Prevalence & Patterns Of Use

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In the UK data from UK-origin Google searches and visits to the Government’s ‘Frank’ website suggest the drug to have become widely available in the autumn of 2009, this is confirmed via user interviews. Several commentators have attributed the dramatic rise in popularity of mephedrone to the lack of, or very poor quality of, street level cocaine.

Winstock A., Marsden J and Mitcheson L, writing in March 2010, noted “mephedrone is an unknown quantity in terms of harms, risks, and dose related effects; we know nothing of its potential neurotoxicity or the long term consequences of its use.” On online forums, users report experiencing rashes, cold blue fingers and toes (perhaps related to peripheral vasoconstriction), and, in the days after use, typical stimulant comedown symptoms such as lethargy and low mood.”

Newcombe interviewed 10x regular mephedrone users in Middlesbrough in late 2009, finding users would rapidly increase the dose, sometimes during the first session, from around 50-75mg initially to 125-200mg with some users repeating the dose every 1-2 hours, with one user stating he got through 4 grams in a single night and a couple stating they had used 10g together over the course of a weekend.  He found regular weekend use to be the norm.  Although none of his subjects claimed to use daily, half reported friends who had developed a habit “evidenced by consumption factors like daily use and heavy use; by psychological indicators like craving and tolerance; and by behavioural indicators like taking mephedrone to the exclusion of other activities, continuing regular use despite health problems like skin rashes, and being “off their heads all the time”

In early 2010 the UK dance music Mixmag reported that 41.7% of their online survey respondents reported having tried mephedrone, 33.6% in the previous month making it the fourth most commonly used drug behind cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine.  Based on this sample, Winstock et al reported “Users were typically younger (P<0.001) and male (P<0.01); 15.1% reported using weekly or more frequently; 49.5% reported using between 0.5 and 1g during a typical session; 69.5% reported that intranasal use was the most common route of use. Intranasal use was associated with increased abuse liability; 54.6% of those who have also used cocaine reported that the quality of the high obtained with mephedrone was better, with those using intranasally being significantly more likely than those who took the drug orally to report that mephedrone was more addictive (P<0.02) and more risky (P<0.02) than cocaine. Route of use was unrelated to any stimulant-related adverse effect apart from palpitations (P<0.005).” The 2011 Mixmag survey found the lifetime prevalence of mephedrone use to have increased to 61%, with 51% reporting use in the past year and 25% in the past month, with 75% of those who had ever tried it reported having used it since the ban was introduced on 16-4-10.  Mephedrone was the drug causing users most concern in friends (24%), with 23% of cases where medical help was sought attributed to Mephedrone.

IDMU conduct large-scale annual surveys of drug users recruited via pop-festivals and the internet.  The 2009 IDMU surveys found no instances of mephedrone use being reported under the write-in ‘other drug’ options, from which decisions on inclusions of named drugs in future surveys were taken, in the 2010 festival survey (n=645) which went to print before mephedrone use had been widely-reported 7/13 of the write-in options were for mephedrone, with an average user rating of 7.67/10. 

The 2010 IDMU web-survey (n=1806) included mephedrone in the named drug options, 20% of respondents reported having used the drug (17.8% of females, 24.4% of males), the vast majority reporting experimental or occasional use, with 3% of respondents reporting regular or daily use.  User ratings predicted frequency and likelihood of use, current users gave average ratings of 5.46 whereas those who had never used or who had stopped using gave average ratings of 2.95, with all four daily users giving the drug the maximum rating of 10/10.

 

Table 1 – Mephedrone – Frequency of Use & User Ratings

Frequency

n

% of total

% of ever used

Average Rating

Experimental

142

7.9%

39.2%

4.12

Occasional

74

4.1%

20.4%

6.49

Regular

47

2.6%

13.0%

7.26

Daily

4

0.2%

1.1%

10.0

Stopped Using

95

5.3%

26.2%

3.68

Never Used

593

32.8%

 

2.34

Blank

851

47.1%

 

3.41

Base

1806

100.0%

 

3.38

Total Ever

362

20.0%

100.0%

5.00


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Quotes

"The harms and potential danger with taking drugs such as amphetamines and cocaine are well known, and these substances are related to those drugs. There is no evidence that [mephedrone] is a safer option."

Harry Shapiro, DrugScope

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