Dangers of Mephedrone

The Government’s official drug advisers will recommend later this month that the “legal high” mephedrone should be banned because of the potential serious risks to public health.  But the drug – a legal stimulant sold as plant food and known as miaow-miaow – will not be formally banned until at least the summer as further consultation is needed on whether it should be a Class A, B or C drug.

Pressure on the Government to outlaw mephedrone intensified yesterday when a post-mortem examination on John Sterling Smith, 46, of Hove, East Sussex, showed he died from mephedrone poisoning. His family said they were stunned and called for a ban. Results of toxicology tests released last night blamed mephedrone for his fatal cardiac arrest.  A Sussex Police spokeswoman said that Mr Smith collapsed at a party in Hove in the early hours of February 7. “Two men, aged 35 and 40, both from Brighton, were arrested on suspicion of supplying Class A drugs and released on police bail until May 5 pending further inquiries,” she said.

Headteachers called yesterday for action on the drug, which has been linked with at least five deaths.  Louis Wainwright, 18, and Nicholas Smith, 19, from Scunthorpe, died after taking mephedrone, which can be bought for £4 and is also known as “M-cat”. Both teenagers had been drinking alcohol and police said last night that they may have taken the heroin substitute methadone too.  There have been two other deaths in Britain linked to mephedrone, which is illegal in countries including Norway, Germany and Finland.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs at present lacks sufficient members to make a formal recommendation, but the appointments process is being brought forward to next week to get over the legal problem. A spokesman said: “The council has been looking at the dangers of mephedrone and related cathinone compounds, as a priority. The ACMD held an evidence-gathering meeting on February 22 and continues to carefully work on considerations with a view to providing advice to ministers on March 29.”

Alan Campbell, a junior Home Office minister, said: “We are determined to act swiftly but it is important we consider independent expert advice to stop organised criminals exploiting loopholes by simply switching to a different but similar compound.”  The Home Office denied that the sacking of Professor David Nutt, former chairman of the council, and subsequent resignations of key members of the organisation had led to “inordinate” delays in considering a ban.

Professor Nutt warned yesterday against a hasty reaction, saying a ban had to be based on “sound science”.

Tim Hollis, the Association of Police Chief Constables’ spokesman on drugs, said a ban would enable police to act against those possessing and supplying the drug. He spoke as Mike Stewart, head of Westlands School in Torquay, Devon, said teachers were in the absurd position of having to hand back packages of the drug seized in lessons.  Side-effects of mephadrone include high blood pressure, a burning throat, nose bleeds and purple joints.

Source:   Times online 18th March 2010

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