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Dangers of mephedrone

Mephedrone, is very popular among young people in the UK. This is concerning, as new studies indicate that mephedrone users run the risk of developing a dependency to the drug that is comparable to cocaine or other stimulants. Mephedrone is not the first name that comes to mind when considering recreational drugs, but over the years, its popularity has tripled among young people between the ages of 16 and 24. Supporters for the drug have suggested that mephedrone does not have the same harmful profile as other drugs such as cocaine. However, the results of two recent studies clearly suggest that a third of the people taking it are showing signs of drug dependence.

An illegal drug since April 2010

Mephedrone has only relatively recently been made an illegal drug. Up until April 2010, it was classified as a class B drug. It was available on the high street, and used to gain what are known to users as 'legal highs'. Popular with young clubbers in their late teens and early twenties, mephedrone or 'Meow Meow' or 'M-Cat' as it is known on the streets, is formed from an extract of the khat plant found in Africa. In West Africa, it is chewed to receive an amphetamine-like high. In the UK, it is accessible in capsules, tablets or white powder and is reported to give stimulant and psychedelic effects.

Negative effects of mephedrone

The effects of the drug are very much like those experienced after taking ecstasy. Negative effects could be paranoia, anxiety, over-stimulation of the heart, sweating, chills, and effects on the nervous system, including light-headedness and fits. This is in addition to, or instead of, the 'high' effects. This new study suggests the extra danger of dependence.

Mephedrone studies suggest drug dependence

The first study took place at the Institute of Psychiatry at Kings College London and used telephone interviewing. It covered all aspects of drug use, such as:

  • Increased tolerance
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Increased consumption within set time periods
  • Failed attempts to cut back or give up
  • Giving up social, professional and recreational activities because of it
  • Continuing to take it despite associated health problems

When the results were analysed, it was found that 30% of the users interviewed met the accepted criterion for drug dependence.

A separate online survey, led by Dr Winstock at the Australian Professional Society, supported the UK findings further. The researchers found hat 25% of mephedrone users scored at least three out of six on the same dependency scale. This compared with 25% for ecstasy and 24% for cocaine.

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