Banned drug linked to suicide

Psychiatrists in Scotland have published the first known case series documenting the adverse psychological effects of mephedrone.

The banned drug, also known as "meow meow" and "bubbles", can have "similar harmful consequences" to stimulants such as Ecstasy and it was right to make it illegal, the research shows.

Mephedrone was made a Class B illegal drug in April 2010 after being linked to a series of deaths.

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A study of 20 people who arrived at the emergency departments and acute mental health services in Edinburgh and Falkirk between January and June 2010 seeking treatment after taking the drug found the most common symptom was agitation. This was reported by 70 per cent of the patients and in most of them was severe and accompanied by either aggression or abnormal behaviour.

Eight developed psychotic symptoms, including hallucinations and delusions, with seven saying they had used mephedrone either daily or heavily for four weeks. Four had acute low mood and suicidal thoughts which had not been present before they had taken mephedrone. One died by suicide.

NHS consultant psychiatrist Dr Mark Taylor, who led the research, said: "Mephedrone is derived from cathinone, the active ingredient of the African shrub khat.

"Cathinone is structurally very similar to amphetamine, and it would appear that mephedrone also produces the same negative psychological side-effects - particularly in those people with a history of mental illness."

Eight of the patients had a history of psychotic illness or depression, according to the findings published in the Psychiatrist.

Five had taken mephedrone for the first time, with the rest reporting regular or heavy use of the drug before arriving at hospital.