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Tweaking, bombing, dabbing and stockpiling: the emergence of mephedrone and the perversity of prohibition

Fiona Measham (Lancaster University)
Karenza Moore (Lancaster University)
Russell Newcombe (3D Research Bureau)
Zoë (Lifeline)

Drugs and Alcohol Today

ISSN: 1745-9265

Article publication date: 12 March 2010



Significant changes in British recreational drug use were seen throughout 2009, with the emergence and rapid growth in the availability and use of substituted cathinones or ‘M‐Cats’ (most notably mephedrone and methylone), a group of psychoactive drugs not currently controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (HM Government, 1971), with similar effects to ecstasy, cocaine and amphetamines. The reasons for the appearance and appeal of this group of so‐called ‘legal highs’ are explored here in relation to availability, purity, legality and convenience. The authors argue that a reduction in the availability (and thus purity) of illegal drugs such as ecstasy and cocaine and resultant disillusionment among users was a key motivation for displacement to substituted cathinones, conveniently and legally purchased online. Finally, we explore policy considerations around the likely criminalisation of substituted cathinones and the challenge of providing rapid yet considered harm reduction responses to emergent drug trends in the face of a minimal scientific evidence base and eager press demonisation.



Measham, F., Moore, K., Newcombe, R. and Zoë (née Smith), Z. (2010), "Tweaking, bombing, dabbing and stockpiling: the emergence of mephedrone and the perversity of prohibition", Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 14-21.



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