Mephedrone is a psychoactive drug that temporarily enhances mental function, physical function, or both. It is a synthetic stimulant.
It is also called 4-methylmethcathinone (4-MMC), or 4-methylephedrone, and should not be confused with methadone, which is a totally different substance.
Street names for mephedrone include meph, MCAT, bubbles, drone, miaow, white magic, and M-smack.
Mephedrone is considered a recreational drug. This means that people use it occasionally for enjoyment, and there is no medical justification for its psychoactive effects.
Mephedrone is a psychoactive drug. Psychoactive drugs produce distinctive emotional and social effects. The effects of mephedrone are similar to those of ecstasy (MDMA). It is an amphetamine and a cathinone.
A study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology suggests that mephedrone has similar effects and hazards to MDMA. However, the study also states that the negative effects are potentially more severe.
An amphetamine is a drug that stimulates the central nervous system (CNS). If used too much, it can be physically and psychologically addictive.
Cathinone is a naturally occurring stimulant found in the Khat plant of East Africa. Its structure and effects are similar to those of ephedrine and amphetamine.
Mephedrone: A new psychoactive substance
Public health officials are concerned about synthetic cathinones and other types of “new psychoactive substances” (NPS), or “legal highs.”
An NPS is an unregulated substance that mimics existing drugs. They often have altered chemical structures that help them avoid becoming illegal.
They are sometimes called legal highs because the change in chemical means they are no longer illegal. Some countries have adapted their drug laws and made such drugs illegal, regardless of their exact chemical content.
Mephedrone is an artificial substance based on the cathinone compounds found in the Khat plant.
It can come in the form of tablets, capsules, or white powder. Users may swallow, snort, or inject mephedrone, but snorting is the most common way of taking the drug.
Users of mephedrone say that it gives a feeling of stimulation, and that it boosts the following functions:
- the urge to talk
- sex drive
Some say that it makes them feel more confident, talkative, and alert.
People using mephedrone report that the effects of mephedrone last about an hour. They are similar to a combination of ecstasy and cocaine.
Although their names sound similar, mephedrone and methadone are entirely different.
Mephedrone is a recreational drug without any medical application. Many users believe that its occasional use is not habit-forming, but this has not been proven. Studies suggest that it induces a “binge-like craving.”
Methadone is a pharmaceutical medication. It is a synthetic opiate used as a very powerful painkiller to treat people who are addicted to heroin. This medicaton is a legal substitute for heroin in treatment programs, and is given to patients in the form of a green liquid at drug treatment clinics.
People who snort the drug may have nosebleeds and damage to the tissues and structures inside the nose. The drug can cause grinding of the teeth, nausea, vomiting, and a suppressed appetite.
A survey of mephedrone users revealed that:
- 67 percent of users experienced excessive sweating
- 51 percent experienced headaches
- 43 percent reported heart palpitations
- 27 percent experienced nausea
- 15 percent had blue or cold fingers
A number of deaths have been linked to use of the drug.
Unlike many other recreational drugs, such as amphetamines and ecstasy, mephedrone was not first developed as a medicine but in backstreet laboratories.
It has not been tested on humans. As a result, it is not known what the medium-term, long-term, or many of the short-term effects might be.
Users may take larger doses to get the same effect, so it cannot be seen as less harmful than ecstasy or amphetamines.
More scientific research is needed into the effects of mephedrone. Most countries had already banned or restricted its use by 2014.
Experts say it is too early to tell whether the drug is addictive or not, because it has not been in use for long enough to fully study the long-term effects of mephedrone use.
A significant number of users take another dose after an hour, when the effects start to wear off. As a result, users may consume more than they intended to, and they may find it hard to stop.
More evidence is needed to determine whether the drug can cause addiction.
The drug appears to have first become available in 2007, according to a European Union knowledge tool called The Psychonaut Research Project. It was at this time the purchase of the drug started to be discussed on forums.
The first reported seizure of mephedrone happened in 2007. French police sent a tablet they assumed to be ecstasy for analysis. However, the chemical structure turned out to be different.
However, mephedrone was synthesised far earlier, in 1929, under a different name – toluyl-alpha-monomethylaminoethylcetone.
Similar drugs surfaced in Israel before being made illegal in 2008, around the time it was emerging across Europe. Mephedrone was reported by Europol as having reached Denmark, Finland, and the United Kingdom.
An emergency ban was placed on mephedrone and related substances in the United States in 2011. It is a Schedule 1 controlled substance under Federal law and banned in most states.
The ban was made permanent in the U.S. in July 2012 by the passage of the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 that makes it technically illegal in all states.