Up until 30th March 2010 Mephedrone has been sold as plant food, bath salts and research chemicals and advertised as 'not for human consumption'. On 30th March 2010 the Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, announced that an instant ban on import and export of this substance, with the intention of it being placed under the misuse of drugs act (1971).
As of 16th April 2010 Mephedrone (aka: M-Cat, Miaow, Meow, Bubble, Drone, and Plant Food) will now be regulated under the misuse of drugs act (1971) as a Class B drug. This reclassification also relates and includes to all other substances that resemble or maintain similar properties to substances known as Cathinones (substances that are of a similar chemical make up of amphetamine, methamphetamine and ecstasy).
This substance has been indicated (directly and indirectly) in 27 deaths since November 2009 and because of this the decision was made to ban the substance. The substance has seen widespread use across the county by various age groups (young and old) but has been predominately used by younger people as a 'party drug'. Some reports from other parts of the country have seen users as young as 8-9 years old; thankfully we have not seen this in Bucks but have reports of 13-14 year olds using it.
Usually a white crystalline powder, similar to cocaine/amphetamine/mdma, has been reported to have been pressed into tablet form and capsules as well. It will usually come in a small bag or envelope with plant food or not for human consumption written/printed on it.
Until the ban it was being sold at approx £10-15 per gram on the internet; although street dealers were selling for slightly more. Since the ban we are expecting a price increase as supplies start drying up.
This substance is used commonly by snorting, similar to cocaine and amphetamine, also it can be swallowed (bombed) in a small wrap and injected.
The effects of this substance are very similar to ecstasy, cocaine, amphetamine and methamphetamine resulting in stimulant type effects, hallucinations, decreased inhibitions, increased energy and a sense of euphoria.
Increased paranoia, aggression, anxiety, heart palpitations, psychosis, panic attacks, fits, blackouts, lung complaints, heavy nose bleeds and bluing of nose and lips. The life span of use varies from a few minutes to a few hours (depending on experience of use). Reports from users suggest that the desire to re-dose on this substance is far higher than any other drug, resulting in people using a lot more, which could result in overdose.
As a result in the change in legislation around this substance people found in possession or selling this substance now face the same penalties as any other Class B drug:
Possession - up to a Maximum of 5 years imprisonment and/or unlimited fine Supply (selling) - up to a Maximum of 14 years imprisonment and/or unlimited fine
The police will treat any white powder or capsule in the same way they do any other illegal substance. The likelihood is that the substance will be analysed and a decisions made following this analysis. At present this analysis would be carried out by forensic teams but plans are being made to re-calibrate EDIT (Evidential Drug Identification Testing) machines and drug itemiser machines to identify this substance - it is unclear if/when this will be done in Thames Valley.
Research has been started for sometime around this substance and will continue for the foreseeable future. This will enable us to know longer term effects, side-effects and dangers and adjust treatment and policing accordingly.
It has been reported that other 'legal highs' are set to replace Mephedrone, however the substances that were lined up have also been banned as they are also part of the Cathinone family e.g. Butylone, Methylone, Eutylone and Pentylone. This will not however stop developers creating other substances that can get around loopholes in current legislation; if this arises the government and its advisors will respond accordingly.
At this time the treatment available for people using Mephedrone and like substances would be very similar to MDMA, Amphetamine, Cocaine, Ecstasy and Methamphetamine.
This treatment will consist of psycho-social interventions including:
• Motivational interviewing
• Harm reduction
• Cognitive behavioural interventions
• Auricular acupuncture
• Structured counselling/day-care
• Residential rehab.
Access to these services in Bucks can obtained from either OASIS Partnership or SMART CJS (see contacts on right hand side of this page).