Described as a cross between cocaine and ecstasy, mephedrone is the new kid on the party block.
The powder, which can be ordered online, is typically mixed into drinks, snorted or swallowed, and is believed to have made its big entrance on the drugs scene at last year’s festivals. By autumn it was in provincial towns and by November had sparked its first major concern when it was linked to the death of a 14-year-old schoolgirl from Brighton (although police later said she died from pneumonia).
The infamous Mixmag survey, the results of are published in this month’s edition, confirms what police have thought for some time – it describes mephedrone as ‘the UK’s favourite new drug’ and reveals that of the 2,222 readers questioned, 41.7 per cent had tried it and 33.6 per cent had taken it in the past month. The National Addiction Centre that led the research is surprised at the drug’s popularity; although it has been around for a relatively short period of time, it has made a huge impact.
Now police are so concerned by its growing usage, they have launched their first official campaign to discourage users. The image depicts a blood-filled sink and a photograph of a bag of mephedrone with Not For Human Consumption printed on its label.
While some reports state that teenagers are the main users, those on the middle-class party circuit could argue otherwise. Internet forums and anecdotal chatter shows that rising numbers of middle-class thirtysomethings, disillusioned with ‘crap coke’, are now using ‘meow’ (mephedrone’s shortened chemical name is MM-cat) as their party powder. Will images of basins covered in blood stop those looking for their kicks? Will it heck.
David*, a 31- year-old graphic designer, first took mephedrone in a pub in Dalston, east London. ‘It’s slow and creeps up on you and gives a warm, fuzzy feeling that has the ability to keep you awake but is not in your face like ecstasy,’ he says. ‘It also gives you the good bits of MDMA [another form of powdered ecstasy] so you feel slightly lovey. Oh yes, and it’s damn good fun.’ David pays £45 for five grams; in comparison, cocaine costs an average of £50 per gram. Economically it’s a no-brainer, says 30-year-old Paul*, who adds: ‘And it’s delivered to the door so you don’t have to cross the city to meet some guy on a council estate.’
So it’s as cheap and convenient as ordering your weekly Tesco shop, but consuming plant food isn’t going to contribute to one of your five-a-day. Chris Hudson from drugs information service FRANK says the side effects include convulsions, breathing problems, nosebleeds, depression, psychosis and a big risk of overstimulating the heart. Paul recently took mephedrone and used a heart monitor to check his heart rate. Within half an hour he went from 76 to 114 beats per minute. He had taken just an eighth of a gram.
The shift from conventional drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy to legal highs has been happening on the party scene for some time. GBL, also known as ‘coma in a bottle’ (nice thought), is about to be made illegal and ketamine (K), a horse tranquiliser which can also be ordered online and was once legal to possess, was made a class-C drug in 2006. K was once considered a trashy squat-party drug but can now be found in parties and clubs most weekends.
‘The problem is that people are sick and tired of spending high amounts on rubbish drugs,’ says Paul, an osteopath. ‘You don’t even know what’s in them. At least with meow you know what you’re getting and it also gives you the impression you’re not funding the wrong people; some sites are run by people who are genuinely selling it for plants.’
Jen*, a 33-year-old music PR, agrees: ‘My stomach burned after taking it, which I found quite worrying, but the last gram of coke I bought just blocked up my nose. At least with mephedrone, you know you will definitely get that high. My friends and I are sick of blowing lots of cash on drugs that do nothing.’
The next step for the police is to change drugs legislation, which is a slow process. Prof Les Iversen, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), says: ‘We are now looking at the dangers of mephedrone and the related cathinone compounds and will report back to the government as soon as possible.’
Experts believe the drug will eventually be made illegal but it’s likely legal dealers will have already started working on new chemical compounds to help people get their kicks.
* Names have been changed to protect people’s identities.
A 2009 report from the EU’s drug agency found Britain was the European capital for the online trade in legal highs. Nearly 50 per cent of websites selling the drugs are based here.
1. Ecstasy (84 per cent)
2. Cocaine (83 per cent)
3. Cannabis (79 per cent)
4. Poppers (61 per cent)
(46 per cent)
6. Magic mushrooms
(40 per cent)
(37 per cent)
8. Ketamine (36 per cent)
9. Viagra (24 per cent)
10. Benzodiazepines (21 per cent)
Source: Mixmag survey of 2,222 people, average age 25.
Even the most cynical adversary of Mother’s Day would surely agree that a moment of quiet recognition of the trials and tribulations of mothering is time well spent. The skills of motherhood have never been more scrutinised than now. Government initiatives recognise parenting skills as being paramount in the prevention of crime and educational failure, and it seems that good parenting skills may also play a key role in the prevention of poor physical health.
A paediatrics study published in 2008 pointed out that bad parenting skills such as strict upbringing, physical punishment, conflict or tension, low parental aspirations or interest in education and few outings with parents all increased the risk of obesity in the child, which brings with it numerous health problems.
Another study published in the European Journal Of Public Health found that the odds of someone having three or more common illnesses increased if they reported poor relationships with their parents, and this was independent of social class and mental health. The same journal also found that a mother’s attitudes, behaviour and feelings impacted on her child’s health: for example, the chances of a child experiencing poor health at seven and eight years old increased if their mother exhibited resentment such as complaining about the mess and noise associated with the child or lamenting the lack of time she had to herself.
Mothers are under constant pressure to be on their best behaviour. It’s not too much to ask, then, that for one day a year, the children are too.
This month: Mother’s Day is upon us and Dr Anuradha Arasu explores the role of the mum in the family, which has never been more in the spotlight.
Big impact: Mephedrone, which is sold as plant food, has become the drug of choice on the party scene
March 1, 2010
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Mephedrone is the new drug on the block