Australian drug dealers are offloading stockpiles of the new party drug meow meow by selling it in capsules as ecstasy.
Australian authorities are also on alert for shipments of a sister drug being advertised as "pond cleaner" after warnings from European police.
Dealers smuggled in large amounts of mephedrone — known as meow meow or MCAT — into the country from the UK before the British government banned it in April.
"People have stockpiled massive amounts of this to sell, knowing the law was about to change — and in Australia dealers are on-selling it in capsules," drug and alcohol researcher Paul Dillon told ninemsn.
"There are an awful lot of mephedrone pills sold as ecstasy — it's happening, without any doubt."
The synthetic white-powdered drug can be purchased from online vendors. Ninemsn found one website sells 1kg blocks for $8460.
Mephedrone, described by dealers as a plant fertiliser, normally arrives in plastic bags with a sticker that reads "not for human consumption".
The Australian Federal Police has identified Victoria as a mephedrone hotspot, with four arrests for alleged importation this year, while one person has been arrested in NSW and another in Queensland.
In the Northern Territory, 23-year-old Dylan Prunster received a suspended sentenced of 18 months in jail after last month after trying to sell capsules of the drug on Facebook.
Mr Dillon said media reports warning about the dangers of meow meow, particularly in the British tabloid press, were doing little to minimise harm.
"We can't keep coming out with terrifying warnings that end up not being true ... if we give a warning that ends up not being accurate then when we really do have warning, we are like the boys who cry wolf," Mr Dillon said.
The BBC reported this month that toxicology tests on two men reported to have taken mephedrone in the hours before they died did not have any traces of the drug in their bodies.
Mephedrone's easy availability, low price and "plant food" marketing ruse is similar to that of naphyrone, the sister drug that Australian police are on alert for.
Naphyrone — sold online as NRG-1 — has already emerged as a problem substance in the UK, with two people hospitalised after taking it near North Wales last weekend.
An AFP spokesperson told ninemsn authorities were "aware of the substance naphyrone and closely monitoring its detection after being identified ... as an emerging new synthetic substance".
Investigators declined to reveal whether any shipments of the drug had been intercepted from overseas but ninemsn found one Adelaide person selling up to 2.5kg of the drug using an online classifieds service.
Naphyrone is currently legal in the UK where the media has dubbed it "the devil's powder". The Sun newspaper reports one hit of the drug costs just 40 cents.
Professor David Smith from the University of York said in a YouTube video that naphyrone is structurally similar to another chemical used as a beta blocker in mice and scientists found that drug caused cancer.
The drug reportedly causes anxiety, paranoia and turns into a carcinogen when it metabolises in the body.
But Mr Dillion, who attended a United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) conference last week, said it was too early to tell how or if the drug causes harm to humans because it was so recent.
"The key here [with naphyrone] is not to automatically ban it and think it's going to solve it ... but to collect information and get to know it the best we can," he said.
"Mephedrone, also, is going to be around for a while ... and now that it's banned, it's certainly not going to disappear."
15:00 AEST Thu Jun 17 2010
By Matt Bachl, ninemsn
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