In our series on what is: (drugs) we’ve already taken a look at some of the newer designer drugs and street drugs that are being taken by the younger generations. Investigating NOS, Ketamine, 2C-B and GHB, but for this article, we’re looking at a drug that might be even less known about than these.
What was once famous as a legal high in the UK, Mephedrone has gained celebrity status under a list of street names: Mcat, Meow meow, drone and MC, this potent stimulant, once sold as a ‘plant fertiliser’ this relatively new kid on the block can give us a fascinating insight into the world of alternative and designer highs, whilst also showing us the dangers of mixing some of these drugs thanks to mephedrone’s more infamous cousin: bath salts. But what really is it?
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What is Mephedrone?
As the lets talk about it foundation say: ‘Mephedrone is a powerful stimulant and is part of a group of drugs that are closely related to amphetamines, like speed and ecstasy.’ and that about perfectly describes this strange party drug. A member of the New Psychoactive Substances, Mephedrone has been designed to offer the specific effects it gives users. It rose to fame as being a supposed ‘legal high’, a drug that could be sold under other names and with other functions that could be legally bought from certain head shops and online.
Mephedrone was sold as plant fertiliser for exactly this reason. In the UK, before the psychoactive substances act if a drug was not marketed for human consumption, it could be legally bought and consumed. Mephedrone is also classed as a synthetic cathinone, a type of drug that includes the rather long named methylenedioxypyrovalerone, which can be combined with mephedrone to create the sinister and more US famous Bath Salts, renowned for their dangerous effects. The chemical behind mephedrone is very similar to the drug found in Khat, a plant chewed in Northern Africa.
What Does it Look Like?
Mephedrone can be sold, bought and taken in a variety of ways, but you’re most likely to see it as a white powder (often with shards of crystal in it) and it is most often snorted, much like cocaine. It is harsher on the nose than other drugs, sometimes leading to a nose-bleed and tastes extremely chemical. Other methods for consumption can include bombing it (wrapping some of the powder in paper and swallowing it) , taking a pill or capsule full of the drug, or even injecting the mephedrone intravenously. The most… ahem… unique way mephedrone can be taken is through what is known in the UK as a booty bump, where the drug is injected into the ‘booty’ of the user.
As mentioned in an earlier section, mephedrone can also be combined with other drugs. The term bath salts is often used when describing a mixture of Cathinones, often including Mephedrone and can give a different set of psychoactive effects than just mephedrone on its own. Mephedrone is often combined with alcohol, but shouldn’t really be combined with other stimulants or amphetamines as this can put a dangerous amount of strain on the heart, however many clubbers have taken mephedrone combined with MDMA and cocaine. When taken, mephedrone usually takes about 10 minutes to kick in and lasts for around 3-6 hours, with the most common dose being around 200mg.
The History of Mephedrone?
Mephedrone was first synthesised in 1929 by a French chemist called Saem de Burnaga Sanchez as a safer alternative to MDMA in Psychotherapy. However, the drug wasn’t taken recreationally until the early 2000’s. A similar drug to Mephedrone was sold in Israel in 2004 called hagigat. When this was banned, chemists searched for alternatives and eventually settled on mephedrone’s structure. The drug was then sold online and marketed as a legal high (though only because many governments hadn’t had time to make it illegal).
In the Uk, it was sold as a plant fertiliser ‘not for human consumption’ and in the US as bath salts also with the same warning. In the Uk, the drug was eventually classed as a Class B illegal substance though this didn’t stop it still becoming a very popular club drug, even beating cocaine and ecstasy in a 2009 survey. In the US Mephedrone is less popular, but is classed as a schedule I. It became infamous when it was linked to Bath salts and stories started to rise up of supposed zombie-like behaviours of the users who took bath salts, including one man horrifically chewing off another person’s face, although these stories are rarities and the drug the person was on hasn’t fully been confirmed.
How Does it Feel?
Mephedrone gives you a sudden alertness and stimulation. It can lead to a whole range of effects, but most commonly: Euphoria, feeling awake, increased memory, a feeling of enhanced empathy (much like MDMA). There is also an increase in sensory experience, which has meant that Mephedrone has quite easily moved from the club scene into the chem-sex scene. There are some withdrawal and come down effects, that are not dissimilar to the come-down of MDMA, including a dysphoria and difficulty getting to sleep.
What are the Psychoactive Effects?
Mephedrone is chemically very similar to MDMA and produces similar effects in the brain affecting Serotonin levels and binding to 5-HTT receptors, but unlike MDMA it has been shown that Mephedrone may also affect Dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is another neurotransmitter, like Serotonin, that is linked to mood and reward. Supposedly Mephedrone actually increases the levels of Dopamine in the brain. This may explain some more of the effects of the drug on people, but is problematic as Dopamine is linked to problems with addiction formation.
Simply put, price. Mephedrone is much cheaper than other stimulants and can often be bought in large quantities for smaller prices if sourced on the dark web. The drug also has some very interesting properties in terms of experience and can give you a very intense high if dosed right. It is not as intense as MD but still gives you a very nice high meaning that you feel a little more in control of yourself. In a study of Mephedrone users, many people reported that the intensity of the high and how it affected confidence and social anxiety were among the biggest positives of the drug, stating how easy it made making friends. Another positive is that it increases libido with less of a shrinking effect on the male genitals. This has lead to it becoming a ‘firmly’ established drug in the chem-sex worlds.
Mephedrone is still very new and this means that little is really understood about how best to test for purity. With many other drugs a simple test has been developed to allow chemists to see if it is completely pure, but for mephedrone it’s a lot harder to assess. Also this relative youth of the drug means that long term studies into the down sides of Mephedrone haven’t really been able to be carried out and not much is understood about how addictive or dangerous Mephedrone is. The other negatives are that the drug can be quite dangerous when mixed with other common party drugs. If it is mixed with another stimulant it can cause heart strain and sometimes even death. Mephedrone has also been linked to dependency and addiction behaviours. In a survey of users, it was shown that some of the participants developed symptoms of dependence as categorised by the DSM.
My Own Experiences
Mephedrone was actually the very first drug, other than cannabis that I tried. At a party I was offered a line of what someone described as ‘basically the mid-point between coke and MD’ and I gave it a go. To say I was a little high is an understatement. The drug knocked my socks off and I spent half an hour talking to a man about his beard. I then tried Mcat a few more times at university, but found each high was never as good as that frst time and in fact noticed that the pain from snorting it only got worse as well. A friend once had a breakdown on the drug after buying 10 grams and since then I haven’t touched the drug. For a relatively unknown drug, it has played a strangely present role in my life.
Mephedrone is an interesting drug that used to be hugely popular in the UK, but has since decreased in popularity and is now barely heard or spoken of within the club scene. In the US it has its infamy solidified by the stories of people turning into supposed zombies on bath salts and a drug that has such a rapid rise and fall must be viewed with a slightly skeptical eye. However, I have personally had some great experiences on Mepehedrone. There are always highs and lows with any drugs and many clubbers in the 2010’s will swear by Mcat, but the fact that the drug is no longer as popular as it was may testify to it being a sign of the ‘legal high’ times.
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