The dangers to young people of a legal high known as “meow meow” have been highlighted by the Government’s new drugs adviser. Professor Les Iversen said the speed at which the drug, officially called mephedrone, had become popular was “quite scary”.
The retired academic, who was appointed interim chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs after the sacking of Professor David Nutt, also expressed alarm at “soft” attitudes to cocaine.
He said that the council would take evidence from the independent committee set up by Professor Nutt in the wake of his dismissal by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, but added that his was the only statutory body that could tell ministers about drugs and their social harms. “Nobody else can give formal advice to the Government,” he said.
The former professor of pharmacology at the University of Oxford, said that the council would start gathering evidence on mephedrone and was expected to recommend next month whether it should be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The drug, which has a similar effect to Ecstasy or cocaine, is also known as “drone” and “bubble”. It comes in powder and tablet form and can be dissolved or snorted. Users can suffer nose bleeds, burns, palpitations, insomnia and memory problems.
Professor Iversen said: “There are waves of fashion. Cannabis is going out of fashion, whereas legal highs are attractive. The problem with legal highs is they seem to crop up with increasing frequency. It has become a very lucrative business. The one we have our sights on at the moment is mephedrone which six months ago, hardly anybody was talking about.”
The internet played a huge role in spreading mephedrone and other legal highs. “I find it alarming that very young people — schoolchildren — can buy a reasonably powerful psychoactive substance and take it freely. It is a quite scary scenario.”
He expressed concern at a relaxed attitude towards widespread use of cocaine. “I think that attitudes to cocaine have gone alarmingly soft. It is one of the fastest-growing Class A substances in the illicit drugs scene. Heroin is stable. Cocaine is going up and up and up. I view it as a very dangerous drug, one of the most addictive of all the pyschoactive drugs.”
Too many people had lost sight of cocaine’s addictiveness. “They seem to regard it as a relatively harmless supplement to other activities such as drinking,” he said.
Professor Nutt was dismissed over his claim that alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than drugs including LSD, Ecstasy and cannabis. He had previously clashed with Jacqui Smith, the former Home Secretary, after suggesting that horse riding was more dangerous than Ecstasy.
Professor Iversen admitted that he had supported legalising cannabis some years ago but had changed his mind in the light of evidence about new more potent forms. He still supported cannabis being a Class C drug; the Government moved it to Class B.
February 8, 2010
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Drug chief’s warning to young on dangers of legal high ‘meow meow’