Meow meow. No, this isn’t a reference to the sound a cat makes. It is a potentially dangerous recreational drug referred to by experts as mephedrone. Also known as a type of bath salts, mephedrone originated in the early 1900s but did not become a go-to choice for illicit use until approximately 2003. Today, the drug has mostly crawled back into the recesses from whence it came like all the other flash-in-the-pan drugs. But, its prevalence in the U.K. underground has kept it alive.
Mephedrone is a purely recreational substance. It is considered to have no true medicinal value. This is not methadone, although the names certainly sound the same to an untrained ear. Think of mephedrone in the same context as cocaine or ecstasy. Or, more accurately than that, a combination of the two. This is because mephedrone contains a similar chemical makeup to these recognizable drugs. Plus, it mirrors their stimulating natures, too. Cocaine gives an unadulterated spike of energy. MDMA is used to bolster a collective feeling shared among individuals taking the drug; a camaraderie of sorts. Mephedrone seeks to harness both of these mechanisms in a single, potent product. It is a quintessential party drug.
While mephedrone is considered to be a bath salt compound, it mostly avoided the infamy and backlash similar substances underwent. There were no stories of zombie-like cannibalism which dominated the airwaves in 2012 and again in 2016. It received blame for an instance of self-mutilation, but this was proven to be an unfounded claim. Another case, of two teenage girls dying from mephedrone, showed to be a situation of mistaken drug identity. Methadone was the true culprit while mephedrone played the scapegoat as the new drug on the market — another reason besides pronunciation why these two drugs are confused for one another. Even this all-the-kids-are-doing-it type of hysteria quickly dissipated from the headlines. While deaths have been attributed to mephedrone use, the drug had mostly flown under the radar for years.
On a macro level, mephedrone had a profound, albeit short-lived, effect on drug culture in the United Kingdom. The use of Britain as the case study here is intentional. Overall, mephedrone did not garner a huge following across the pond in the United States. The two-year stretch between 2008 and 2010 proved to be the drug’s heyday in the U.K. At one point, mephedrone was squarely in the most used social drugs in the entire country. So, where did it pop up? Well, put simply: supply and demand. The year 2009 saw MDMA availability dry up with street dealers in London. This, compounded with an already short supply of cocaine, led to the perfect conditions for mephedrone’s emergence and reign. But as every person chasing a mephedrone high knows, that good feeling doesn’t last forever — and neither did the drug’s chokehold on the market. Today, mephedrone use and distribution are minimal. It is predominantly used as an aphrodisiac among club-going homosexual men.
Mephedrone pills are swallowed whole, crushed into a powder to inhale, or mixed with a liquid base to inject directly into the body. The latter of which is the most dangerous method. As with any recreational drug, side effects are an unfortunate occurrence. The likelihood of such instances is not clear, but, the only way to avoid the possibility is to abstain completely. Side effects of mephedrone use include:
- Paranoia or anxiety: drugs which act upon the nervous system are fraught with negative psychological episodes. Though these effects will often go away once the substance leaves the system, there is no guarantee against long-lasting mental anguish.
- Profuse sweating and dehydration: the stimulating effects put every bodily system into overdrive. Couple this with the environment in which the drugs are usually taken — crowded clubs, concerts, and parties — and it’s easy to see how sweating can become out of hand.
- Nausea: an elevated mental state can be disorientating and lead to bouts of painful nausea and vomiting.
- Headaches: these can range from mild to agonizing. Additionally, they may be the result of the dehydration which was mentioned previously.
- Seizures: this is one of the most serious side effects possible. Uncontrollable and random seizures can prove detrimental, especially when they occur without someone in the vicinity to lend a hand.
- Heart and circulatory problems: overstimulation has the capacity to put too much pressure on the heart and surrounding tissues. Poor circulation can turn lips and fingertips blue as well.
During its time in the limelight, mephedrone was completely legal to purchase. Dealers took advantage of online loopholes to sell the drug under the guise of other products. This trend was popular with a number of designer drugs including bath salts and fake cannabis. Before long, legislators and law enforcement officials caught on to the movement and banned mephedrone indefinitely across the world.
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