Mephedrone is a recent arrival on the drug scene but is becoming more prevalent in the United States. It can be very addictive, produce serious adverse side effects, and has been implicated in the death of at least one U.S. citizen.
What Is Mephedrone?
Mephedrone is a synthetic analog of the stimulant cathinone that occurs naturally in the khat plant of East Africa and Southern Arabia. Mephedrone is chemically similar to amphetamines and has virtually identical effects. It is typically sold in pill form that users can swallow or as a powder that users can snort or inject, producing effects similar to those of other stimulants such as MDMA, amphetamines, methamphetamines, and cocaine.
Mephedrone has emerged recently as one of many designer drugs intended to skirt anti-drug laws in the ongoing quest for a legal high. Although it was first synthesized in 1929, mephedrone went largely unnoticed until it was rediscovered in 2003. Since then it has become relatively common in Middle Eastern and European countries. The United Kingdom in particular has experienced a significant mephedrone problem, and the drug has been detected in at least 38 cases of overdose fatalities.
The legal status of mephedrone is somewhat complicated. It has been outlawed in numerous countries in the European Union as well as Australia and Israel, among others. In the United States, however, a country usually in the vanguard of prohibition, mephedrone is not currently scheduled as a controlled substance. Since it is a synthetic analog of the naturally occurring stimulant cathinone, which is a controlled substance, the Drug Enforcement Agency claims that it can be controlled under the Federal Analogue Act. However, this statute applies only to substances that are sold for human consumption; to sidestep this regulation, mephedrone is often sold as plant food or “bath salts” not intended for human consumption. The United States did place a temporary ban on mephedrone effective September 2011.
Effects of Mephedrone
Mephedrone has not been around long enough to have been studied adequately under laboratory conditions, so knowledge of its effects comes almost exclusively from reports by users. However, these reports confirm what is to be expected, namely that mephedrone produces effects consistent with stimulants as a class, including increased alertness and energy and a sense of euphoria. However, according to user reports and consistent with expectations, mephedrone also produces a wide range of negative side effects, including impaired concentration and short-term memory, hallucinations, delusions, hyperthermia, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, erratic behavior, loss of appetite, sweating, paranoia, headaches, nausea, heart palpitations, anxiety, and depression. It commonly causes users to grind their teeth, and snorting may result in nose bleeds. Long-term effects cannot be definitively stated due to mephedrone’s short history, but it can be safely assumed that long-term use may result in adverse effects consistent with the use of other stimulants and including addiction, impotence, and psychosis.