Police are warning of the dangers of revellers taking a "legal" drug, which has led to one user ripping off his own scrotum.
Mephedrone is being sold legally on the internet as plant fertiliser but is more commonly known on the streets as "drone", "bubble", "meow meow" or "legal high".
Its chemical formula is one molecule different to ecstasy and as such dealers are claiming is not a controlled substance.
Their sales pitch is that in powder, crystal or liquid form it is a legal ecstasy.
However, Durham Police are warning that its use can result in severe nose bleeds, nose burns, hallucinations, blood circulation problems, rashes, anxiety and paranoia, fits, delusions and can lead to a heart attack.
It can become addictive and taken with alcohol or cut with other drugs it could result in death.
Police said five young people had been admitted to hospital in County Durham in recent weeks after taking mephedrone.
In Sweden an 18-year-old died from taking the drug and it has now been banned there, as well as Israel, Norway and Finland.
Acting Sergeant Mick Urwin said: "The misuse of mephedrone could have a significant impact upon the drugs market both nationally and locally.
"It can be envisaged that its use will become wider as word gets around of the ease of its availability and the fact it is not an illegal substance.
"There are no criminal offences relating to the possession or supply of mephedrone and the effects are the same as Class A drugs.
"The drug's extremely addictive and the user had to normally top up on a regular basis.
"It could become a huge problem for both the police and local health authority.
"Although it commonly appears to be turned into a powder and ingested inside a capsule, one concern is what are the effects if it digested in its liquid form, if drops are placed in a drink in a crowded bar and an unwitting person was to drink it. If so, it could have devastating consequences."
The officer has compiled a report into the use of mephedrone across the Durham force area and part of his research has focused on online forums.
The report states: "A large number of contributors state how addictive mephedrone is and they are constantly topping up as one individual states that after using it for 18 hours his hallucinations led him to believe that centipedes were crawling over him and biting him.
"This led him to receive hospital treatment after he ripped his scrotum off."
Inspector Kevin Tuck added: "We have seen the effects it has on young people.
"We have had officers assaulted by those high on it and two people have collapsed in the street.
"One person at Cockfield took 36 hours to come down from his 'high' and then had very serious paranoid problems when he did.
"Concerns have been raised via pub watch and local youth services and we even have individuals from elsewhere in the country trying to buy via Teesdale links.
"People are blatantly saying there is nothing the police can do because it is 'legal'.
"The use of this drug is becoming more prevalent. Parents should be on their guard - particularly at this time of the year.
"They need to know it is freely available on the internet and that teenagers are talking about it."
Darren Archer, manager of the County Durham Drug and Alcohol Action Team, said: "People are allowing themselves to be fooled into believing that just because a drug is not illegal it must be safe.
"Products sold as plant fertiliser will not be tested as safe for human consumption and will cause damage to health.
"I can understand how people can be forced by peer pressure to experiment. My advice would be to use recognised websites like TalktoFRANK.com to get the full facts."
A Home Office spokeswoman said mephedrone was not controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
"However, it will form part of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs' (ACMD) consideration of the harms and availability of other so called 'legal highs'," she said.
"The Home Office would consider any recommendation from the ACMD."
November 26, 2009
mod edit: this has been proven false- scaremongering by the tabloid press. ~TF~
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Police warn over mephedrone dangers after user 'ripped off scrotum'