Mephedrone, also known as 4-methyl methcathinone (4-MMC) or 4-methyl ephedrone, is a synthetic stimulant drug of the amphetamine and cathinone classes. Slang names include drone, M-CAT, White Magic and meow meow. It is chemically similar to the cathinone compounds found in the khat plant of eastern Africa. It comes in the form of tablets or a powder, which users can swallow, snort or inject, producing similar effects to MDMA, amphetamines and cocaine.
In addition to its stimulant effects, mephedrone produces side effects, of which bruxism is the most common. The metabolism of mephedrone has been studied in rats and humans and the metabolites can be detected in urine after usage.
Mephedrone was first synthesised in 1929, but did not become widely known until it was rediscovered in 1999/2000 at which point it was legal to produce and possess in many countries. By 2000, mephedrone was reported to be available for sale on the internet, by 2008 law enforcement agencies had become aware of the compound, and by 2010, it had been reported in most of Europe, becoming particularly prevalent in the United Kingdom. Mephedrone was first made illegal in Israel in 2008, followed by Sweden later that year. In 2010, it was made illegal in many European countries and in December 2010, the EU ruled it illegal. In Australia, New Zealand and the United States, it is considered an analog of other illegal drugs and can be controlled by laws similar to the US Federal Analog Act. In September 2011, the US temporarily classified mephedrone as a Schedule I drug, effective October 2011. This classification was made permanent in July 2012 with the passage of the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act (SDAPA).
Based on the analysis of rat and human urine by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, mephedrone is thought to be metabolised by three phase 1 pathways. It can be demethylated to the primary amine (producing compounds 2, 3 and 5), the ketone group can be reduced (producing 3) or the tolyl group can be oxidised (producing 6). Both 5 and 6 are thought to be further metabolised by conjugation to the glucuronide and sulfate derivatives. Knowledge of the primary routes of metabolism should allow the intake of mephedrone to be confirmed by drug tests, as well as more accurate determination of the causes of side effects and potential for toxicity
Proposed scheme for the metabolism of mephedrone (1) based on the analysis of rat and human urine
Users have reported that mephedrone causes euphoria, stimulation, an enhanced appreciation for music, an elevated mood, decreased hostility, improved mental function and mild sexual stimulation; these effects are similar to the effects of cocaine, amphetamines and MDMA, and last different amounts of time depending on the way the drug is taken. Of 70 Dutch users of mephedrone, 58 described it as an overall pleasant experience and 12 described it as an unpleasant experience. In a survey of UK users who had previously taken cocaine, most users found it produced a better-quality and longer-lasting high and was less addictive. The users were also asked to compare the “risk”, and they answered that it was equal. A study of users in Northern Ireland found they did not equate the fact that mephedrone was legal with it being safe to use. This was contrary to another study in New Zealand, where users of benzylpiperazine thought that because it was legal, it was safe.
Mephedrone can come in the form of capsules, tablets or white powder that users may swallow, snort, inject, smoke or use rectally.:12 When taken orally, users reported they could feel the effects within 15–45 minutes; when snorted, the effects were felt within minutes and peaked within half an hour. The effects last for between two and three hours when taken orally or nasally, but only half an hour if taken intravenously.:12 It is sometimes sold mixed with methylone in a product called bubbles in the UK and also mixed with other cathinones, including ethcathinone, butylone, fluoromethcathinone and methedrone.:9
One published study that analysed samples of mephedrone bought using the internet in the UK in 2010 found it was racemic (a mixture of both stereoisomers) and of high purity. An unpublished study of six samples also ordered off the internet in the UK in 2010 found they contained very few organic impurities. Four products sold in Irish head shops were tested in 2010 and were found to contain between 82% and 14% mephedrone, with some products containing benzocaine and caffeine. Continue Reading...