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Mephedrone Abuse Guide: Symptoms, Treatment & More

Mephedrone is a psychoactive drug that enhances physical and mental function. It is a completely recreational drug, serving no legitimate medical purpose.

Its abuse can lead to serious issues, such as circulatory problems, panic attacks, hallucinations, and aggression. Long-term abuse leads to more severe concerns.

Treatment is available for those who have been abusing mephedrone. Evidence-based treatment can help people reach full recovery.

What Is Mephedrone?

Mephedrone, also known as bath salts, white magic, M-CAT, drone and meow meow, is an entactogenic (meaning to “produce a touching within”) stimulant that has effects comparative to ecstasy. The drug works to increase an individual’s sociability, talkativeness, friendliness, and empathy.

Mephedrone is synthetic, but many have likened its effects to cathinones found in the khat plant, which is indigenous to Africa. The people there use the roots of the plant as a stimulant. Mephedrone is technically classified as a synthetic cathinone.

Because mephedrone has no applicable medicinal qualities, it is classified as a Schedule I drug. This means it is illegal to possess mephedrone unless authorized by a government agency.

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Typically, mephedrone comes in powder and tablet form. Sometimes, it is packaged into a substance known as bath salts. This substance is usually produced in laboratories in the United States or by private companies abroad.

It is primarily taken by snorting, swallowing, or injecting it. Each method varies in how quickly the drug takes effect.

Effects

Mephedrone is used because it enhances the following:

  • Alertness
  • Euphoria
  • Excitement
  • The urge to talk
  • Openness
  • Sex drive

Many claim that taking mephedrone makes them feel more confident, social, and alert.

Those who use mephedrone also report that the effects begin to ebb after about an hour or so, making it a relatively short-lived high. Users describe its effects as a mix between ecstasy and cocaine.

Adverse side effects reported in a survey of those who use mephedrone include:

  • Excessive sweating (reported by 67 percent of users)
  • Headaches (reported by 51 percent of users)
  • Heart palpitations (reported by 43 percent of users)
  • Nausea (reported by 27 percent of users)
  • Bluish or cold fingers (reported by 15 percent of users)

Other side effects that were reported include:

  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Tremors
  • Anxiety
  • Muscle clenching
  • Lack of an appetite
  • Chest pain
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • Problems urinating
  • Fluctuations in body temperature

Who Abuses Bath Salts?

Mephedrone is known as a “designer drug,” and it experienced a spike in popularity in late 2010.

According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, bath salts abuse is on the rise.

The study retroactively analyzed data provided by the National Poison Data System between November 2010 and November 2011. It looked for cases that were specifically related to bath salts or other synthetic stimulants.

In one year, 1,633 individuals reported an adverse reaction to bath salts. Because only a small fraction of the population abusing bath salts report to an emergency room, actual use rates are likely much higher.

The study found that the majority (67.9 percent) of bath salt users were male.

The most common clinical symptoms reported were as follows (note that many symptoms overlap):

  • Agitation: 62 percent
  • Tachycardia (heart rate that exceeds the normal resting rate): 55 percent
  • Hallucinations: 32 percent
  • Death: 0.6 percent

Older generations were more likely to experience a “major medical outcome,” and they were also more likely to inject the drug.

In the study, 88 percent of users reported abusing the drug purposefully for its euphoric effects. Many experts feel that people turn to these drugs as a way to escape from reality and self-medicate trauma that they do not know how to deal with.

Risks of Use

Because mephedrone has no medicinal application, it should not be taken under any circumstances.

It has not been on the market long, so there aren’t a lot of studies surrounding its use. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information described the legal status of bath salts and outlined short-term and long-term effects of use based on the available data.

The following are short-term risks of using bath salts and mephedrone:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Chest pains
  • Agitation
  • Insomnia
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increased alertness and awareness
  • Anxiety
  • Nosebleeds

Some of the more mild effects are usually only temporary.

Use can also result in long-term harm that includes the following:

  • Circulatory problems
  • Kidney failure
  • Seizures
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle damage
  • Loss of bowel control
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Aggression
  • Severe paranoia
  • Panic attacks
  • Sharp increase in body temperature

Signs of Abuse

If you suspect someone is abusing mephedrone, look for these signs:

  • Being overly affectionate
  • High or euphoric feelings
  • Dilated pupils
  • Being overly concerned with the feelings of others
  • Speaking very rapidly or appearing to have rapid thoughts, a result of the stimulating aspect of the drug
  • Increased energy levels
  • Short attention span
  • Trouble breathing
  • Shaky vision
  • Overheating easily
  • Headaches
  • Irregular heartbeat

Mephedrone is characterized by a very intense but very short high. Some of the effects may only last about 10 minutes. Because of this, the risk for dependency is high, as the resulting quick crash can urge many users to try to get more mephedrone so that they can escape the symptoms more rapidly.

Because of the natural characteristics of mephedrone, those who abuse it are at a high risk of overdosing. That is why it is important to seek treatment for mephedrone addiction as soon as possible.

Mephedrone Addiction Treatment

An article from The Guardian reported that up to a third of club-going mephedrone users may have developed an addiction to the drug. This counters the idea that this drug is less harmful than other common stimulants like cocaine.

Addiction to mephedrone is treated similarly to addiction to other stimulants. It will often begin with a withdrawal phase if the person has been chronically using the drug.

It is best to go through withdrawal under the supervision and guidance of a professional at a medical detox center. While currently there are no medications approved to help with mephedrone withdrawal specifically, other medications may be used to alleviate certain withdrawal symptoms, such as benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and antipsychotic medicines.

Behavioral therapy makes up the foundation of addiction treatment. This will usually take place in both individual and group sessions, and it will aim to identify and address the issues that contribute to substance abuse.

As with all addictions, there is no cure for mephedrone abuse. But with comprehensive treatment, people can gain a strong foothold in recovery, helping them to maintain sobriety for the long term.

Sources

(December 2018) What is mephedrone and what does it do? Medical News Today. from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/184233.php

(September 2013) A 9-state analysis of designer stimulant, "bath salt," hospital visits reported to poison control centers. National Center for Biotechnology Information. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23540815

(2018) Synthetic Cathinones (‘Bath Salts’). National Center for Biotechnology Information. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3474442/

(November 2011) Third of clubbers who take mephedrone may be addicted, survey found. The Guardian. from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2011/nov/10/third-clubbers-mephedrone-addicted

(January 2018) Previous adult attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder symptoms and risk of dementia with Lewy bodies: a case-control study. from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20491888

(May 2017) FastFacts – Attention Hyperactivity Disorder. from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/adhd.htm

(January 2018) Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/principles-effective-treatment

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