These days, drugs of abuse are no longer plant-based but rather synthetically produced. According to Gary Henderson of the 1988 Journal of Forensic Science, these drugs will be very strong and can easily be distributed “in the future”. Fast forward to a few decades when the future is already “now”, and true enough, synthetic drugs have become the drug of choice for the new generation of users.
One of the rising trends in synthetic drug abuse is something called mephedrone. In this article, we will discuss the truths and facts about mephedrone and the abuse of this substance.
WHAT IS MEPHEDRONE?
Mephedrone – also known as 4-methyl methcathinone (4-MMC) or 4-methyl ephedrine – is an illicit synthetic stimulant drug belonging to the amphetamine and cathinone classes, which are mood-altering drugs. It is also often incorporated with MDPV and butylone in the preparation of designer drugs, otherwise known as bath salts. Likewise, mephedrone is also used on its own as an intravenous drug.
Other names for mephedrone are Drone, White Magic, M-CAT and Meow Meow. It comes in different forms such as capsules, tablets, cracks and powder, which can be swallowed, snorted, injected, smoked and used rectally.
When taken orally the effect can be felt within 15-45 minutes for 2-3 hours. If the user snorts mephedrone he can feel the effect immediately and still the effect will last for 2-3 hours. On the other hand, if injected, the effect can only last for half an hour.
This drug can be considered as a recreational drug based on reports from users that mephedrone produces pleasant experiences. It can cause stimulation and euphoria – a feeling of ecstasy and excitement – increased sexual desires, better mood management (which makes the person less hostile), improved mental aptitude, and better inclination to music.
The abovementioned effects are just part of the picture. Unfortunately, overdose and abuse of mephedrone has many ugly and dangerous side effects that can render permanent damage to the brain.
HISTORY OF MEPHEDRONE
Mephedrone is a man-made drug first synthesized by French pharmaceutical researchers in 1929 to safely substitute MDMA (i.e. Ecstasy or Molly) in psychotherapy to treat patients suffering from mental health concerns, psychiatric illness and emotional problems like depression, addiction, bipolar disorder, low self-esteem and schizophrenia.
It remained unnoticed until 2003 where its recreational aspects were rediscovered by a bored underground chemist named “Kinetic”. Around 2004, a drug similar to mephedrone called ‘hagigat’ was legally sold in Israel.
Through the years, street chemists have tried to modify the composition of cathinone either by making their own formula or by following Kinetic’s rediscovered formula. The Israeli websites were the first to sell this substance online in capsule form, but in the end, the government banned it in 2008.
It was sometime between the summer of 2009 and March 2010 that the use of mephedrone as a recreational drug came full blast in the U.K. It was being marketed in powder form and given different labels like “fertilizers”, “bath salts”, “plant food” and “not for human consumption” all in the game of avoiding getting caught by the law.
About the same time, the secret chemical formula was exposed on an underground online forum leading to the widespread distribution of the drug. Other countries followed suit and got involved in distributing mephedrone together with Chinese entrepreneurs who imitated the manufacturing process of the drug, thereby dramatically lowering the price while increasing the availability of the supply in the dance clubs, head shops, and music festivals. Some surveys even showed that mephedrone is the fourth most popular drug in the U.K. In April 2010, mephedrone was eventually controlled by the region, and was classified as a Class B drug.The restriction on the use of mephedrone gave birth to underground dealers and entrepreneurs significantly doubling the price.
Around 2012, records indicated the evident side effects of mephedrone use especially on teenagers and young adults who manifested a lot of behavioral problems. There was also an increasing number of first time users who engaged in neurotic injecting of drugs in group sessions.
In 2013, the United Nations declared U.K. as Europe’s largest market for mephedrone, even increasing the percentage of usage to 300% after it was deemed illegal. Nonetheless, based on the latest survey of Mixmag and the Global Drug Survey in 2014, the popularity of mephedrone went to the bottom of the Top Twenty drug list due to adverse effects that it exhibited in users.
Despite the madness accompanying the emergence of new alternatives to mephedrone, they can never compare to the popularity mephedrone has achieved. As of 2015, this drug continues to hit the streets and no amount of banning by the government seems to be able to stop its use.
Mephedrone has been considered a legal high in the past, until it started killing people and it was re-classified as Class B drug in the U.K. and Schedule I in the U.S.
Mephedrone shares the same effect with cocaine and ecstasy. It gives the user a sense of excitement and extreme euphoria. Still, little is known about this drug and its long-term effects since the use and abuse as a recreational substance is relatively new.
Like all stimulant drugs, taking mephedrone can make the person act in an irrational manner and there will always be a need to re-dose often. Users have self-reported that this drug is mentally addictive and that they take the drug in disproportionate amounts, which lead them to be hooked and suffer further negative side effects. Although it is not physically addictive and the user can easily get used to the high, one can feel extremely tired and withdrawn for days after using the drug, enabling them to re-dose to fight feeling tired, thus, doubling the addiction.
Most fatal incidents and drug-deaths related to mephedrone use also involve other drugs and alcohol. Taking mephedrone with other stimulants, drugs and alcohol reinforces the harmful side effects.
One side effect is that it will narrow the veins resulting to a reduced blood flow. In some instances, the user may suffer tightness in the chest and difficulty of breathing. Continuous use can further cause heart damage and eventually cardiac arrest. In addition, pain may also be felt in the arm and leg areas due to the decreased blood flow.
Mephedrone is also recognized as a neurotoxin, in that it can damage the nervous system, raising the risk of poor memory recollection and concentration.
Some short-term side effects of mephedrone use include headaches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, anxiety, paranoia, fluctuating heartbeat, palpitations, difficulty to breathe, grinding of teeth, hallucinations, delusions, uncontrolled muscular movements, erratic behavior, loss of appetite, excessive sweating, nose bleeding, blurred vision, dilated pupils, chest pain and tightness, hyponatremia and inflammation of the heart.
Meanwhile, prolonged use can decrease the production of serotonin, leading to higher risk of depression and damage to memory. It wasn’t concluded yet if the impairments are reversible.