Surge in mephedrone abuse sounds alarms about latest legal high
The synthetic amphetamine mephedrone rose to prominence in Europe as a legal high that mimicked methamphetamine, cocaine or ecstasy. After being linked to numerous deaths, mephedrone was banned throughout the European Union in December. Primarily sold over the Internet as bath salts or plant food, mephedrone is emerging as a drug abuse problem in the U.S.
Mephedrone: deadly by any other name
Mephedrone is catching on as the latest legal high in the U.S. Mephedrone is readily available online, but recently it has been seen in gas stations and convenience stores marketed under such brands as “Ivory Wave,” “Ocean,” “Cloud 9” and “White Lightening,” to name just a few. The mephedrone packs are usually labeled as bath salts and bear the warning “not for human consumption.” Mephedrone users commonly snort the powder, but some ingest, inject or smoke the drug.
Based on the results of mephedrone abuse in the U.K., where the drug has been linked to 37 deaths in Britain and Ireland, this legal high is far from harmless. Mephedrone users are looking for a laid back buzz but often get paranoia, hallucinations and extreme hostility instead. Police report violent encounters with suspects high on mephedrone. Louisiana leads the U.S. in reported mephedrone cases. Since September, hospitals there have treated 84 mephedrone cases for tachycardia (irregular heart beat), hypertension, agitation, chest pain, headache and suicidal thoughts. The Louisiana Poison Center gets four to five mephedrone-related calls a day.
Mephedrone habit hard to break
Mephedrone’s days as a legal high may be numbered, but abuse of the drug is likely to continue. A study of mephedrone users published in the British medical journal Lancet found that nine months after the drug was banned, it is still readily available. A majority of mephedrone users continued to use the drug, obtaining it from street dealers at twice the price. The authors of the study predicted that as an illegal drug, mephedrone would become even more dangerous as the integrity of its manufacture becomes compromised.