Drugs and the Law
Mephedrone is a controlled drug
The government announced that it is has banned mephedrone and related cathinones under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
It is controlled as a Class B drug from 16th April 2010, meaning that it will be illegal to be sold and illegal to possess. The government has also placed an immediate ban on the importation of these substances into the country. Drugs are classified according to the harm they cause, and as government drug experts say that mephedrone is similar to amphetamines (speed) it should be classified as a class B drug, meaning that there will be a maximum penalty of 5 years in jail and an unlimited fine for possession and 14 years and unlimited fine for supply. Mephedrone belongs to a group of drugs known as cathinones which are stimulants similar to amphetamine-type compounds, but they can also have ecstasy-like effects. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, who advise the government on these issues have said that mephedrone and the related cathinones are likely to be harmful to users.
What is it?
Mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone) is a stimulant which is closely chemically related to amphetamines. Users report that mephedrone produces a similar experience to drugs like amphetamines, ecstasy or cocaine. Mephedrone is a white, off-white or yellowish powder which is usually snorted, but can also be swallowed in bombs (wraps of paper) and may also appear in pill or capsule form.
Mephedrone is probably the most well known of a group of drugs derived from cathinone (the same chemical found in the plant called khat) although two other compounds are also increasingly recognised on the market. These are methadrone and methylone. The effects of methadrone are said to be broadly similar to mephedrone, although methylone is said to give the user an experience more closely related to taking ecstasy .
Other less common compounds from the cathinone family that may be used recreationally include flephedrone (4-FMC), bromomethcathinone ( 4-BMC), ethylone (MDEC), and buphedrone and it is possible that other compounds are in circulation.
Alan Johnson said:
"I am determined to act swiftly on the ACMD’s advice and will now seek cross-party support to ban mephedrone and its related compounds as soon as possible."
"Mephedrone and its related substances have been shown to be dangerous and harmful, but it is right we waited for full scientific advice so we can take action that stops organised criminals and dealers tweaking substances to get around the law."
The move comes after advice from the chair of the ACMD that mephedrone and the family of cathinone derivatives are dangerous drugs and should be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as Class B.
The ACMD expressed concern about the harms it can have on the health and wellbeing of users. They cited evidence that mephedrone consumption can cause hallucinations, blood circulation problems, anxiety, paranoia, fits and delusions.
Mephedrone is currently sold labelled as ‘plant food’ or as ‘bath salts’ in an attempt to bypass existing legislation. The new legislation will be by way of a include generic definition to prevent suppliers switching to new versions of the substance.
Chair of the ACMD Professor, Les Iversen said:
"The advice we have provided to government is generic legislation encompassing a wide range of cathinone derivatives. This is, as far as we are aware, a world-first for the cathinones. By proposing this chemically complex legislation, we expect that our drug laws will be more robust and more difficult for chemists to develop new substances to flout the law."
Additionally, the government is taking immediate action to control mephedrone’s availability and reduce its harm by:
• banning importations
• targeting head shops
• informing young people
• warning suppliers
• issuing health warnings
In 2009, the ACMD investigated ‘legal highs’; following the council’s advice, synthetic cannabionids and GBL and BZP were banned last December.