Gay club-goers are seen as “early adopters” of psychoactive drugs so the researchers claim the findings are likely to have implications for the wider population in the future. “Our first study indicated club-goers appeared undeterred by the legal classification of mephedrone, an emergent psychoactive substance.
The trade in the illicit drug, also known as m-cat or meow, is lucrative, with one dealer in the north-west reputedly running a £500,000-a-week operation. The drug is manufactured in China and posted to the UK in kilo packages, according to drugs experts, who fear customs cannot keep up with the trade.
Anecdotal evidence suggests a sub-section of heroin users are now choosing to inject mephedrone, which is usually taken in powder form and snorted like cocaine.
The popularity of mephedrone, which produces a mild sense of euphoria but has been blamed for paranoia, heart palpitations, insomnia and memory problems, has led to price increases. A gram of the synthetic drug costs around £25 now compared with around £20 a year ago. Prior to the ban it cost £10 a gram. Its increased popularity is thought to be partly the result of the falling quality of cocaine, which costs around £40 a gram but is mixed with other agents so is only about 25% pure.