A deadly new drugs craze has hit Cumbria with people using a plant food to get high.
And the craze has been blamed for the death of a 14-year-old girl in Brighton.
Officers say the use of mephedrone – which can be used as a stimulant similar to the drug ecstasy – is a particular problem in the west of the county, describing it as “rife in certain areas”.
They say people are using the substance, also known as miaow miaow, by wrapping it in cigarette papers and swallowing it, or taking it as a capsule.
The plant fertiliser is available online and came to national attention after a teenager in Brighton died after mixing it with ketamine and alcohol. Others have been taken to hospital, suffering fits after taking the substance which is not illegal.
A spokesman for Cumbria police said: “We are getting calls several times a week, and we believe use of plant food is rife in certain areas.
“There are increasing incidents, and we are getting more reports of people having taken this and then becoming out of control.
“But until it is made illegal there is not an awful lot we can do except try and locate the source. It is becoming a problem, and one we are keeping a close eye on.”
Mephedrone can cause people to collapse into what appears to be fits, and when mixed with alcohol and other drugs it can lead to aggressive behaviour.
Its use is growing throughout Cumbria, with Egremont and Workington appearing to be hotspots for the stimulant.
Paul Musgrave of Cumbria Primary Care Trust’s drug and alcohol action team, said: “We are hearing now of an increase in the prevalence of the use of mephedrone. It is featuring more and more on our radar.
“One worry is that if people think that all plant foods have some kind of euphoric effects, that’s an area of concern.
“If large numbers of people start using it it will have a similar effect to ecstasy and you could get networks of people dealing in black market substances and organised criminality.
“Whenever you use a stimulant there is the potential that you can become more aggressive than you would otherwise be, and we don’t suspect that mephedrone is the only substance people are using on a night out.
“When you mix anything with alcohol it’s really pot luck as to what the outcome will be.
“Even its effectiveness as a plant food is questionable.”
The drug can have a potentially lethal effect on users. One 14-year-old girl in Brighton died after taking the mephedrone along with alcohol and the horse tranquiliser drug ketamine. Last year, an 18-year-old in Sweden died after taking mephedrone along with other drugs.
The attraction for users is a feeling of euphoria that comes with taking the drug, but it comes with side effects.
Some newspapers have reported that people buying mephedrone, intending to spread its use out over the course of several weeks, then gorge themselves on the substance.
By Thom Kennedy
December 9, 2009
News And Star