POLICE say children as young as 11 in Cumbria have been taking the soon-to-be-illegal mephedrone – a drug linked to a number of deaths.
Officers also say the substance, known by the name meow meow, is becoming increasingly popular among young people, adding it posed “a very real threat”.
The force said they intended going into county schools with other agencies to stress the risks posed by the substance.
It comes as concerns grow over its effects after it was linked to the deaths of a number of young people.
Two teenagers who died in Scunthorpe, Lincolnshire, last week are believed to have taken mephodrone.
Since then, a number of other deaths have been investigated to see if they are connected.
Cumbria police said officers were joining forces with local authorities, charities and drug support workers to deliver talks to youngsters about the dangers.
Det Chief Insp Graham Coles said: “Mephedrone poses a very real threat.
“Young people wrongly assume that the substance is safe because it is currently legal, which couldn’t be further from the truth.
“The fact is that people who take the substance are seriously risking their health – no one knows what this drug is mixed with or the long term effects that it can have. It has not been tested and we don’t yet know for sure the danger that this drug presents.”
The drug, also known as bubble or drone, is a chemical plant food that is not fit for human consumption.
The government’s chief drug adviser has strongly indicated experts will recommend the substance be banned.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said immediate action would be taken after advice was given.
DCI Coles added: “People are attracted to mephedrone as it has similar effects to ecstasy or amphetamine, but as with all legal highs the effects can be unpredictable.
“Some people who have used the substance have been rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties, dizziness, nose bleeds, increased heart rates, depression, psychosis and diarrhoea.
“Others have experienced heart failure, fallen into a coma and, tragically, two teenagers from Lincolnshire have died.
“In Cumbria, we want to do all we can to educate our communities so we are teaming up with experts around the county to expose the extent of the known risks to school children. It is sold as a white powder but can also be found in a capsule or pill form.
“Although it may be legal, if you are caught in the possession of a white powder you will be arrested until we can prove what the substance is.”
Prof John Ashton, NHS Cumbria’s director of public health, said: “The problems surrounding drugs such as mephedrone or so-called legal highs are that in most cases these substances have never before been used as drugs.
“So they have not had tests performed on them to show what effect they could have on a person physiologically or physically, which is where the danger lies.
“Only by being honest and open with young people and having these conversations about the effects drug use has on both society and people’s health can we hope to prevent more young people from being pulled into the world of drug addiction.”
March 31, 2010
The Whitehaven News
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Children as young as 11 taking mephedrone