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Mephedrone - aka MEOW, MCAT, 4MMC, Plant Food

Methadone is a man made (synthetic) drug which has stimulant effects similar to amphetamine.  It is based on compounds found in the khat plant (also a recreational drug) from eastern Africa. 

It is sold in capsules, tablets or as white power and user can swallow snort of inject it to produce a high. Between 2008 and 2010 it became one of the most popular street drugs in the United Kingdom.   It is referred to by its street names of meow meow, miaow miaow, MCAT, meph and bubbles.

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Mephedrone's rise in popularity was linked to its availability.  It was freely available at music festivals, head shops and on the internet. The drug is used by a diverse range of social groups including teenagers, night clubbers, and over 40s with no previous experience of drug use.  Criminologists also believe that the emergence of Mephedrone is related to the decreasing purity of MDMA and cocaine on sale in the UK.

The effects of Mephedrone include euphoria, alertness, excitement and making the user more open and talkative.  Side effects of Mephedrone can include hallucinations, teeth grinding, headaches, heart palpitations, nausea, rashes, anxiety, fits, nosebleeds and delusions.  Concentration can also be decreased  and short term memory can be effected.

BBC News reported that one person who used the drug for 18 months, in the end using it twice a week, had to be admitted to a psychiatric unit after he started experiencing hallucinations, agitation, excitability and mania.  Almost nothing is known about the long term effects of the drug due to the short history of its use.

Mephedrone is a white substance. It is sold most commonly as crystals or a powder, but also in the form of capsules or pills.

Mephedrone can be synthesized by adding 4-methylpropiophenone dissolved in glacial acetic acid to bromine to create an oil fraction of 4'-methyl-2-bromopropiophenone. This is then dissolved in CH2Cl2 and drops of the solution are added to another solution of CH2Cl2 containing methylamine hydrochloride and triethylamine. Hydrochloric acid is then added and the aqueous layer is removed and turned alkaline using sodium hydroxide before the amine is extracted using CH2Cl2. The CH2Cl2 is then evaporated using a vacuum creating an oil which is then dissolved in a non-aqueous ether. HCl gas is then bubbled through the mixture to produce 4-methylmethcathinone hydrochloride.
 


 

Following a number of high profile deaths of young people that were apparently linked to the use of the drug (though it is as yet not clear whether is was the drug or other factors/drugs that were to blame) the Labour government in the UK announced in March 2010 that the drug would be banned under the control substance act with a label of Class B.  Previously the drug had been sold as a plant food not for human consumption and had therefore not been subject to any regulation, control or testing. This clearly was an attempt to avoid regulation and control as it was also openly sold as a legal high.

There is much debate in the country whether banning will have the desired effect of making people safer.  It is speculated illegal dealers will take over selling the drug and cut it with more dangerous and unknown substances increasing potential harm to a user.


 
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