Mephedrone also known as “m-cat” or “miaow-miaow” is a synthetic stimulant drug that has effects similar to amphetamines and ecstasy. Mephedrone use has spread fast in UK since it emerged at a pop festival on the Isle of Wight in July last year.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) reported that the use of this drug may cause constriction of blood vessels causing bluing of fingers, high rise of blood pressure and pulse rates (to over 100 beats per minute). This drug can also cause hallucinations, fever, sleeplessness, and skin rash, dilated pupils of the eyes, blurry vision, dizziness, and loss of appetite, dry mouth and goosebumps. Like Ecstasy, mephedrone can also cause feelings of empathy and increased sociability.
At present youngsters in schools are also affected with problem of this drug use. Although no concrete reports of addiction are present there is a growing risk of stealing for supporting this habit among school children. Long term harm caused by this drug is not yet known.
Currently possession and buying this drug is legal but it is illegal to sell, supply or advertise the powder for human consumption. Mephedrone is already banned in Israel, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
In a recent development Home Secretary Alan Johnson proposed a ban of this substance within weeks. The decision was made after the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) recommended they be classified as Class B drugs. It is illegal to possess or supply Class B drugs, including cannabis and amphetamine sulphate carrying a maximum sentence of five years for possession or 14 years for supply.
This decision was also based on the fact that there have been at least four deaths in UK related to mephedrone use. Although experts do not agree that mephedrone is directly related to these deaths there have been at least 18 deaths in UK implicating cathinones – which are a group of drugs in which mephedrone falls. This has been revealed by the ACMD on Friday.
Mr. Johnson plans to introduce the legislation in the House on Tuesday and hopes for a unanimous support. He added that import of mephedrone and the chemical compounds associated with it have been banned with immediate effect and the UK Border Agency instructed to seize any shipments.
Mr Johnson said: "As a result of the council's swift advice, I am introducing legislation to ban not just mephedrone and other cathinones but also to enshrine in law a generic definition so that, as with synthetic cannabinoids, we can be in the forefront of dealing with this whole family of drugs….This will stop unscrupulous manufacturers and others peddling different but similarly harmful drugs."
The Association of Chief Police Officers lead on drugs Chief Constable Tim Hollis in response to this statement said that this announcement "sends out a clear message to young people that this is a dangerous and harmful drug and should not be taken…It will also serve to suppress sales and provide police with enforcement powers that will allow us to target those dealing in this drug."
Conservatives applauded this effort and hoped that this move may pave the way for Theban of other so called “legal highs”.
Harry Shapiro from the charity DrugScope said: "As it appears that there is a lot of mephedrone in circulation, users and dealers will probably use up their existing supplies over the coming months...Legislation has a role, but primarily the focus should be on prevention, education and tackling drug use as a public health issue."
Professor Iversen, interim chair of the council, said "This drug is being taken by young people, in particular those who have never taken illicit drugs, in the belief that it is legal. Our message must be: it is not safe and it is not legal."
A slight hitch in the procedure occurred with the last minute resignation of Dr Polly Taylor from the ACMD.
In her resignation letter, Dr Taylor told the home secretary: "I feel that there is little more we can do to describe the importance of ensuring that advice is not subjected to a desire to please ministers or the mood of the day's press."
Lib Dem science spokesman Dr Evan Harris said a ban would have to wait until the council was "legally constituted" under the terms set out in the Misuse of Drugs Act. According to the law the ban of any drug needs to be approved by the ACMD. But a spokesman from the Home Office said: "Based on its current formation the ACMD is still able to fulfill its statutory role and provide advice on mephedrone today on which we can act."
On the darker side, as the announcement was made drug peddlers were already concentrating on stockpiling the drug anticipating profits as the drug gets banned and process soar.