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Teenagers' 'mephedrone deaths' not drug related

By MrG, May 28, 2010 | | |
Rating:
5/5,
  1. MrG
    Toxicology tests have shown that two teenagers whose deaths were linked to mephedrone had not taken the drug.

    The deaths of Louis Wainwright, 18, and Nicholas Smith, 19, in March 2010 sparked concern about the synthetic stimulant, which was then legal.

    The Labour government banned the so-called "legal high" in April, making it a Class B drug alongside amphetamines and cannabis.

    But tests have revealed there were no traces of mephedrone in their blood.

    It is thought further tests are being conducted to try to establish what, if any, substances the pair had taken.

    Mephedrone - also known as Meow, Bubbles and M-CAT - is derived from cathinone, a compound found in a plant called Khat.

    Humberside Police, which carried out the initial investigation into the teenagers' deaths, said in March it had "information to suggest these deaths are linked to M-CAT".

    Its statement went on to say: "We would encourage anyone who may have taken the drug to attend a local hospital as a matter of urgency."

    At the time, police believed the pair had been drinking and had also taken methadone - a similar-sounding but completely different drug to mephedrone.

    On Friday, a spokeswoman said the force could not confirm or deny the results of the toxicology tests.

    She said: "The pathology report, which includes toxicology findings, is prepared on behalf of the coroner and is not yet complete.

    "The findings of the report, once completed, will be forwarded to the coroner and may be discussed at any inquest and will not be disclosed without the authority of HM Coroner."

    North East Lincolnshire Coroners Court has refused to comment ahead of the inquest.

    Mephedrone has been implicated in the deaths of 34 people in the UK - 26 in England and eight in Scotland.

    But so far, the drug has been established as a cause of death in only one case in England, that of John Stirling Smith.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/10184803.stm
    BBC News
    28/05/10

Comments

  1. TheUnicorn
    So 90% of what the media based their case on has now been proven to be false? Wow this country is rediculous..
  2. Paradoxical Frog
    Well colour me completely unsurprised. There were doubts when this first came out that their deaths were anything to do with 4-MMC, especially since the mention of alcohol and methadone, but this is a very good example of moral panic. But now it appears to be official. I'm guessing that this won't be reported in any of the tabloids though, as they hate any suggestion that they may have been wrong at some point.
  3. chillinwill
  4. Synchronium
    Teenagers' deaths 'not caused by mephedrone'

    Toxicology tests have shown that two teenagers whose deaths were linked to mephedrone had not taken the drug.

    The deaths of Louis Wainwright, 18, and Nicholas Smith, 19, in March 2010 sparked concern about the synthetic stimulant, which was then legal.

    The Labour government banned the "legal high" in April, making it a Class B drug.

    Former chief drugs adviser Prof David Nutt said the test results undermined the reasons behind the ban.

    But Professor Les Iverson, the current chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), said the decision to recomment a ban on mephedrone was based on "thorough research".

    It is thought further tests are being conducted to try to establish what, if any, substances the pair had taken.

    Mephedrone - also known as Meow, Bubbles and M-CAT - is derived from cathinone, a compound found in a plant called Khat.

    Humberside Police, which carried out the initial investigation into the teenagers' deaths, said in March it had "information to suggest these deaths are linked to M-CAT".

    Its statement went on to say: "We would encourage anyone who may have taken the drug to attend a local hospital as a matter of urgency."

    At the time, police believed the pair, both from Scunthorpe, had been drinking and had also taken methadone - a similar-sounding but completely different drug to mephedrone.

    On Friday, a spokeswoman said the force could not confirm or deny the results of the toxicology tests.

    She said: "The pathology report, which includes toxicology findings, is prepared on behalf of the coroner and is not yet complete.

    "The findings of the report, once completed, will be forwarded to the coroner and may be discussed at any inquest and will not be disclosed without the authority of HM Coroner."

    North East Lincolnshire Coroners Court has refused to comment ahead of the inquest.

    Political aspects

    At the time, the ban on mephedrone - which catagorised it alongside amphetamines and cannabis - caused a row amongst some politicians and scientists.

    The Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) had recommended a ban, saying the substance was "likely to be harmful" despite incomplete research.

    But the leading medical journal The Lancet questioned the ban, saying it had been rushed and politics had been allowed to "contaminate" science.

    Two members of the committee quit in quick succession during the row.

    One of them, Eric Carlin, told BBC Radio 4's PM programme the decision to ban the drug should be "revisited" in light of the findings, and the "public health consequences" of the ban needed to be considered.

    "The fact these two people died and it's not actually connected with mephedrone just emphasises the fact that we were under a lot of pressure to ban this drug and these cases were actually cited as being examples of why that was necessary," he said.

    Prof Nutt, who was sacked by the then Home Secretary Alan Johnson in October 2009, said the findings were "embarrassing" for the government, media and police.

    "If these reports are true, the previous government's rush to ban mephedrone never had any serious scientific credibility - it looks much more like a decision based on a short term electoral calculation.

    "This news demonstrates why it's so important to base drug classification on the evidence, not fear, and why the police, media and politicians should only make public prouncements once the facts are clear."

    ACMD chief Prof Iverson said: "The ACMD gathered evidence from a number of experts and thoroughly researched the cathinones including mephedrone before making its recommendation.

    "On the basis of this evidence, and in comparison with similar substances, it concluded that the harms associated with cathinones equate to other dangerous substances in Class B, particularly amphetamines which are structurally similar and act on the central nervous system in the same way."

    Mephedrone has been implicated in the deaths of 34 people in the UK - 26 in England and eight in Scotland.

    But so far, the drug has been established as a cause of death in only one case in England, that of John Stirling Smith.

    On Thursday, a coroner in Brighton said Mr Stirling Smith, who was 46 and had underlying health problems, died after after "injecting mephedrone repeatedly".

    The European Union has also ordered a report into the health and social risks of mephedrone from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/10184803.stm
    BBC News
    28/05/10

    -----------------------------------------------

    This is the same story from the same link as the OP, only they've fleshed it out a bit more now.

    Dr Evan Harris also had this to say via twitter:

  5. stevein7
    This could have big implications.

    They'll not be sofast to ban the next waves.

    Makes them lookdumb.
  6. Synchronium
    Only to smart people. Half the people in this country have an IQ <= 100. They'll all be thinking "Good job we banned it before it actually killed anyone".
  7. Synchronium
    Lessons from the mephedrone ban

    Mephedrone was banned on the basis of limited evidence and media hysteria. We need a new approach to drug classification.

    On 17 March I was giving a lecture in Barcelona when I received a call from CNN. They wanted my reactions to the international press conference that the Lincolnshire police were holding on the deaths of two young men that they claimed had taken mephedrone (the new synthetic drug also known as "meow meow" or "M-cat"). At that point I realised that all sense had left the ongoing debate on the question of the harms and control of this drug.

    Why were the police holding a press conference when they had no idea if the men had taken any drugs? Why implicate mephedrone when the only established facts were that deaths occurred in the context of a heavy alcohol binge that went on into the early hours of the morning? As a stimulant, mephedrone is likely to reduce not increase the risk of alcohol-related respiratory depression (suppression of breathing). There was little evidence at the time of serious harms from mephedrone use, despite it having become almost as widely used as MDMA (ecstasy). Moreover, the earlier epidemic overdose use in Israel had not revealed significant harms and few if any mortalities.

    The "media madness" that followed the Scunthorpe event probably tipped the balance in the decision to ban mephedrone which was enacted by a depleted ACMD in an intemperate and rushed manner, and which lead to the resignation of several more members and a coruscating editorial in the Lancet.

    It has been revealed today that my suspicions were correct – there was no evidence that either of the two had taken mephedrone. It appears they took some other sedative drug – probably methadone – which is highly dangerous in combination with high levels of alcohol.

    It is probably too late now to reverse the government decision to make mephedrone Class B but we do need to learn the lessons from the debacle of its being banned on limited evidence and media hysteria. The first lesson is that the police and other public bodies should not make pronouncements and certainly not hold press conferences on mere conjecture or hearsay; the public interest is not served by inciting media attention in this way. In addition the media should apply some traditional journalistic principles such as evidence collecting and testing and allow the scientific process to take place before claiming harms of drugs, especially new legal highs.

    There are lessons for government and their advisers too. They should have the courage to resist media hysteria and let the truth drive decision-making. Moreover there should be proper research investment in the science of new drugs. Quite frankly, it is an insult to the country that the ACMD report on mephedrone didn't have some basic pharmacological facts about the drug, even though it had been under review since last summer and the data could have been obtained within a few days or weeks at little expense.

    What we now require is a guaranteed minimum set of core pharmacological and behavioural data to be acquired for any new drug that is being considered for classification and control in the UK, before a decision to ban it is made. The new Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs (ISCD) is currently developing a set of guidelines for this that we hope the government will endorse.

    The whole mephedrone debacle illustrates what has been known for many years – there is a real need for a new approach to the drug laws. The 1971 MD Act is 40 years old, and in its current classification system is fatally flawed and not fit for purpose. In this new world where drugs may be invented one day and sold over the internet the next, there needs to be a fundamental revision or better still a completely new approach to drug classification.

    Finally there is a personal lesson from the Scunthorpe deaths to young people who drink and take drugs. Alcohol itself is very toxic (killing by acute poisoning, hundreds of young people each year through respiratory failure) and these actions are magnified when in combination with other drugs that suppress breathing such as opiates (heroin, morphine, methadone) and GHB/GBL. If in doubt, don't drink and drug.

    David Nutt, The Guardian
    28th May
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/may/28/mephedrone-ban-drug-classification
  8. corvardus
    Bu-bu-bu-bu-bu-bullshit! He said that the "testimony" was based on "Self-reporting" and "anecdotal evidence" at the time of the council meeting. This is a LIE pure and blatant.
  9. honourableone
    Interesting that the guardian published something written by Prof. Nutt (whether it is in print or just online). One of the few UK newspapers where there is hope that they will logical unbiased stand point and not add to media frenzy seen with other newspapers.
  10. Synchronium
    Hysteria and hubris: lessons on drug control from the Scunthorpe Two

    The announcement today of data obtained several weeks ago that the “Scunthorpe two” – the young men who supposedly died of mephedrone (meow meow, M-cat) poisoning – had not taken this drug raises a number of fundamental questions over the decision to make mephedrone a Class B drug just before the election.

    The ensuing media hysteria over their deaths that was fuelled by the local police holding an international press conference was probably the tipping point in the decision to ban mephedrone, that was made by an incomplete ACMD in an intemperate and rushed manner.

    At the time, it seemed unlikely that mephedrone was to blame as the two young men had been drinking heavily until the early hours of the morning and stimulants like mephedrone usually attenuate counteract to some extent the sedative effects of alcohol.

    What appears likely is that they took some other sedative drug – probably methadone – which is highly dangerous in combination with high levels of alcohol.

    It is too late now to reverse the government decision to make mephedrone Class B but we do need to learn the lessons from the debacle of its being banned. The main ones are:


    1. That the police should not make pronouncements and certainly not hold press conferences on mere conjecture.
    2. The media should wait for evidence and allow the scientific process to take place before claiming harms of new legal highs.
    3. The government and their advisers should have the courage to face down media hysteria and let the truth evidence drive decision making.
    4. Proper investment in the science of new drugs is required - we at the Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs [www.drugscience.org.uk] are currently developing guidelines on the minimum data set that will be made public and should be acquired for any new drug before a decision to ban it is made.
    5. There is a real need for a new approach to the drug laws; the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act is forty years old, fatally flawed in its current classification system and not fit for purpose in this new internet-based environment in which it must be used; it needs fundamental revision or better still, a completely new approach should be taken.
    6. The message must be conveyed to anyone who drinks and takes drugs that alcohol itself is very toxic (killing by acute poisoning, hundreds of young people each year through stopping breathing) and these actions are magnified when in combination with other drugs that lower breathing. If you do consider taking drugs whilst drunk then avoid at all costs other sedative drugs such as opioids and GHB/GBL.

    If the media, the police and the government are serious about reducing the real harms that drugs are causing in the UK, they need to address the drug that is killing a young person every day purely through poisoning: alcohol. Until they do, no sense can enter the debate.

    David Nutt, His own blog
    28/05/2010
    http://s321561233.websitehome.co.uk...sons-on-drug-control-from-the-scunthorpe-two/
  11. Synchronium
    The Guardian's "Comment is Free" section always has content from awesome people. Here's a list of Dave Nutt's articles: http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/david-nutt
  12. honourableone
    TY for that, it's pretty interesting. From what I can see in this case, it seems quite feasible that the only reason police had to suspect the involvement of mephedrone was their own confusion when "methadone" was mentioned (likely soon after some police briefing about a dangerous new legal drug thats getting all the kids hooked). If this is the case, the consequences are pretty sad, and it would go to show how lacking the honest information provided by the government is on such chemicals, even to law enforcement.
  13. Synchronium
    I'm wondering if it wasn't the kids themselves that were confused, thanks to the media.

    They could have just heard about this "mephedrone" stuff in the papers (where I've seen it spelled "methedrone" at least once) or online and tried to get hold of some, accidentally acquiring methadone instead. They take the methadone on top of their alcohol and end up dead.

    Sound plausible?
  14. OL909
    Do we know what caused most of the suposed deaths if it was not mephedrone?
  15. Paradoxical Frog
    That doesn't really sound too far out to be honest. And if their knowledge of drugs was very minimal, it's plausible that they also thought that maybe mephedrone and methadone were similar because they sound similar. For those not in the know, why would they assume anything else?

    It is sad though, because with the right amount of education these deaths could have been prevented. Obviously just telling kids "don't do it" doesn't work (as this forum may well prove!) so why not provide an honest and balanced drugs education instead where the emphasis is on harm reduction rather than "just say no"?
  16. Zarbid
    This has been said many, many times before in many different guises - so I will try to make this short.

    We are now living in a world not run by the people for the people, not run by the goverment and certainly not run by anyone quailfied - it is controlled by the Media - TV and Newspapers equally.

    Don't get me wrong, there are some completly unbiased news outlets out there - but they are very few and far between. Do people in the UK remember the media attention Knife crime recived? The thing was - when the press started becoming spokespersons for it Knife crime had actully been on the decline - and have we heard anything about it in 18 months - no. Why? Becuase everybody (the public) got bored and bored people don't stay tuned to that TV channel or buy bpring newspapers.

    We all know that Mephedrone became a problem in this country - there guinely were small kids as young as 14 (or younger if you wish to belive the sun) who were doing lines in school - ok issue there - however I think Prof Nutt (my hero) put it best:

    "I think the banning of Mephedrone wasn't nessarily wrong - just premature"

    The press steered the goverment - who were just about to start a campagin for re-election I might add - to banning a substance they knew nothing about - and based all their judgements on un confirmed deaths published in tabloid newspapers - what a world we live in huh!?

    My 2 cents,

    PEace and Love

    Zarbid

    XX
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