Mephedrone Symptoms and Warning Signs

Known popularly by its slang name ‘Meow meow’, mephedrone became illegal in the UK after the true chemical formula was revealed on a forum online. It was marketed in powder form in the UK between 2009 and 2010 as a recreational drug.

Mephedrone is a psychoactive drug that generates enhanced social and emotional effects, just like MDMA. People who abuse mephedrone seek the ‘high’ from the stimulus, because it makes them more confident in social gatherings.

Effects of mephedrone include paranoia, anxiety, hallucinations and panic attacks. Scientists and addiction experts say it’s hard to tell if mephedrone is addictive, as more evidence is yet to be gathered.

If you know anyone who’s abusing Mcat (as it is also known), you can help them find a rehab facility for detox and treatment.

Mephedrone: A brief history

Mephedrone (also called 4MMC or 4-methyl ephedrine) is an illicit cathinone and amphetamine class of drug. It was first synthesised by French pharmaceutical researchers in 1929 as a substitute to Ecstasy. It remained virtually unknown until 2003, when an underground chemist, Kinetic, rediscovered it.

Israeli websites were the first to modify the composition of cathinone, either through Kinetic or by creating their own formula. In the UK, mephedrone was advertised as plant food, fertilisers and bath salts, not for human consumption.

After the formula leaked online, Chinese businessmen imitated the formula, lowered the price and sold it at music festivals, dance clubs and other social gatherings frequented by young people. Soon, it became a popular recreational drug in the UK. In 2010, mephedrone was classified as a Class B drug.

Drug addiction (substance use disorder)

Stimulants like mephedrone increase attention, alertness and energy. Under their influence, you’ll experience elevated respiration, blood pressure and heart rate. Signs of drug addiction include craving stimulants, continued use (despite knowing the consequences) and failed attempts to quit addictive substances.

Substance use disorder is a clinical term used to diagnose substance abuse and substance addiction. It is caused by continuous use of drugs or alcohol, which transforms to distress or functional impairment, such as failure to complete school work or neglecting to care for yourself or fulfil certain responsibilities.

Mephedrone addiction in young adults

Mephedrone usage is common amongst young people who are party goers, especially gay and bisexual men, where there is a higher prevalence of use. A UK study of ‘dance drug’ users revealed that most mephedrone users are young males. Many users continue to use mephedrone, despite the ban and price increase, which has led researchers to conclude that there might be a growing addiction to mephedrone among young adults in the UK.

Currently, mephedrone ranks second to cocaine as the drug of choice among young people aged 16-24.

Mephedrone abuse: Signs, symptoms and side effects

Dependence on mephedrone is only diagnosed after a proper clinical assessment.

Signs of abuse include palpitations, headaches, hyperhidrosis, nausea and cold/blue fingers. According to UK website, Talk to Frank, users commonly inject the substance to feel a more intense ‘high’. This exposes them to infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. Other side effects include damage to veins, blood clots and abscesses.

Mephedrone overdose

It’s easier to overdose on mephedrone compared to other drugs with more established risks and knowledge of dosage. The risk of overdose is higher for those snorting it and the side effects can be serious. Signs to look for include:

  • Bluing limbs
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Tinnitus
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How to spot physical signs of mephedrone usage

Until it was classified as a Class B drug in the UK, mephedrone was a ‘legal high’. Like all stimulant drugs, when it is abused, there are visible signs you can look out for. Signs of mephedrone use include:

  • Users smell like cat urine, which is where the nicknames ‘M-Cat’ and ‘Cat wee ‘ originated.
  • Extreme weight loss
  • Sudden crying
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Nosebleeds
  • Sniffing
  • Rashes
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings

Signs that someone is experimenting with mephedrone

Signs that a person is experimenting with mephedrone include:

  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss
  • Isolation from family
  • Restlessness
  • Wallets and phone disappearing around the home
  • Poor performance in school
  • Disoriented behaviour
  • Troubled relationships with others
  • Loss of interest in social activities

Physical symptoms and side effects of mephedrone abuse

Using mephedrone is dangerous; not only is it a ‘designer drug’, but the method of creation, sources, contaminants or chemicals are unknown. Sometimes, it is mixed with other illicit drugs and alcohol to increase potency.

Physical symptoms of abuse include seizures, respiratory problems, overheating, reduced appetite, headaches, grinding of teeth, palpitations, vomiting and agitation.

Psychological signs of mephedrone usage

The psychological side effects of using mephedrone are what lead to drug dependence. Prolonged use limits the brain from producing serotonin and leads to depression, damaged memory, psychotic behaviour, vertigo and hallucinations.

Behavioural changes

Changes in behaviour can include erratic mood swings, anxiety, staying away from friends and certain social cycles, lack of interest in activities that brought pleasure in the past and worst of all, psychotic behaviour after a drug binge.

Short-term and after-effects of mephedrone abuse

The ‘high’ from mephedrone doesn’t last long. Short-term negative effects occur because it is an amphetamine. These may include dry mouth, dilated pupils, energy surges, muscle tremors, increased body temperature, irregular heart rate, accelerated blood pressure and heart failure.

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Long-term health effects of mephedrone abuse

There are several long-term health effects from abusing MCAT. You could damage your liver, heart and circulation. While there isn’t substantial research on the long-term effects of mephedrone, prolonged use of amphetamines leads to behaviour disorders, unusual fatigue, convulsions, cardiac arrhythmia, ulcers, coma, skin lesions, malnutrition and in extreme cases, death.

Help for those who have taken mephedrone

Light users (who haven’t developed dependency) can detox at home and attend rehab as an outpatient. It’s important you get help for mephedrone abuse before it escalates to dependency. Integrated treatment is the best chance for full recovery if there are underlying issues that need addressing.

Things to look for in a treatment program

The first consideration is the ability of the programme to help you detox safely and provide drug rehabilitation that equips you to stay sober long after rehab. Other factors include the options for inpatient and outpatient care, the quality of service offered and the types of ongoing programmes and treatment designed to help people recover from addiction.

The treatment programme should be robust to ensure you get the best care that helps you stand on your own feet after rehab.

Mephedrone abuse statistics

  • The use of mephedrone grew in 2009 and coincided with the reduced purity of ecstasy and cocaine in the UK
  • Mephedrone was classified as a Class B drug in 2010
  • According to the United Nations, the UK is the largest market for mephedrone in Europe
  • The use of mephedrone has increased 300% since 2010
  • Mephedrone is only 50% pure, so there are other chemicals entering your bloodstream
  • Overheating (a sign of mephedrone abuse) is the major cause of death when people combine ecstasy and mephedrone
  • Combining mephedrone with alcohol increases the ‘high’ and risk of death
  • Snorting mephedrone damages the nose and causes nosebleeds


What is mephedrone?

Mephedrone is a psychoactive drug and synthetic stimulant that temporarily increases physical and mental function.

What kind of a drug is mephedrone?

Mephedrone is a synthetic designer drug that is part of the amphetamine family of narcotics.

What are the risks of mephedrone abuse?

Risks include severe nose bleeds, overheating, exposure to infectious disease and danger of building tolerance, dependence and drug addiction.

Why do people use mephedrone?

People use mephedrone because it produces a similar high to ecstasy, though the crash after the high is not as depressive as other illicit drugs.

What does a mephedrone overdose look like?

When someone overdoses, the limbs turn blue and other signs like chest pains and paranoia manifest.

Where can I find help?

You can find help by calling an addiction helpline, speaking to your doctor or registering at a rehab facility near you.

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Call our admissions line 24 hours a day to get help.