So what's all the fuss about mephedrone? And is it really a plant food? Is it illegal?
If you want to know more, then you'll find all the facts here!
Mephedrone is a powerful stimulant and is part of the cathinone family, a group of drugs that are closely related to the amphetamines – including amphetamine itself (often called 'speed') and methamphetamine.
It is often called 'Meow Meow' but can also be referred to as 4-MMC, Bounce, Bubble, Charge, Drone, M-Cat, M-Dog, MC, Meph, Miaow and White Magic.
Mephedrone can be found as a fine white, off-white or a yellowish powder. It was originally sold over the internet as a 'legal' alternative to drugs like speed, ecstasy and cocaine.
Because it was illegal to sell the compound for human consumption, dealers began saying that the mephedrone they were selling was plant food or a bath salt and not for human consumption, but this was just to get round the law.
On average a gram of mephedrone costs around £10.
Mephedrone is usually snorted like cocaine or is wrapped in cigarette paper and swallowed ('bombing' is a slang name used for this). It can also be found as capsules and pills and can be smoked. In rare cases mephedrone has been injected.
Injecting mephedrone, and sharing injecting equipment including needles and syringes, runs the risk of the person injecting catching or spreading a virus, such as HIV or hepatitis C. There is also the risk that veins may be damaged and that something nasty will develop, such as an abscess or a clot.
Mephedrone is often described as a mix between amphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine. The effects of mephedrone can last for up to two to three hours, but this can vary.
Other effects that people have reported include heart palpitations, insomnia, loss of short-term memory, vertigo (a form of dizziness), grinding of teeth, sweating and uncomfortable changes in body temperature.
Young people on Wirral are also commenting that they feel taking mephedrone is making them aggressive.
Taking mephedrone does involve risks – and the dangers are becoming clearer as more reports emerge. Here's what we know:
There is very little evidence about mephedrone and what long-term effects it has, and this in itself is a risk.
Mephedrone is sometimes mixed or cut with other substances, such as caffeine. In some cases, the powder people buy from a dealer contains no mephedrone at all!
The simple answer is – yes – you can get addicted to mephedrone. Reports say that mephedrone use can lead to a strong psychological dependence on the drug, and can lead to the user craving – and taking – increasing amounts.
This kind of behaviour increases all of the above risks to your health. Some users say that once they have started a mephedrone session, they find it very difficult to stop until they've used their entire supply - this is sometimes called 'fiending'.
If the Police catch you with mephedrone, they'll always take some action. This could include a formal caution, arrest and prosecution.
A conviction for a drug-related offence could have a serious impact. It can stop you visiting certain countries – for example the United States – and limit the types of jobs you can apply for.
Like drinking and driving, driving when high is illegal - and you can still be unfit to drive the day after using mephedrone. You can get a heavy fine, be disqualified from driving or even go to prison.
Allowing other people to use drugs in your house or any other premises is illegal. If the police catch someone using drugs in a club they can prosecute the landlord, club owner or person holding the party.
Teenwirral caught up with a teenager on Wirral who has recently stopped taking mephedrone to ask them some questions and find out what it's all been like for them.
|Why did you start taking it?
I started using mkat through boredom, curiosity, because my mates did and the party culture.
|Did you think it was safe?
Yes, because after trying it once I thought I would be fine. My mates had also taken it before and reassured me I would be fine.
I started using it once, maybe twice a week and after only a short period of time I was taking it four plus times per week and I was getting into debt because I was using so much. I was depressed and lonely and skint, in a vicious cycle I could not get out of. I was also using alcohol every night.
|How hard was it to stop taking it?
Once I had identified my behaviour towards substances, I was able to understand when my drugs worker explained the difference between habit and addiction, and once I realised I had a choice to stop I did. The hardest part was admitting I needed help and that I actually did have a problem, you always think that you are in control not the drugs and that's not the case with mkat, it quickly changes. I have been off mkat for 6 weeks now and my life has completely changed and I feel so happy. I'm back in control of my life, I'm more confident and I don't think people look at me with disgust anymore. I even have a new hobby - I go the gym every day with a free gym pass I obtained.
|How do you feel about it all now?
I feel it's disgusting and that the life you have to lead when you are taking drugs is very sad and lonely - you think you have friends but you don't, because you have all only got one thing in common, and once that's gone they're gone. I know I won't go back to taking drugs because my life is back on track - I'm going to college and I've just got my own flat and I'm 19.
|What would you say to another young person who's thinking about trying it?
I'd say don't start because the feeling is addictive. To begin with, it makes you feel warm and fuzzy and safe, but that quickly changes. The thing is with mkat, it's not just once, you want more and more. I would encourage anyone who is using it or thinking of trying it to talk to someone who can help and advise so they don't lose control.
If you, or a friend, need some help with drugs, there are plenty of places you can turn.