What is Mephedrone?

Jillian O Keeffe

The synthetic chemical mephedrone is a stimulant that creates a euphoric experience similar to that of the drug ecstasy. It is a relatively recent arrival on the drug scene but is part of a larger group of psychoactive drugs, some of which have been abused for decades. Mephedrone is sometimes sold over the Internet as bath salts or plant food, which is sometimes legal even in countries, such as the U.S., where it cannot legally be sold for a person to consume. The chemical was banned in all countries in the European Union at the end of 2010 after reports of deaths caused by the drug.

Side effects of mephedrone may include sweating.
Side effects of mephedrone may include sweating.

Mephedrone is officially known as 4-methylmethcathinone, but it is also known as 4-methylephedrone, MCAT, Miaow, or Meow meow. The drug is part of the cathinone group of chemicals that includes the chewable African drug khat. A methcathinone drug known as ephedrone has been abused since the 1970s in what then was the Soviet Union. Ephedrone appeared in the United States in the 1980s under the name CAT. Mephedrone (MCAT) is a newer arrival to both the American and European drug scenes.

Side effects of mephedrone may include sensory hallucinations.
Side effects of mephedrone may include sensory hallucinations.

Mephedrone is a white or yellowish powder with little or no odor, but the chemical can also come in the form of crystals, pills or capsules. Abusers of methedrone tend to swallow, snort or smoke the drug; only rarely is it injected. Snorting produces a quicker and more intense experience than swallowing the drug, and users occasionally take the drug with other cathinone drugs or caffeine.

Mephedrone users occasionally take the drug with caffeine.
Mephedrone users occasionally take the drug with caffeine.

Cathinone drugs have a similar effect on the body as amphetamines. The effects of mephedrone include talkativeness, alertness and euphoria. Users may occasionally experience an overdeveloped sense of empathy with others.

People who snort mephedrone may experience nosebleeds.
People who snort mephedrone may experience nosebleeds.

The mental side effects of mephedrone include anxiety, hallucinations, delusions and paranoia. The drug can also cause the circulatory system and the nervous system to become overstimulated. People who snort the drug may experience nosebleeds and nose burns. Other side effects include sweating, rashes, teeth grinding and changes in body temperature.

In the United Kingdom, users of the drug tend to be younger than typical cocaine or ecstasy users. They are often in their teens and twenties. Its relatively recent appearance on the drug scene means mephedrone has not been well studied. The short-term effects of the drug are not clear, and there is little scientific research on the exact pharmacological action of the drug. The long-term effects of mephedrone are also not known, although it is possible to become addicted to the drug.

Side effects of mephedrone may include paranoia.
Side effects of mephedrone may include paranoia.

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