Pubdate: Fri, 01 Jan 1999
Source: Dayton Daily News (OH)
Copyright: Dayton Daily News 1999


Volunteers weren't told the hallucinogen they were taking was meant
to mimic schizophrenia

BOSTON (AP) - Researchers trying to find ways to treat schizophrenia
gave more than 100 healthy people a powerful hallucinogen without
fully informing them that the drug could potentially produce psychotic
episodes, The Boston Globe reported today.

The studies involved the drug ketamine, also known as "Special K" and 
considered a "date-rape" drug because of the stupor-like condition it
can  cause.

The Globe said the studies, which began in 1994, involved both
mentally ill and healthy people, and participants often were not told
they were being given ketamine to induce conditions similar to

Ketamine is available by prescription only, and was approved by the
Food and  Drug Administration as an anesthetic. Its primary use is as
an animal tranquilizer.

Healthy people given the drug reported feelings of floating, having a
radio  in the ear, tearfulness and sad moods and feelings of "life and
death at the  same time," the  Globe said.

The possibility of long-term harm from drug-induced psychosis is less
likely  in healthy people, but there is a possibility of flashbacks
months later,  according to the report.

Disclosure is important because there is the possibility of "hooking
someone" on the drug, said Arthur Caplan, a University of Pennsylvania

Experiments were done primarily at the National Institute of Mental
Health at Bethesda, Md., or facilities financed by the institute, such
as medical schools at Yale University and New York University.

An NIMH review board approved the studies.

"This is a medicine which is given under close scrutiny for a
short-term basis. There is no repeat, long-term exposure," said Dr.
Trey Sunderland, chairman of the review board. As a result, he said,
ketamine's street use is  "not an issue in these studies."

He said consent forms indicate "you might get an altered mood,
hallucinations. ... The main side effects of the medication are listed
in black and white."

Dr. John Krystal, a Yale psychiatry professor, said he began using
ketamine  because old literature showed it might model symptoms and
problems of  schizophrenia and give new insights into treatment.

He said subjects in his early studies were not told that ketamine was
used  as a street drug. He said he did not have recent consent forms
to show what  participants are told now. But he said, "People who
participate are made aware  that it has effects on mood that may make
some people want to use it."

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