Mephedrone isn’t just another obscure research chemical. Everyone’s at it, all the time. Despite the media scare stories, over 20% of mephedrone users polled on Drugs Forum take more than 10g each month, with just under half of those consuming over 20g. A lot of replies to that thread also reveal how quickly usage can escalate, meaning those results are probably on the conservative side. “More acceptable than weed”, some have been saying. “Even my non-druggie friends are doing it!”
Mephedrone has achieved this unusual status thanks to a number of factors. Firstly, it’s an effective stimulant, which is more than can be said for ecstasy and cocaine these days; the former consisting mainly of disagreeable piperazines (due to their cheapness, and until recently, their legal status) rather than MDMA, and the latter being incredibly inpure. Next up is the lack of a comedown that would normally be experienced with other stimulants, especially for new users. This means people can keep taking it for days on end with little to no perceived negative effects. The other major contributor is the price — at around £10 a gram, it undercuts a great many of its illegal counterparts, while often being more effective, or at least more reliable. Other factors include (potentially inaccurate) purity measures, the ease of buying it from the comfort of your own home with a credit card, rather than handing over a fistful of crumpled notes to a typical drug dealer, and of course its legal status. Although the majority of users understand that legal doesn’t mean safe, the fact that you can’t be imprisoned alongside murderers, rapists and other violent criminals for possessing it is certainly a plus. Oh, and it’s psychologically addictive — it won’t kill you if you stop taking it, but you might be able to think of nothing else.
Reports of children doing it, entire friendship groups crumbling as a result of compulsive use and the media frenzy have got people understandably worried and calling for this “evil” drug to be banned.
Why We Shouldn't Ban Mephedrone
If you haven’t read Top 10 Reasons Why Legal Highs Should Stay Legal, have a quick look now. Here are a few more mephedrone-specific points:
- Changing the law won’t change demand — we’ve already seen this with the reclassification of cannabis and the massive popularity of the synthetic cannabinoids that just got banned. Also, the decriminalisation of drugs in Portugal has resulted in not only a decline in drug use, but also a decline in drug-related illness and death (HIV from sharing needles, for example), as well as a increase in the number of people seeking treatment for addiction.
- The current classification system doesn’t work — Our current ABC system is a shambles, as any scientist, or indeed anyone that values evidence, will testify. Currently, one of the safest drugs, MDMA, sits alongside one of the (if not the) most dangerous, heroin. Cannabis, and soon the synthetic cannabinoids, which haven’t killed anyone, are positioned alongside amphetamine, a drug with far more potential dangers and addiction, meanwhile alcohol, which hospitalises over 1200 people a day and costs the NHS several billion pounds a year, remains legal along with tobacco. I would estimate the harms of mephedrone to be similar to amphetamine, if not a little worse, but placing it in class B would give the message that it is as dangerous as cannabis. Placing it in class A wouldn’t be right, as it certainly doesn’t appear to be as dangerous as heroin, but it’s probably worse than MDMA. Placing it in class C would be ridiculous, as it suggests cannabis is more dangerous. It would be impossible to have a sensible think on how to classify it properly without getting a headache.
- If mephedrone’s popularity persists, more people will die — in the event of an overdose or an idiosyncratic response, people taking illegal drugs are far more likely not to either tell the doctors what they’ve taken or even go to hospital in the first place. That’s not to say that mephedrone will kill a tonne of people, but if no one ever died whilst on mephedrone, that would be pretty weird…
What Should We Do Instead?
Just because I don’t think it should be illegal doesn’t mean I think the current situation is perfect. Instead, I think the best thing the government could do to reduce harm is keep it legal, restrict its sale to people over the age of 21 and slap on a tax of something like £15 per gram. This would make it much harder to buy large quantities at a time, especially for kids with little expendable income, and so curb mephedrone’s addictive nature. Obviously, this wouldn’t be the perfect solution, as some teenagers would still be able to get hold of it just like they do with alcohol, but at least less people will be taking it and a lot more money would be available to better fund the NHS, harm reduction methods, education about the drug and scientific research.
Why Mephedrone Won't Be Classified Immediately
Heh. The government have certainly shot themselves in the foot here. Thanks to the sacking of Dave Nutt and the resignation of three others on the ACMD, the government now lacks the skills to ban it. Dr Les King, one of the resignees, was responsible for a large part of the ban last month, so without people like him, the government can’t do anything for a while. Looks like it’ll be legal for a good year or so yet.
How YOU Can Help
Well, you can’t really do anything about the mephedrone situation, but you can help me out by posting Mephedrone Cat everywhere!
You might save millions of lives by directing them to some of my harm reduction articles. 🙂.