June 8, 2010

The New Mephedrone

Posted in Health, Lifestyle tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 2:11 am by potofcallaloo

Article dated May, 2010

By Alisha Nurse

The controversial drug mephedrone had been making headlines for several weeks and has been made illegal as a result. But already there’s a replacement drug on the market picking up where mephedrone left off and reported to be even more lethal.

Naphyrone is marketed as NRG1 or Energy-1 and is widely available for purchase online.

Researchers and drug agencies say they know little or nothing of its side effects but are warning people to steer clear of the potentially dangerous drug.

A source at a national drugs charity said that relevant agencies have been sent scampering to conduct investigations into this new substance and its presence on the market, but are careful not to draw negative attention alerting more and more young people to the drug.

However, young people across the United Kingdom are already conducting experiments of their own.

I join an internet drugs forum where hundreds of thousands of people across the globe are discussing their experiences with various drugs, including legal highs like naphyrone, the newest in-thing.


“If anyone fancies a dabble please think hard about the risks and be careful with the dose – it is F****** STRONG,” warns one user from the UK, who reports experiencing scrambled thoughts, paranoia and numbness before passing out for days.

Other users report experiencing heartburn, chest pains, hallucination, insomnia, dizzy spells, nose bleed, accelerated heart beat, restricted blood flow and weakness.

Another user who says his heart felt “restricted” warns that, “this is a very intense, potent and potentially dangerous product.”

Naphyrone was derived from the illegal class C drug Pyrovalerone (once used as an appetite suppressant for weight loss).

It comes in a white powdery form and is ingested nasally.

“Legal does not mean safe”

Dr Alun Morinan, scientific advisor to the drugs charity Hope UK and research scientist at the National Addiction Centre, Kings College says as more drugs are banned, many people are likely to turn to legal alternatives to avoid a criminal record.

“However, legal does not mean safe, especially as we know very little about its effects and whether it causes long term irreversible damage” he says.

He says what’s even more worrying is that drugs like napyrone are popular among teenagers due to easy access and low cost.

Not for Human Consumption

My phone calls, messages and email inquiries to several online head shops promoting the drug went unanswered.

However, most websites market naypyrone openly but as “Plant Food and Research Chemical not for human consumption.”

One online shop advertises naphyrone as a “pond cleaner”, the cheapest price at £5.00, with the warning that “it is not advised to add more than 0.2grams to one pond within 24 hours or adverse effects may be experienced by your pond life.”

Later on, it states in bold, “NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION.”

In reality, online shops use the language of online drugs forums where people do not acknowledge using legal highs but attribute usage to their ‘pets’ or friends for instance.

“Pond” as used by this online shop in question is metaphoric for drug users.

At another online shop, the cheapest bottle goes at £9.00. In fact, it doesn’t come cheap at all, but prices can be competitive in this market where shop owners are trying to make a profit before amendments to laws eventually ban their hit sellers.

Another website offers home delivery with a ‘special’ starting from £3.50.

Cat and Mouse

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) is now investigating the case of naphyrone.

Officials declined an interview but inarguably, the ACMD is caught up in a cat and mouse game, struggling to stay ahead of backstreet chemists supplying the legal drug.

The ACMD’s 2010 report on mephedrone mentions naphyrone but states the drug could not be covered under the generic ban of cathinones, of which mephedrone was the prime concern.

Cathinone is a naturally occurring stimulant found in the khat plant and used in drugs like ecstasy and mephedrone. It is controlled but the make-up of legal drugs like naphyrone is altered to evade the law.

The ACMD’s report states that “Irrespective of whether controls for the cathinones are implemented under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, the rapidity and easy availability of mephedrone and other cathinones (including vendors that can deliver to individual addresses) does raise the question of whether other legislation and regulation should be available.”

Public Pressure

This question is one Dr Morinun has considered as well. He argues that the mephedrone ban came as a consequence of public pressure rather than medical scientific evidence.

“It was also a good vote winner. I think there should be a more reasoned approach to naphyrone but a start might be to ban its import – it has no legitimate use” he says.

DrugScope’s Chief Executive Officer Martin Barnes says that “Mephedrone and related cathinones were classified as Class B drugs because their harms are similar to other substances controlled by the Misuse of Drugs Act. It is likely that in time, some of the compounds now being sold as replacements for mephedrone will also be brought under the Act.”

This is likely to present a challenge to the new government.

Because the recurring problem, according to the ACMD report is that “the market for derivatives of cathonines is still evolving and new replacements will continue to appear.”

The ACMD says it is considering a number of approaches like a ban that includes the specific names of substances and several generic definitions.

While this may be an option, it means the ACMD and the Cameron-Clegg administration will be faced with the repetitive task of continuously banning new legal drugs.


Whatever approach the ACMD uses, public pressure is likely to start mounting again if any deaths are linked to naphyrone.

In the recent past, mephedrone has been blamed for at least 18 deaths in England and seven in Scotland.

On a popular drug forum, many fear that it’s only a matter of time before naphyrone begins to claim lives as well.

“This drug will kill people I have no doubt about that, it’s too powerful at a relatively low dose and the way it works means people are quite likely to redose and you don’t really know how bad things are until an hour or so after the redoes” says a 24 year old male, going by the name Boris.

Earlier, he reports re-dosing to calm his anxiety and almost phones an ambulance for fear of having a heart attack.

The deceptive trap that many naphyrone users like Boris apparently find themselves in is after re-dosing to amplify the effects or calm anxieties almost all report feeling extreme pressure on their hearts.


Now many users are worried that cardiovascular arrest might be a likely consequence of over dosing on naphyrone.

The problem here with legal unregulated drugs is that no one knows how much is too much; of course, until there’s a fatality.

It’s a message that drug charities can’t seem to reiterate enough.

“Using any drug comes with risks attached, but the really worrying thing about the numerous chemicals now being marketed as legal replacements to mephedrone is how little is known about them and their effects.  Many of the chemicals now on sale have either never been clinically tested or have undergone only limited research” says Drug Scope’s CEO Martin Barnes.

Boris, who’s experimented with napyrone vows never to touch it again.
“If you dose again to remove anxiety or to try and obtain euphoria similar to mephedrone you are putting ur heart into a very very dangerous position and the side effects are long lasting. PLEASE USE EXTREAME CAUTION BUT MY ADVICE IS TO LEAVE THIS BAG OF DEATH ALONE” he warns in an online message.

His post attracts a slew of comments from agreeing naphyrone users.

Interest in the mephedrone replacement is showing no sign of curbing however.

Any new controls are guaranteed to cause starkly similar reactions to the mephedrone ban. The price of naphyrone will skyrocket on the black market and drug users will stockpile for rainy days until yet another precarious replacement hits the legal drug scene.