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Weedology 101: College cannabis classes spring up across Massachusetts

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Your old weed dealer may be giving lectures at a professor’s podium sometime soon.

Colleges across the region are turning to the pot business as a growth opportunity.

“As a growing industry in Massachusetts, obviously, after legalization, the demand for jobs and highly qualified people skyrocketed — that’s what we were hearing from folks in the community businesses,” said Northern Essex Community College spokesperson Melissa Bouse. “So we worked on developing a cannabis program.”

Read the rest of this story on BostonHerald.com.



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What Is the Role of an API in Pharmaceutical Medicine?

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Everything these days is an acronym, and sometimes the world of acronyms gets confusing. In fact, sometimes the very same letters, are used for more than one acronym, and it requires knowing what you’re dealing with, to know the meaning. One of the terms that shows up a lot is API, which relates to pharmaceutical medicine, (as well as computing).

What is an API in pharmaceutical medicine?

The first time I heard this term, I immediately thought of the computing definition: ‘application programming interface.’ It gets used a lot in the world of tech, and it was the main place I’d heard it. Until it came up in a more medical way. The letters API have a totally different definition when speaking of pharmaceutical medicine.

An API in pharmaceutical medicine, translates to ‘active pharmaceutical ingredient.’ Which, of course, is a wildly different concept from its computing counterpart. What does this actually mean? An active pharmaceutical ingredient is “the biologically active component of a drug product (tablet, capsule, cream, injectable) that produces the intended effects.” These can be ingredients in drugs for a number of ailments, including the treatment of issues: “pertaining to oncology, cardiology, CNS and neurology, orthopaedic, pulmonology, gastroenterology, nephrology, ophthalmology, and endocrinology.”

So, basically, they’re just ingredients. Or, rather, active ingredients. Think about when you read the label to a medication, and it lists both active and inactive ingredients. Sometimes you might wonder about the difference. Inactive ingredients are often related to keeping a tablet held together, or making sure a drug doesn’t spoil. Sometimes they’re for coloring, or consistency, or texture. But they’re not for therapeutic use.


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The active components are the ingredients that do whatever it is that the drug is supposed to do. And much like baking in a kitchen, both active and inactive ingredients are required. If you’re baking a chocolate cake, perhaps the chocolate could be seen as the active ingredient, along with eggs and flower. But you also need baking soda to make things rise. This might not add to the flavor of the cake, but its still important.

However, you might spend more time, making sure you have the right chocolate. Should you use super sweet chocolate chips, bitter chocolate, chocolate powder? This chocolate is equivalent to an API in pharmaceutical medicine…albeit an admittedly strange analogy.

APIs allow for medications to be made in specific strengths, and in desired concentrations. They also require being made in conjunction with good manufacturing practices, and up to codes, as they relate to pharmaceutical medicine, which is very, very precise.

Think of every bottle of Tylenol you buy, over years and years of time, and how every pill is exactly the same. Since APIs are often made by third parties, they also allow for the white-labeling of pharmaceutical ingredients. Several different companies can buy from the same API provider, and then make their own labeled medications with the ingredients.

Where does an API come from?

Much like anything else, whether synthetically or naturally made, An API used in pharmaceutical medicine, comes from some kind of raw material. When dealing with the idea of an herbal supplement, let’s say a mint capsule, the API is the mint, and in this case it probably comes directly from a mint plant. Many APIs do come from plant or animal origins. A great example of this today, is the medical cannabis industry, and the API’s used to make cannabis medications.

In terms of the official names of these ingredients, the US uses generic names assigned by the United States Adopted Names (USAN) program, which works in conjunction with the American Medical Association, the United States Pharmacopeial Convention, and the American Pharmacists Association. The legal name of the drug that the FDA recognizes, is given by the USAN.

Where do APIs come from for pharma medicine
Where do APIs come from for pharma medicine

In terms of a broader global scale, the World Health Organization also recognizes API ingredients, as per International Nonproprietary Names (INN). Though they are often the same between the US and the WHO, they sometimes do differ. One example is Tylenol. The API is acetaminophen in the US, but referred to as paracetamol by WHO.

The raw materials are used primarily by pharmaceutical companies in their home labs to create their patented formulations. However, to cut costs, the manufacture of these APIs is often now outsourced, leading to a myriad of issues related to quality and regulation. It is now common for APIs to come from Asia, mainly India and China.

Who are the biggest providers of APIs? Some of the bigger names are TEVA Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Reddy’s, Pfizer, Novartis, Sanofi, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Bristol-Meyers Squibb. These companies generally specialize in different APIs. In terms of where the raw materials come from, that can vary hugely. Sometimes from chemical product manufacturers, and sometimes from growing fields. Raw materials are converted to APIs through different chemical processing techniques. When in the process of a raw material becoming an API, its called an ‘intermediate’.

Raw materials for an API in pharmaceutical medicine

While this isn’t the most specific of answers, the raw materials for APIs are gathered through raw material providers. Yeah, I know, it almost sounds like I’m trying to be evasive. I promise, I’m not. But the truth is that raw materials can come from one of hundreds or thousands of providers depending on what they actually are. Think of all the chemical companies out there, and all the different kinds of ingredients in life. And then think of how many medications there are, and how different.

A general process, at least according to Teva-API, is that once a medicine is approved, a team then goes out looking for all the correct chemical companies to get the component raw material parts. It comes down to the company to judge the reliability of a source. Sometimes to ensure no issues in sourcing, a company like Teva will require two sources for each material. The R&D team that created the medication, essentially gives a list of the necessary raw materials to the team responsible for collection, and then the search into the correct chemical companies begins.

And to be honest…there isn’t a lot of better or more specific information out there. Most of the information that is available comes from companies selling APIs, or pharmaceuticals, and none of them really get into the nitty gritty of exactly where their chemical components are sourced as raw materials.

Sourcing raw materials for APIs
Sourcing raw materials for APIs

I guess at this point its fair to imagine that sourcing likely involves things like mining for the minerals that make up the periodic table of elements, which are used to produce all inorganic materials. As well as whatever biologically sourced ingredients come from different plant and animal sources.

Right now, the API industry in pharmaceutical medicine is quite big. API-producing companies generally produce powder versions and sell in bulk to pharma companies. Their production and sale comprises a multi-billion dollar industry that white-labels the ingredients of pharmaceutical medications.

And while the idea of APIs might be a bit confusing when reading about them in terms of business, the reality in the end, is that the pharma ingredient market is the same as nearly all others. One company takes stuff out of the ground somehow, sells it to another company which uses it to make a specific chemical compound, which sells it to another company which uses that compound in a product. Just like nearly every product made; whether food, a toy, equipment, or whatever else.

Conclusion

APIs in pharmaceutical medicine represent just another form of white-labeling. Of course in this case, the products white-labelled are the ingredients in your pharmaceutical medications. Perhaps we as the public should know more about the process and the safety requirements that do – or don’t – exist. But as in most parts of life, the business of these ingredients and how they move, stays largely out of the public eye. Much like nearly every other big business consumer industry.

Kind of makes those herbal remedies that can tell you exactly what’s inside, and exactly what field the ingredients were sourced from, nice in comparison.

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My Personal Ketamine Experience: Part 1 – The First Infusion

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Ketamine might be all the rage these days when it comes to treating psychological issues, but the reality of these treatments is not often written about, and personal experiences are hard to find. Mostly you’ll just find promotional articles and a few studies. Of course, realities don’t always meet the hype, and perhaps one of the biggest lessons to learn about ketamine therapy, is that it will not work for everyone, and results can vary. It’s important for prospective patients to understand the different possibilities when going in for treatment. This article is my own highly personal experience of my first ketamine infusion.

First off, a little about me

One of the hardest things to do in life is be open about a psychological issue, and its probably for this reason that personal accounts of ketamine therapy are few and far between. Not many people want to actually talk about what drove them to seek treatment in the first place. And while I often consider myself a private person, I think there are times when it’s good to open up for the good of others and public knowledge in general. And for that reason I will tell you a little about me. At least enough to know how I ended up in a ketamine clinic.

I am a child of psychological and physical abuse, as many of us are. My problems are not hard to come by in the general public, and there are plenty of people that can relate. I grew up in a very tense environment, which led to an array of anxiety-related issues, the biggest one regarding my ability to sleep. I am considered an intractable insomniac. I do not respond to regular medications. This can be expanded to anxiety as a whole, though the largest issue I deal with on a consistent basis, is the ability for sleep. As ketamine is looked into for insomnia issues, it is indeed a reason for prescription, along with the underlying anxiety issues that cause it.

You will see different words used to explain this concept of non-response to treatments. ‘Treatment-resistant’ is the most well understood, but you will also see it as ‘intractable’ or ‘refractory.’ All of these words when used with a diagnosis next to them, mean ‘it ain’t responding to anything.’ This is far more common than many realize. Sometimes it’s hard to know that because these aren’t pleasant subjects to speak about, and many people won’t.


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A large part of the ketamine industry is based around the idea that it can possibly help those, that aren’t helped by other treatments or medications. However, it’s also available simply as an alternate treatment for those who don’t like conventional medications. I fit into both categories. I’ve been through the ringer enough in life to know I am unresponsive, but I’m also not a huge fan of the conventional pills that get doled out. I prefer alternative therapies that don’t involve standard medications.

A last point to make about my situation, is that I did not go to a clinic in America, I went to a doctor in Mexico. I am told he is one of only 15 in the country that currently provides this treatment, so its not the set-up industry it now is in the States. However, the doctor I found has been providing such treatments for two years, mostly for pain, but for other issues like mine as well.

The infusion, and the basics of what to expect

I cannot say how this goes in a clinic specifically geared toward these treatments. I can only give my experience of going to a psychiatrist where I am, who provides the treatment. There is less protocol available, and it was my decision originally to undergo an initial six treatments, as it tends to be done in the more set-up industry in America. I was provided very little information on what to expect, or the possible outcomes.

There are different ways to receive ketamine treatment. It can be injected into a muscle (IM), given as a nasal spray (esketamine), provided as a sublingual tab, given as a pill, or the original way, by infusion (IV). I did the infusion. That means I had an IV hooked up to my arm for somewhere between 45 minutes and one hour. For people that don’t like IVs or needles in general, this is probably not the best option, and the other forms of ingestion might be more desirable. This was the only mode of delivery offered to me.

It is administered by weight, but this is less precise than many articles make it sound, or at least it was in my situation. I gave my approximate weight, and an anesthesiologist, whose job it is to be able to eyeball such things, set the dosage for my weight. In my case, I wasn’t actually weighed. I was okay with this, but if you feel better with more precise measurements, make them weigh you. I was given standard racemic ketamine. That just means it was regular ketamine, and not esketamine or arketamine, which make up the two halves of the molecule.

I sat on a couch in a semi-comfortable office with no outside view. A private office within a bigger hospital. I had an IV stuck in my left hand. As my veins are a little narrow, this meant a bruised hand for the next several days. My second treatment was done in my arm for this reason. The doctor asked my music preferences, I said classical was fine, and classical music was put on.

First infusion – my experience

I cannot say the exact dose I was given, but I can say how it felt. I can also say that because I had anxiety over an IV infusion (never had anything like this before), I was given a small amount of xanax beforehand. There is debate in the ketamine therapy world as to whether benzodiazepines can hinder the experience, and honestly, I can’t answer that, and neither can my doctor. I can only say I did have a small amount in my system because of the fear of being hooked up to an IV. Those like me who haven’t undergone many (or any) medical treatments in life might understand the anxiety.

I didn’t spin out, or hallucinate wildly. The idea of ketamine treatment is to use sub-anesthetic doses. As in, you won’t end up in a ‘k-hole‘. I had an experience less often written about. The ketamine produced an anxiety in me, referred to online as ‘ketamine-induced anxiety.’ The issue with new industries is that they get hyped by only the success stories, and the realities of all the possibilities are often left out.

My doctor never mentioned this term, and I had to look into it myself. This is a negative perhaps of going to a doctor in a less set-up industry, where less background information is made available. When it comes to ketamine treatments, non-responders, or negative-responders are actually a large group, and this makes sense. Barely anything in life works for everyone, as we are all so physiologically different. My response is therefore not uncommon, though it isn’t often spoken of yet, probably because it’s not the desired outcome. But, again, its still common, and that makes it important to know about for anyone seeking treatment.

It wasn’t all-out bad though. I certainly felt spacey, and sort of out-there, though I did not hallucinate, or lose track of reality. As an example of my body’s desire to fend off treatments, I actually felt it in waves, which is the opposite of how it should feel when hooked up to an IV. The doctor did what isn’t often done in these treatments (and is more well known for psychedelic treatments) and talked me through it, partly to keep my mind off the anxiety. We went over childhood issues, and patterns of response. He gave me some interesting insights.

When the infusion was over I calmed down partially when the IV was taken out, indicating this method of ingestion is probably not the right one for me. As I calmed down in the following 20 minutes or so, a sick, nauseous feeling crept in. Ketamine is known for this, it doesn’t seem to mean anything in terms of whether the treatment will work, and is a side effect of the medication.

For the next 24 hours or so, I can honestly say I didn’t care about a lot of the things that had been troubling me. I was able to put things on hold that I had not been able to before. I didn’t have a desire to check my phone, or a need to get back to people urgently. It was actually a good feeling, though it was undermined a bit by the sick feeling that persisted, and a general heaviness.

Ketamine first infusion
Ketamine first infusion

Truth is, this is common too, and can go on even into the next day, as it did for me. Also something not explained by my doctor. The following day it was more a tired feeling, and the good effects wore off throughout the day. While I was able to get more sleep the first night, that was the only night this was true of that first treatment.

I cannot say I felt a response past that point, but this is also common of ketamine treatments. It’s sometimes described online as planting a flower and tending to it over several sessions, without expecting full results right away. So, I was optimistic. I did feel something temporarily, it really did feel like a possible start. I scheduled my second infusion for four days later.

Conclusion

This article relates to my own personal experience with ketamine treatments. It is not generalizable to the entire population, and is meant to help those looking into this treatment, to know some of the possible things to expect. Everyone that tries treatment will have their own experience. Some will not sound like mine. Read the next installment to find out more about my second infusion.

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What Happens if you take these Drugs at the Qatar World Cup?

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The world cup has begun, and instead of all the focus being on the incredible football and the tournament itself, it is still tarnished by the strict law differences in Qatar. Thousands of fans from all over the globe have headed to the Gulf country to support their teams, knowing full well that this may be unlike any tournament experienced before. Essentially all recreational substances are banned in Qatar, with very strict punishment for those who ignore the rules.

Even alcohol has harsh restrictions. With human rights violations and bans on same sex marriage a massive problem in Qatar, a limitation on drug use seems like a walk in the park. But, let’s see what would actually happen if you were caught taking specific substances within the world cup host nation. 

Qatar Host Nation

Qatar is a small gulf country – with a population lower than 3 million – that sits on the Arab peninsula. Made up of beaches and deserts, this middle eastern nation once just contained fishing villages for traders going between India and China to visit. After the first world war Britain ruled over Qatar, until they gained independence in 1971. Nowadays, the country is hugely wealthy due to their access to vital resources – these include oil and natural gas. In fact, Qatar has the third largest natural gas collection in the world. This is after Iran and Russia. To put this into perspective, 14% of the people living in Qatar are millionaires. Due to such a small population, the nation is considered one of the wealthiest in the world per person. It is believed that Qatar owns more property in the capital of England – London – than even the royal family. 

Nonetheless, with a lack of football culture, when the decision was made to allow Qatar to host the 2022 world cup, many were left confused. It seemed evident that the usually corrupt Fifa had yet again been swayed by the powerful money of a rich nation. The Guardian writes:

“In the years since, 16 of 22 voting exco members present in that hall have been implicated in or investigated over some form of alleged corruption or bad practice… In 2019 there were allegations Fifa had benefited from a $400m rights deal with Al Jazeera, Qatar’s state TV station, offered just 21 days before the bid decision, with an extra $100m top-up should Qatar succeed.”

Problems

But ultimately it would be the people, as usual, who would suffer. Qatar is a tiny nation and they were left with the task of spending 220 billion dollars to create the world cup infrastructure that was needed in a very short amount of time. How did they find the workforce to do this? Migrant workers coming from nations like India and Nepal were paid abominably low amounts of money in order to help build up this flawed tournament. It is believed that 6600 of these workers have already died due to unsafe conditions and overworking. But these aren’t the only problems that have arisen. Qatar’s laws on women’s rights and same sex marriage are something from the stone ages, with women being under guardianship law and any same sex sexual activity being deemed illegal. Human Dignity Trust writes:

“Human Rights Watch reported that security forces have been arbitrarily arresting LGBT people and subjecting them to ill-treatment in detention in the country… Preventive Security Department officers detained them in an underground prison in Al Dafneh, Doha, where they were verbally harassed and subjected to physical abuse, ranging from slapping, to kicking and punching until they bled.”

Needless to say, it seems that this world cup is surrounded by tarnishing controversy. In essence, it probably should not have happened this way and Fifa’s name will – hopefully – be deeply damaged. But alongside all this are other issues that are, perhaps less extreme, but have also caused disruption. Qatar’s strict substance laws are causing problems for those who are used to far more leniency. 


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Drug Laws in Qatar

According to the government website, Qatar has 0 tolerance for drug-related offences. This doesn’t seem to matter if you are a tourist or not. If you’re discovered using, trafficking, smuggling or possessing any substances from a long list, you are likely to face severe punishment. But how severe? We’re going to go through some of the most common recreational substances that people may want to take during the world cup, and see how risky it really is. Let’s go. 

Hard Recreational Drugs

When it comes to hard recreational drugs, Qatar seems to have a blanket decision on all of them. Whether it’s heroin, MDMA, ketamine, cocaine or whatever – the laws are extremely strict. If found in possession of any of these substances, fines could go up to $50,000. But if anyone is found trafficking hard drugs then the death penalty is also possible. Therefore, if there are any drug dealers out there who are considering Qatar an open market ready to be filled, we would advise to certainly reconsider.

There are no exceptions made for foreign nationals and the embassies of these nations have very little power to interject, especially when it comes to drug laws. If there’s one place you want to avoid taking harder substances, it is Qatar. There is evidence that the country is moving away from their 0-tolerance approach however, but nothing has yet officially changed. The Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics has said:

​​“Qatar has moved away from treating drug addiction merely as a criminal matter and is recognising it as a health and social challenge and a human rights issue. The right to health includes the right to obtain health services without fear of punishment. ”

The issue is, with a population made up of the wealthy, it is hard for those below to make the case for a change in drug laws. The culture is not yet there like it is with Europe, the US and other areas of the world. 

Prescription Medicine 

If you’re hoping that prescription medicine may be easier to get through border control than you are wrong. You will need a very exact letter from your doctor for any substances. This needs to include the exact amount that you are allowed, the reason why and any other information. The most they will allow you to bring in is for a 30 day period. Qatar has also banned the use of tranquillisers, antidepressants and certain sleeping pills. If you are hoping to carry these substances in your hand luggage, it is probably a good idea to speak to your embassy in Qatar just to ensure the specific rules.

Otherwise, you may face anything from confiscation, a fine, or even deportation. Over the last few weeks, Qatar customs officers have stopped around 2000 opiate pills from coming into the country. These passengers are awaiting their court cases. With prescription medicine, ensure you have all the backup documents you need. Don’t go bringing some random valium or Xanax without a note. 

Cannabis

Cannabis is treated as harshly as any other drug in Qatar. Despite hashish being known to be world-class in that section of the world, the cultivation, sale and possession of weed is completely illegal. In fact, there was a British tourist who was found with a cannabis grinder in his luggage in 2019 who faced years in a Qatari prison. He was able to leave the country but they attempted to extradite him back when he was visiting Greece. Fortunately, he won his case. This is an example of the kinds of harsh realities that can be faced if found with even just cannabis accessories. 

Alcohol

In Qatar, the legal age of alcohol consumption is 21. Of course for Muslims, who make up a large amount of the Qatari population, it is illegal. The ban on alcohol in Qatar is what has been getting all of the headlines. Many people are contemptuous of avoiding hard drugs throughout the world cup, but not drinking for them is not an option. You only have to watch a video on Youtube of hundreds of fans cheering and throwing their beers when their side scores a goal to realise how integral drinking culture is when it comes to major tournaments. That said, any alcohol-related violence or serious disturbance should not be permitted anywhere in the world.

At the world cup, alcohol is not easy to access. It is banned in stadiums and is completely illegal to drink in public areas. There are designated hotels and spots where alcohol is allowed, but the prices are extortionate. Half a litre of beer costs 50 Qatari riyals, which is equal to around 12 dollars. The whole affair has made alcohol quite appealing to a lot of supporters. However, it has also meant that many fans have attempted to smuggle alcohol into stadiums – with one individual turning a pair of binoculars into a discreet booze bottle. For anyone found drinking in a public place, they could face a 6 month prison sentence or a fine of up to $700.

Vapes & Cigarettes

Oddly enough, vapes are another banned substance or device in Qatar. If you’re someone who enjoys an e-cig then make sure you don’t bring it to the world cup. Cigarettes are very much legal to buy in the country, with 25% of Qatari men smoking, but there is a strict vape ban. This has been the case since 2014. If you’re found with a vape you can face fines of up to $2,700 or a prison sentence up to 3 months. Only around 0.6% of women smoke in Qatar, which is likely to do with their guardianship laws. These essentially do not allow women to marry, study abroad or find a job without permission from their male guardian. 

Conclusion 

As you can see, the Qatar world cup is surrounded with controversy. The human rights violations alone are enough of a reason to avoid visiting. Many female footballers have boycotted the tournament altogether in response to the horrific women’s rights there. Even the ‘OneLove’ armband – supporting LGBT rights – has been banned by Fifa. Many players have resisted wearing it in fear of sanctions. Ultimately, the Qatar world cup should probably not have gone ahead. Nonetheless, if you still want to enjoy the tournament and support your team, then definitely be careful when it comes to substance use. Qatar have some of the strictest drug laws in the world.

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