January 4th, 2024
Mephedrone, also known colloquially as ‘Meow Meow’ or ‘M-Cat,’ seemed to appear from nowhere on British streets at the start of the 2000s. A synthetic stimulant, similar to amphetamines and ecstasy, mephedrone soon gained notoriety for its widespread use, particularly among club-goers and party enthusiasts, who were able to buy it legally online. However, the sudden rise of mephedrone soon brought to light its potential for addiction and harm, and this quickly resulted in its ban. However, mephedrone addiction and abuse are still a serious issue in the UK, and users must be under no illusions about the dangers posed by this former “legal high”.
What is mephedrone?
Mephedrone, chemically known as 4-methyl methcathinone (4-MMC), is a synthetic stimulant drug of the amphetamine and cathinone classes. Mephedrone produces effects similar to ecstasy and cocaine combined, affecting the brain by increasing the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. This results in heightened mood, increased energy, euphoria, and general well-being. However, these are often accompanied by various side effects like increased heart rate, high blood pressure and, in some cases, severe anxiety, hallucinations and paranoia.
What is mephedrone addiction?
Mephedrone addiction is a form of legal high addiction marked by a compulsive need to use the drug despite being aware of its adverse consequences. Mephedrone addiction develops through incremental stages, beginning with experimental or recreational use that can quickly escalate to regular use. As tolerance to the drug’s effects builds (a process which can happen very quickly with mephedrone), users often find themselves consuming higher doses to achieve the same euphoric effect, leading to physical and psychological dependency. This dependency is characterised by a strong craving for mephedrone, difficulty in controlling its use and withdrawal symptoms when mephedrone use is reduced or stopped.
What are the underlying causes of mephedrone addiction?
Mephedrone addiction can arise from a variety of causes, each contributing to the likelihood of a person becoming dependent. Understanding these causes can help in creating effective prevention and treatment strategies:
People dealing with mental health issues may use mephedrone as a form of self-medication. This use, initially intended to alleviate symptoms of mental disorders or emotional distress, can escalate into a dependency as tolerance to the drug’s effects builds up, and the person becomes reliant on mephedrone to manage mentally.
Accessibility and legal status
Before being classified as illegal, mephedrone was relatively easy to obtain and was falsely perceived as safe due to its legal status as a ‘legal high.’ This accessibility made it a popular choice among users and almost meant that it was cheaper than illegal alternatives like cocaine, meth and ecstasy. All of this contributed to the mephedrone’s widespread abuse and addiction.
Recreational use and experimentation
Curiosity and the pursuit of the drug’s euphoric effects often lead to initial experimentation with mephedrone. Over time, casual or recreational use can evolve into chronic use as the person chases the same effects. This becomes more and more difficult as tolerance grows, which leads to excessive use and eventual mephedrone addiction.
Social and environmental influences
Peer pressure and the desire to fit in can significantly influence a person’s decision to try mephedrone, particularly in social environments where drug use is normalised. For example, if everyone at an early-hours afterparty is taking mephedrone to stay awake and keep the fun going, it can be very difficult to be the only person who abstains.
Lack of awareness
A general lack of awareness or misinformation about the potential risks and addictive nature of mephedrone can cause people to underestimate the dangers associated with its use. This can then lead to experimentation, even by people who think they are being careful by avoiding illegal drugs or ones they perceive to be more harmful.
There may also be a genetic component to mephedrone addiction, and individuals with a family history of substance abuse may have an increased susceptibility.
Understanding these varied causes highlights the need for comprehensive approaches in treatment that address not just mephedrone addiction itself but also the underlying factors.
How to identify Mephedrone addiction signs
Recognising mephedrone addiction signs can be challenging, particularly as mephedrone is not as high profile as other drugs. If you are worried that your mephedrone abuse may have risen to the level of addiction (although any level of use is hazardous), here are some common mephedrone addiction signs:
- Needing more mephedrone to achieve the same effects as before.
- Experiencing physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms when not using mephedrone, such as fatigue, depression, agitation or anxiety.
- Feeling a strong urge or compulsion to use mephedrone even when alone or when there is no social event to enhance.
- Inability to reduce or control the amount and frequency of mephedrone use even if you want to.
- Failing to meet responsibilities at work, school or home due to mephedrone use.
- Spending a lot of time and energy obtaining, using and recovering from mephedrone.
- Engaging in dangerous or illegal activities while under the influence or to obtain mephedrone.
- Using mephedrone despite it causes you clear physical, psychological or social problems.
If you recognise these mephedrone addiction signs, you must reach out for professional help as soon as possible.
What are the side effects of mephedrone addiction?
The consequences of mephedrone abuse and addiction are far-reaching, impacting the physical, mental and social aspects of your life. These include:
Physical health consequences
Cardiovascular issues: Mephedrone abuse significantly increases heart rate and blood pressure, leading to cardiovascular strain. This puts chronic users at an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and other heart-related problems.
Neurological damage: The intense stimulation of the nervous system can result in seizures or convulsions, especially at high doses or during withdrawal.
Organ damage: Prolonged use of mephedrone can cause liver and kidney damage due to the toxic effects of the drug. This can lead to long-term health complications, including the risk of organ failure.
Overdose risk: There is a high risk of overdose with mephedrone, which can be fatal. Overdose symptoms include extreme agitation, rapid heart rate, hallucinations and severe hyperthermia.
Mental health effects
Psychiatric symptoms: There is a high risk of overdose with mephedrone, which can be fatal. Overdose symptoms include extreme agitation, rapid heart rate, hallucinations and severe hyperthermia.
Basic cognitive disruption: Chronic mephedrone abuse can also affect cognitive functions, leading to memory issues, difficulty concentrating and impaired decision-making abilities.
Relationship issues: Mephedrone addiction can lead to damaged relationships with family and friends due to changes in behaviour, social withdrawal, neglect of responsibilities and the decision that often accompanies drug use.
Work and academic problems: The effects of mephedrone on cognitive abilities can lead to poor performance at work and school. Regular use or recovery from the effects of mephedrone can also result in frequent absences, affecting academic progress or job stability.
Legal issues: Possession, use and distribution of mephedrone is illegal in the UK and carries heavy legal penalties.
How is mephedrone addiction treated?
Because the underlying causes of addiction are so complex, mephedrone addiction treatment requires a comprehensive, multi-channel approach. UKAT combines three main stages in our treatment programmes, each targeting a different aspect of recovery:
Legal high detox: This is the first crucial step on every recovery journey, as it enables you to overcome physical dependence and begin purging your body of Mephedrone. It involves safely withdrawing from the drug under medical supervision to manage withdrawal symptoms so you can move on to the next stage…
Legal high rehab: This is where all the underlying causes are identified, addressed and resolved. At UKAT, it involves a combination of traditional and holistic therapies to heal your whole person and set you up for lifelong sobriety.
Aftercare: Following rehab, ongoing support through weekly group therapy will help to prevent relapse and sustain your recovery going forward.
Overcome mephedrone addiction today
Beginning the journey to recovery from mephedrone addiction starts with acknowledging the problem and seeking help. With professional care and a supportive environment, UKAT can provide the tools and resources needed to overcome Mephedrone addiction and start a brand new life. If you or a loved one is struggling with Mephedrone addiction, reach out to UKAT today and embark on the path to recovery.
Is mephedrone the same as methadone?
No, while they sound similar, so they are often confused, mephedrone and methadone are not the same. Mephedrone is a synthetic stimulant drug that is known for its euphoric effects similar to ecstasy or cocaine. On the other hand, methadone is a legally prescribed medication used primarily in opioid substitution therapy to treat heroin or other opioid addiction.
I think my loved one is addicted to mephedrone. What should I do?
If you suspect a loved one is addicted to mephedrone, it is crucial to handle the situation with empathy and support. Educate yourself about mephedrone, its effects and risks to understand their challenges better. Approach them with concern and without judgement and encourage open communication. It is important to guide them towards professional help as soon as possible, as mephedrone addiction can be incredibly harmful. Remember, addiction recovery is a complex, difficult process, but your understanding and support can make all the difference.