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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 60100 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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