Mephedrone addiction is a growing problem associated with chronic use of the drug mephedrone. Not to be confused with the heroin substitute, methadone, mephedrone (also known as 4-methylmethcathinone, 4-MMC, “MCAT”, “bubbles”, “meow meow” or “miaow miaow”) is usually sold as a white, off-white or yellow powder or crystals. Users take mephedrone by snorting it, swallowing “bombs” (wraps of paper), or in pill or capsule form. Repeated use can lead to mephedrone addiction which, as with any other drug addiction, may require professional treatment.
This article on mephedrone drug addiction treatment is written by Kathryn Senior, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
How does it start?
Until recently, it was legal to buy and sell mephedrone, which was marketed as a plant fertiliser, even though it has no use as such. The only condition was that the mephedrone sold should not be intended for human consumption. Many people have started abusing the substance and four people in Britain recently died as a direct result of mephedrone use, which led to it being made a Class B illegal drug in the UK.
As a previously “legal high”, mephedrone has become the fourth most popular street drug in Britain due to the false belief that it is safer and more pure than illegal drugs. However, even legal chemicals that have not been produced for human consumption do not undergo the same kind of medical testing as pharmaceutical grade medical products, and so the side effects and long-term risks associated with substances such as mephedrone, and the consequences of mephedrone addiction, are often unknown. As with all drug addictions, however, the road to mephedrone addiction begins with trying it out.
People taking mephedrone may expect to experience effects similar to those induced by amphetamines, ecstasy or cocaine. The desired effects include:
- Loss of inhibitions
- Enhanced social interaction
These effects can lead to repeated mephedrone use and eventually, mephedrone addiction. This follows the usual pattern of addiction; over time more drug needs to be taken to achieve the same effects and, after a while, the person who is addicted suffers serious withdrawal symptoms if they don’t take regular fixes.
The signs of addiction
Not much is known about mephedrone addiction, but the signs of mephedrone addiction are likely to be similar to those of addiction to other drugs. Early signs of drug addiction include mood swings, sleepiness or tiredness, agitation and paranoia. During later stages of addiction, signs can include depression, distraction, psychosis and a general reduction in the ability to function normally, such as performing normal tasks, paying bills, or holding down a job.
What are the side effects of mephedrone addiction?
The short-term side effects of mephedrone use include:
- A racing heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Mood swings
- Severe pain
- Nose bleeds
- Rashes or purple skin
Regular mephedrone users also report headaches, heart palpitations, nausea and cold or blue fingers.The side-effects of mephedrone use can last for several weeks.
As mephedrone has only been used as a street drug for a short time, the long-term effects of mephedrone addiction are not yet fully understood, but they are thought to include mania, hallucinations and agitation. Long-term use may also lead to impotence, based on its similarity to the drug cathinone, which is known to have this effect. It is not yet known whether mephedrone addiction is a chemical or psychological addiction, so several treatment approaches are needed to see which has the best results in different people.
Can this be treated?
As mephedrone is a relatively new drug, not much is known about the most effective way of treating mephedrone addiction. Interventions such as drug counselling might be useful, and specialist interventions similar to those used with alcohol addiction or other drug dependence could also be adapted to treat mephedrone addiction. This may include supervised withdrawal in a rehabilitation centre and medical management of the side-effects of withdrawal.
Some types of drug addiction may also be helped using alternative methods such as acupuncture of hypnosis. However, since little is known about the long-term use of mephedrone or mephedrone addiction, it is advisable to seek medical advice before embarking on self-help strategies or going “cold turkey”.
As drug abuse can often escalate to include the use of multiple different substances (“uppers” and “downers”), mephedrone addiction can sometimes occur alongside addiction to other substances, including methadone. Treatment of mephedrone addiction may, therefore, need to be carried out in conjunction with withdrawal from other substances.
Seeking help for mephedrone addiction is a personal choice and all avenues should be thoroughly explored before embarking on a treatment plan.