Friday, 16 April 2010

Alcohol Kills but Meow Meow makes headlines

On the day before Mephedrone was made illegal I received a circular e-mail from the University's very own police office one PC Matt Holloway

For the information of all staff and students.

From 00:01 am on Friday 16th April 2010, Mephedrone (aka Meow Meow, Bubble and Mcat) and more than 10 other very similar drugs become controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act to a Class B drug.

There is no "amnesty" period and anyone found in possession of the drug will be dealt with in exactly the same way as they would be for other Class B drugs such as Amphetamine (which Mephedrone is closely related to).

This brings penalties of up to 5 years imprisonment for possession and 14 years imprisonment for supplying or possession with intent to supply the drug.

Mephedrone is a very dangerous drug and has had a lot of media attention over the last few months but there are other very similar drugs in the same chemical group that are also used regularly and they too have been controlled under this legislation. The most common of these are Methylone, Methedrone and MDPV.

If you have any questions in relation to this then please contact the UWE beat manager PC Matt Holloway in Room 1E20. His contact details are found via the Police web page - Bristol UWE - Operations and Security
One phrase stuck out
Mephedrone is a very dangerous drug and has had a lot of media attention over the last few months
So I thought I would research PC Holloway's claims.   So I had a look at the latest edition of the Lancet which had an article on the ban.  It stated that:
the ACMD report, Consideration of the cathinones, which recommended the ban, documented the very scanty evidence on mephedrone, including the absence of a direct causal link between the reported deaths and the drug. ... There was little time to consider carefully the scientific evidence on mephedrone. The ACMD did not have sufficient evidence to judge the harms caused by this drug class.
 So on the one hand we have PC Holloway claiming that it 'is a very dangerous drug' and on the other the Lancet claiming that there is not 'sufficient evidence to judge the harms '.  Which one should I believe on this medical and scientific issue?

But PC Holloway is correct about the media moral panic coverage and we see a classic example of this today in the Daily Mail

The headline could not be clearer - someone died after taking meow meow.  However on reading
the article I find right at the bottom this paragraph
The Inquest heard that although meow meow and Valium were found in Miss Main's blood, it was a combination of alcohol and GHB which killed her.
So despite the headline it was not mephedrone but alcohol and GBH which contributed to her death. This is not an unimportant fact in the debate over mephedrone as it is likely that many users who are put off by it being made illegal will instead use alcohol. A drug with a very proven track record of harm and death. This displacement may end up causing more harm including more deaths. But does PC Holloway warn the staff and students of UWE of this killer drug?

It is a silence often shared by politicians and the media


  1. Good post (it's GHB not GBH though).

    This whole Meph Panic was entirely predictable, sadly, to anyone who remembers the not-that-long-ago situation with cubensis mushrooms being sold in head shops.

    As soon as the profile got too public, it became a 'scandal'. Or, in other words, once enough journos (a section of society no strangers themselves to stuffing shit into their noses/veins/lungs/stomachs) knew about it, the prisoner's dilemma kicked in. Plenty of hacks were enjoying the fruits of the research chemicals' no-man's-land legal status, but equally they recognised that some *less hip* scribbler might pip them to the post with the BAN THIS DANGEROUS POISON-type stories; and so a little bit of inside-the-scene knowledge, plus some second-guessing the mood of the British public (ie that we are all virulently anti-drugs), et voila!

    Just a theory.

  2. Thanks for the correction - a bad day when I can't even copy the Daily Mail correctly!!

    The media has a role but why is it so rarely challenged? Why did the ACMD, who after Nutt's sacking had some potential power, not just stick to the evidence and on that basis say a ban was inappropriate?

    Now it is banned what will replace it? Will this be more of a risk?