News archive 2010
Experts call for urgent guidance on mephedrone24 Mar 2010, PR 65/10
Experts from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's, have called for urgent educational and harm reduction guidance on mephedrone, in an Editorial published in the British Medical Journal today.
'The recent deaths of two young men who are thought to have taken mephedrone (also known as Miaow, 4-MMC, Meph and TopCat) have prompted calls for the drug to be banned' said Dr Adam Winstock, Senior Lecturer in Addiction Psychiatry. 'However unlike other stimulant drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy, its toxicity, metabolism and long term consequences are still largely unknown' he continues.
The authors cite mephedrone’s effects to include euphoria, increased energy, feelings of empathy, sweating, rapid heart beat (tachycardia), headache and teeth grinding. Also, there may be an increase in libido which could lead to risky sexual behaviour. In the days after use, typical comedown symptoms such as lethargy and low mood are common.
Dr Winstock adds: 'Mephedrone is highly likely to be used along with other stimulant drugs or alcohol that moderate or enhance its effects and this may contribute to an increased risk of adverse effects. People with a history of mental health or heart problems, especially those on medication, are likely to be at greatest risk of serious harm from the drug.'
The authors advise common sense be applied if taking the drug such as avoiding regular use to prevent developing tolerance; not using the drug in combination with other stimulants or large amounts of alcohol and other depressants; not injecting the drug; remaining well hydrated when using the drug; and avoiding becoming overheated.
It is likely that the UK government will move to control the manufacture, distribution and possession of mephedrone but the authors question whether controlling it under the current provisions of the Misuse of Drugs Act is the best public health response.
Dr Winstock warns: 'Recent history suggests that manufacturers will merely turn their attention to the nearest effective but unsanctioned alternative substance. Unfortunately, the list of potential synthetic psychoactive compounds is dauntingly long.'
The Editorial can be viewed here: http://www.bmj.com/cgi/doi/10.1136/bmj.c1605
Notes to editors
King's College London
King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher Education 2009) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has nearly 23,000 students (of whom more than 8,600 are graduate students) from nearly 140 countries, and some 5,500 employees. King's is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.
King's has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £450 million.
King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres.
King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King's Health Partners. King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world's leading research-led universities and three of London's most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit: www.kingshealthpartners.org.
Louise Pratt, NIHR BRC Communications Officer
Public Relations Department
Institute of Psychiatry
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