling Committee has recommended the transfer of ketamine from Schedule 4 to Schedule 8 of the Standard Uniform Scheduling of Drugs and Poisons with effect from 1 May 2005.

Consequently, ketamine will become a Schedule 8 drug in the NSW Poisons List as of the same date.

What does Schedule 8 actually mean and what impact will this have on ketamine users?

Schedule 8 substances are those which are classified as drugs of addiction and as a result, the possession, supply, prescribing and use are strictly limited.

The re-scheduling of these drugs ensures far greater control by subjecting their use or supply to -˜special authority’.

According to NSW Health documents, these drugs -˜must be kept apart from all other goods in a safe, cupboard or drawer in a cabinet which is -¦ kept locked when the drugs are not in immediate use’. A record must also be made of all Schedule 8 drugs used, supplied or administered.

This is a much more rigid system than for that of Schedule 4, ketamine’s previous scheduling, and it will be interesting to see what affect it has on the market.

In the US when they changed ketamine legislation there was a dramatic effect on the illicit drug market, with Special K becoming extremely difficult to find almost overnight.

The tighter restriction appeared to directly affect the availability of the drug.

At the moment, those who have a ready access to ketamine, such as doctors, nurses and vets, are able to divert the drug with comparative ease as there are often no records kept of where ketamine actually goes.

When the drug moves to the higher schedule, more records are kept and as a result, people may be more reluctant to take the risk of diverting supplies.

Ketamine is an illegal drug and there are real consequences if you get caught with the substance.

It will be interesting to see if new changes make significant impacts upon the current illicit drug market.

If the US experience is anything to go by, we will, and as a result we will most probably see the price of the drug rise and availability reduce.

The interesting thing to watch for will be if users switch to other drugs if, or when, the ketamine supply dries up.

Remember: If you do not want any negative consequences, do not use the drug and no matter how many times you have used a substance -“ never be blas?

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