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Should Mephedrone Be Legal?

By John Clarke

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 MoleculeMephedrone 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.

I Disagree.

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. 🙂.

17 Responses to Should Mephedrone Be Legal?

  1. Doobz says:

    What I would like to know is why mephedrone wasn’t classified alongside jwh-018 last month.
    Christ, our government are useless.

    They appear not to be interested in evidence at all.

    Evidence shows that children have easier access to illicit drugs, than regulated legal ones.
    Evidence show that completely innocent people are harmed/killed by the violence associated with the enormous profits available as a direct result of prohibition.
    Evidence shows that criminal gangs support prohibition.
    Evidence shows that prohibition increases the potential harm to users.
    Evidence shows that the drug war is futile and costs billions.

    PS. Nice site btw. Thanks.

  2. Public//Enemy says:

    Fantastic and informative post I agree with everything you said. I wish you ran the country then we may have some sense and less phear of being arrested while walking down the street.

  3. Slicedmind says:

    Doobz: It seems like the mephedrone craze began to gain speed after the synthetic cannabinoids had gained their popularity and media attention and by the time mephedrone began to get all the negative coverage in the mainstream media, the legal highs ban concerning the worry-drugs at the time of its writing had been drafted and was making its way to becoming legislation and it was too late to tack mephedrone on to it.

    The sacking of David Nutt, as Sync mentioned above, has kind of foiled the government’s ability to do anything about it for the moment, though a new interim head of the ACMD has been appointed. His name is Les Iversen and is a retired Oxford pharmacology Professor. He has expressed some conflicting views in the media in the past so what his current stance on the issues of drug legislation and the circumstances for Dr Nutt’s dismissal is is unsure.

    Whether the government have brought him in purely because the body needs a head until they find someone they can rely on to acquiesce to government policy, or whether they want someone there to do something specific with regards to legislature remains to be seen.

  4. fanyovsky says:

    “Changing the law won’t change demand” – it did in Israel… demand just reverted to coke and other illicit drugs.

  5. Synchronium says:

    fanyovsky: The demand for a decent stimulant remains. I didn’t mean a demand just for mephedrone.

    Your info from Israel posted elsewhere has been very helpful though! 🙂

  6. Mike Dodds says:

    I am of later year and still working but come mid afternoon the leaden blanket envelops the brain. Tried Mephedrone for a limited increase of concentration but not good for this – too short and not sharp enough. A 100mg snort is calming and good in the early evening for a slight change of perspective and lasts around 45 minutes. Surprising side effects: noticeable loss of appetite and reduced intake of alcohol and moderate sexual awareness; all these side effects are a plus for me. Point taken about overdosing but personal discipline is important. No death attributed DIRECTLY to Mephedrone so the jury is still out on this but think alcohol for a moment. Most people can handle a larger or two but a bottle of Vodka? Likewise with Mephedrone. I would guess that anyone taking 500 mgs or above is asking for trouble without first getting to know the substance and how your body is reacting to it. There are more deaths from alcohol poisoning than all the deaths attributed to banned substances and legal recreation drugs put together. The drug agencies need informed information on how people react to new substances to do keep a written record of your experiences.

  7. Chris says:

    i think, it would of course be totally unresponsible to not ban mephedrone as fast as possible. at least until it went through appropriate testing and trial procedures. also, i can imagine that the producing standards in the chinese labs that synthesize it, transport conditions and so on are not according to the standards we would usually accept.
    it is a “research chemical”! it has never been appropriately tested in animals or humans. noone has for example a clue if and what long-term side effects will appear. but, given the nature of this “product” it should obviously be analyzed and scientifically tested the same way as psychotropic drugs are.
    if a pharmacist would sell some new anti-depressant, just fresh out of the research center, he would probably face imprisonment? in my opinion it is btw the same with all these synthetic cannabinoids, the situation there is similar.
    argumenting that the risk in both cases might maybe be acceptable for an individual, is ignoring a lot of evidence based science. in our “developed” world we often enough made the for some people very painful experience how important all that testing is. and the occurences regarding the bromo-dragonfly-deaths just a short while ago showed especially the rc-community how important certain standards in production and quality assurance are.

    also, given the quite addictive nature of this substance, having substances like mephedrone available as legal products, should also necessitate availibility of proper treatment-possibilities and training of doctors and other medical personel regarding addiction to stimulants that range somewhere between amphetamines and cocaine. i guess we are far from achieving that. although that might be a consequence of the repressive politics in the last decades, it would surely be better to be prepared before an official approval?

  8. Paul says:

    I’m in two minds about meph I must admit. On the one hand, I have taken it 4 or 5 times recently and had a fantastic night (but I don’t agree there is no comedown, it has made me anxious and low for a few days afterwards). And I will continue to take it in moderation.

    On the other hand, I’m a pharmacologist and I agree that it is not necessarily safe to be taking a research chemical that has not been through proper pre-clinical or clinical trial procedures, particularly with the anecdotal evidence of vasculitis and breathing problems.

    But I think they key point here is, even if huge amounts of research had been done and the drug was safer than paracetamol, it would still be banned. Because of its effect. It is psychoactive, it is stimulant, and it makes you feel quite nice….which is certainly a no no as far as Governments are concerned.

  9. Olie says:

    i personally love miaow its amazing its cheap easy to get hold of and its all good as long as u dont mix it with a drug such as ketamine its good on a night out with mates or if ur in a club it should stay legal for as long as possible

  10. sarah says:

    You are not the author of this, this was published on a mephedrone blog some time ago by the original author!

  11. Synchronium says:

    Sarah: Wrong! Please go ahead and link us to what you believe to be the original…

  12. FatboyAl says:

    Cocktails! That seems to be the problem of recent deaths. I’m 49 years old, love a drink and mixed works great.
    I monitor how much I take and I have had some of the best highs in my life with no side effects.
    A bit reserch and a small dabble at first. Get it right then(how do you spell wohoo). Incredible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. Marek Zielinski says:

    Two people died from overdose of mephedrone.
    The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is to establish the scientific evidence on its dangers and to recommend whether it should be banned. Professor David Nutt, the sacked chairman of the ACMD, said he backed the home secretary, Alan Johnson, in arguing that such action was premature. Such decisions need to be based on sound science. Some previously reported mephedrone deaths have also turned out to be false alarms.
    They try to ban the drug.

    Over 3000 people per year die on the UK roads in road accidents.
    They do not ban car manufacturing.

    Millions of people die every year as casualties of war activities all around the world.
    They do not ban production and supply of arms.

    Is it the world really becoming insane or is it only my observation?

  14. Overfiend says:

    @ Marek Zielinski ……..Na m8 the world has always been insane or at least the people in it lol. Its A-Typical I think nowadays for our Governments to react in a knee jerk fashion and to perpetuate fear rather than anticipate and evaluate drugs like Mephedrone (4-MMC) which to be honest may be new but its hardly come into existence overnight. Then we have the PRESS making a bollocks of any reporting at all. We can count out receiving any impartial, informed information from both I fear.
    Regarding the deaths from our favourite drug of the moment……Definitely a few I believe, if not most of the deaths could not be attributed to Mephedrone conclusively nor exclusively. I believe that most of these individuals were in fact taking not only Mephedrone but other substances like Ketamine and Alcohol to name only a couple. Not to mention some with underlying health problems and issues.
    Indeed the severity that the DRUG Alcohol has amalgamated into our Society is such that for the most part people do not even think of it as a drug…………………….Some Sobering figures for us all to look at here!

    Date: 28 January 2010
    Coverage: United Kingdom

    • In 2008, there were 9,031 alcohol-related deaths in the United Kingdom. The number increased from 8,724 in 2007.
    • Rates have doubled since the early 1990s, from 6.7 per 100,000 population in 1992 to 13.6 per 100,000 in 2008.
    • There are more alcohol-related deaths in males than females. In 2008, there were 18.7 per 100,000 in men and 8.7 per 100,000 in women.

  15. WeedHead says:

    i just got some snorted 2 lines and its like speed for me so far…

  16. Mike Dodds says:

    The following was sent to one of the official drug advisory bodies; no reply to date.

    I am approaching 70 years of age and have been using Mephedrone since October 2009. I am a retired lecturer but still lecture part-time. During the late afternoons I did – and still do – feel intellectually tired and sought a short-term uplift from the legally available sources. None of these helped and therefore a trawl of the internet suggest that Mephedrone might have a similar effect to stimulant cocaine which I used occasionally in my youth. Sampling Mephedrone it became obvious to me that this was not the case. Having bought legally from an online supplier I experimented carefully with the crystalline powder. A measured does of 100 mgs seemed to be more a relaxing experience than anything approaching elation. I continued this dosage daily, usually around 5.30. The relaxing effects tended to last approximately one hour with no noticeable side effects and therefore I bought another 5 gram supply. The experiments over the new year continued with increasing the dosage to 150 mgs, this taken in 3 separate ‘lines’ 30 minutes apart taken nasally. This kept the moderate effects for some 3 hours. Having taken Mephedrone for the months from October – December 2009 the only noticeable effect to my general well being was a loss of appetite and a loss of desire for my regular evening wine which had been at an approximate level of a bottle and half of white 11% wine per day.

    The threat of a ban on Mephedrone prompted a final order. This will probably last until the end of the coming October. Having followed the press and medical coverage of this drug I can only comment on the widespread misinformation that surrounds this drug. I was able to contact the National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths
    International Centre for Drug Policy, St George’s, University of London to enquire on the reported deaths attributed to Mephedrone use. The toxicology department at that time, May this year, had no definitive evidence that Mephedrone had been a primary cause of any of the reported deaths attributed to Mephedrone and to this date none have so far been confirmed.

    Having taken Mephedrone now for some 9 months every day with a dose on 60/100 mgs split into 3 lines taken over a 90 minute period I can report no adverse effects. The issue with Mephedrone for me is dosage: I would imagine that a gram of Mephedrone taken by an individual over, say and an hour period, would be as harmful as drinking half a bottle of Vodka in the same time: devastating if one is new to both substances. In October 2009 I weighed 83 kilos, today I weigh 70 kilos; I eat less but healthily with smaller portions. I drink less, down from 1 and a half bottles of wine a day to less than half a bottle. My general lifestyle includes the Gym 4 times a week and regular checks at my GP indicates stable blood pressure and general good health. It remains to be seen how I will react when the Mephedrone finally runs out but there is definitely no indication from my own physiology that this is anyway for me addictive. I understand that each individual reacts differently to different drugs but I trust that your department can at least have some first hand experiences of users of substances when they are introduce into the market place.

    If you need to take this further do let me know. I, like most working within the pharmacology field, do not know the long term effects of drugs both legal and illegal but it is vital that any new drug is thoroughly investigated and I am willing to help in this in any way I can to be objective when looking at an area which won’t go away. One thing that the Mephedrone ban will promote is the illegal supply chain which inevitably will lead to it to be cut with other substances and in the hands of criminal gangs. Of course further research may lead to Mephedrone being seen as a benefit to health, especially if it can be proved to help in obesity and alcohol related problems.

    – Unfortunately I still get tired in the late afternoons.

  17. pikachoo says:

    What does it take away from your body..say if i wanted to go on 2 day binge, what could I do before I use it to make my expierence last longer and not deprive my body??

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