What is it?
Also known as M-Cat, Mkat, miaow miaow and other names, its full name is 4-methylmethcathinone.
It is a synthetic stimulant drug related to the natural stimulant found in the plant khat. It comes as a white powder which is usually snorted or taken orally. There have been reports of people injecting mephedrone, often existing injecting heroin users.
It has been popular in the UK since around 2008 when it was sold legally and often described as “plant food” or “bath salts” to get round the law. It was made a Class B drug in 2010. Prices went from about £10 to £20 a gram, but it has continued to increase in popularity and the price has gone down to £10 per gram. However a lot of powder sold as mephedrone may actually be a different drug, or adulterated with other drugs and/or cut with other powders.
Why do people take it?
Users report feelings of well being, increased energy and talkativeness.
Its effect is often described as a mixture of that of cocaine (increase in energy and confidence) and MDMA (“entactogenic effects” – feelings of empathy, love, and emotional closeness to others).
Is it addictive?
Mephedrone can be “more-ish” and people have a strong desire to re-dose. This can lead to continuing to use the mephedrone until it is finished. A fear of the comedown – tiredness, irritability and low mood – may keep people using. Due to cheapness and easy availability this can lead to people staying awake for 2 to 6 days.
Some people report hallucinations and agitation when they withdraw, however there is not thought to be a physical dependence. It does seem to be psychologically addictive though and people continue to use despite it adversely affecting their physical and mental health, finances, work, study and relationships with others.
There are reports of dealers allowing young people to get in debt and then demanding they commit crime or give sexual favours to pay it back.
Is it harmful?
As mephedrone is fairly new and the quality of it completely uncontrolled in the criminal market, all the long term effects are not yet known. Ketamine bladder was not known about until many years after ketamine was used recreationally.
Mephedrone seems to be more addictive and harmful than other party drugs like MDMA.
Psychological health – mephedrone use can leave people feeling low and depressed following use, which increases their desire to use more. As with any stimulant, staying awake for long periods leads to paranoid delusions and hallucinations. Usually these stop after a good sleep but can persist and many users have ended up needing admission to psychiatric wards. Users can experience intense cravings to use more.
Physical health – it increases heart rate and blood pressure. Many users report palpitations and shortness of breath, and many have required treatment in A&E.
Between July 2009 and August 2011 mephedrone use was present in 60 deaths in the UK. In 18 of these it appeared to be due to toxic effects of mephedrone. In another 16 of these the death was due to suicide, 13 by hanging. This may well be due to the severe depressive symptoms that occur in the comedown after mephedrone use. Deaths from mephedrone were typically in males (75%) under the age of 35 (78%).Talk to Frank: mephedrone
How do I know if I have a problem?
Many people start out as infrequent users, generally using at parties or clubs.
Worrying signs are:
- using more to get the same effect
- using alone
- using to cope with stress or emotions
- using throughout the day
- staying awake for extended periods of time
- engaging in crime or sexual activity to get more mephedrone
- falling out with family and friends
- missing work and study
- running out of money and getting into debt
Real life mephedrone story!
Often people find that they have difficulty stopping once they have started using mephedrone and end up staying up for days on end until they collapse from drinking too much alcohol, develop hallucinations and paranoia or run out of money. Therefore an important strategy is to avoid having that first line.
Do something different!
- Plan an alternative weekend entertainment – maybe you know someone else who also wants a break from mephedrone
- Visit a different city
- Avoid situations where you know people will be using mephedrone.
- Let someone else look after your money so it doesn’t all get spent on drugs.
- Try and fill up your time with other activities – work, sport,travel – boredom is a BIG risk factor for relapse.
I think I might need more help..
Seeing someone to discuss your drug use can be a huge relief and can provide support and motivation to get you feeling better.
Services in Leeds include:
- The Leeds Club Drug Clinic
- Harm reduction services
- Multiple Choice
- Platform (for under 18 year olds)
Check the Get Help tab for more info!