Mephedrone, also known as Mkat, M-cat, 4-methylmethcathinone, and about a billion other things, remains a very popular psychoactive stimulant. Though it’s not as popular as it once was, largely due to legal limitations, Mcat is one of Europe’s most popular party stimulants.
In fact, a decade ago at the peak of 2010, Mcat was the fourth most popular drug in Britain among club-goers. Nowadays, the drug is in a bit of a recession, finding most of its customers in communities that focus on queer-positive, drug-influenced sex.
WHAT IS MCAT?
Mephedrone, or Mcat, is a substituted cathinone compound. Cathinone itself can be derived directly from the khat plant or produced synthetically. Khat, pronounced like ‘cat,’ could also be a contributing factor to the nickname Mcat, though that’s most likely the result of the chemical name: MethylmethCAThinone.
Synthetic cathinones, like any other psychoactive substance, can be chemically altered to produce new drugs with similar effects. By swapping out an atom with another atom or set of atoms, the effects of cathinone can be changed.
This leads to changes in things like duration, potency, and even changes in psychoactive effects. Of all the adjustments and substitutions that have been made to synthetic cathinones over the years, the most popular was by far the methyl substitution that led to the creation of mephedrone
It was quickly revealed to be a very strong stimulant that led to powerful changes in users’ moods. For those involved in the European party scene, the ideal compound had finally arrived. But there’s more to the story than a new drug simply being synthesized. Mephedrone emerged at exactly the right time, and under the right circumstances, to take the party scene by storm.
HOW THE DRUG WAR FUELED MEPHEDRONE
The production of mephedrone was spurred, in part, by the drug war itself. In 2008, a huge shipment of safrole was destroyed in Cambodia. Safrole is required to produce MDMA. The resulting loss of nearly 245 million ecstasy pills meant that there was a huge hole in the drug market that needed to be filled.
At first, this just led to decreasing quality. However, around 2010, mephedrone became available on the streets. It produced a high that users described as a cross between MDMA and cocaine. It was cheap, it was easy to get, and best of all, it was legal.
Mephedrone immediately surged in popularity, more so than nearly anything else in the party scene. Houses, clubs, and parties were saturated with the stuff. Because it was legal, nobody cared whether they were seen cutting up lines in public.
In addition to being hip and new, mephedrone filled the gaping hole that was created due to the low quality of ecstasy in the UK. There were actually some significant benefits to the wave of Mcat: illegal drug crime decreased, and there was a significant decrease in the number of deaths that were related to cocaine.
Mcat is a lot less toxic than cocaine found on the street. The chances of finding pure cocaine are pretty much zero, whereas mephedrone was usually purchased online completely pure. This is in stark contrast to cocaine, which was known to often contain as many as 11 different cutting agents.
Unfortunately, what comes up must come down. After spending some years near the top of the list in regards to popularity, Mcat experienced some struggles and its popularity waned. One of the reasons for this happened to do with the drug’s increasing popularity as it spread across the world.
MEPHEDRONE GOES GLOBAL
One of the first things that started the decline of Mephedrone was a story that was published in the Sun. The story alleged that a 19-year-old male had ripped off his scrotum while he was using Mcat.
The origins of this story were easily traced back to a message board. A user had posted on the site www.mephedrone.com a similar story, intended to be satire. However, after being published in the Sun, it was hard to go back.
Another false flag emerged when two teenagers died. Their deaths were attributed to mephedrone, although it turns out this was due to confusion: they had been taking methadone, a highly potent opioid narcotic that’s used for weaning people off of heroin. The two compounds have nothing in common.
Mephedrone isn’t harmless. Excessive drug use of any type can cause physical and mental symptoms. However, it’s unfortunate that the decline of mephedrone began due to inaccuracies and false journalistic reporting.
By April of 2010, the Labor government had moved to ban mephedrone. This newly-passed legislation was an obvious response to shoddy journalism, and a number of members of the cabinet resigned. However, the damage was already done: people began to use less Mcat.
The substance was never as widespread as cocaine and was usually purchased online. As it became illegal, the niche was filled again with cocaine. That means that, yes, the deaths attributed to cocaine began to increase once again after mephedrone became illegal.
The other result of this was the explosion of new research chemicals that we see on the market nowadays. Researchers and chemists like to tweak chemicals that are illegal. By making small adjustments to the molecular structure they can produce drugs with similar effects that are not illegal.
The result of this was the passing of the Psychoactive Substances Act in 2016, which is basically an open-ended bill that gives legislators and law enforcement the opportunity to declare any drug dangerous, as long as it ‘stimulates or depresses the person’s central nervous system,” or “affects the person’s mental functioning.”
Even though this piece of law was later described by the former Chief Government Drugs Advisor, David Nutt, as “the worst piece of legislation in living memory,” it had a profound effect on the drug scene throughout the UK.
Now, legal highs were suddenly illegal. This led to a huge surge in black market drug dealing. Suddenly the drugs couldn’t be purchased online anymore, so they had to be sourced through middlemen. This meant that they were undoubtedly adulterated and much less safe than they had been before.
MEPHEDRONE IN 2021
Mephedrone is still available but it’s hard to find. Most users wanting to buy Mkat source it from the seedy techno-alleyways of the dark web. The complications involved in sourcing it has made it much, much less popular.
That doesn’t mean that people forgot how much they loved mephedrone, however. It’s still wildly popular in the chemsex scene, alongside GHB. However, the rest of the party scene has returned to more ‘standard’ and, yes, more dangerous drugs.
That means that the number of deaths associated with cocaine and other party drugs has risen again. Mephedrone actually created a lot of positive changes in the drug scene during its height by allowing people to access a pure drug without breaking the law.
Nowadays, researchers and chemists are producing increasingly more distant cousins of mephedrone and other cathinone drugs, as well as psychedelics. With each modification, these drugs often become less similar to the drugs that they were intended to mimic. They may also have different safety profiles.
Mephedrone took the United Kingdom by storm in the second decade of the 2000s. The drug filled a niche that partygoers were looking to fill, and in doing so, it changed the entire scene. However, most of the changes were positive.
Mephedrone users knew that they were using a pure substance. They weren’t breaking the law. Drug-related crime and death decreased when the mephedrone hype peaked. Unfortunately, mephedrone was bound to crash eventually.
As it spread across the world and shoddy journalism led people to think that it was more dangerous than it was, new laws were passed. This led to mephedrone becoming illegal and some broad legislation being pushed in the UK that encouraged black market activity.
Now, anyone hoping to buy cathinones Mkat won’t be able to do so without going to great lengths. Fortunately, similar legal alternatives like 3-MMC (which is 3-methylmethcathinone instead of Mkat, 4-methylmethcathinone) don’t have to look too hard!