Heroin's Rival "M-Smack" Sweeps UK

By Chrisanne Grise 12/03/12

Synthetic club drug Mephedrone has made an alarming comeback as an injectable formula, with some injecting "up to 40 times a day."

Mephedrone powder is often dissolved in
water and injected.
Photo via

With nicknames like “meow-meow” and “M-smack,” the club drug mephedrone may sound harmless—and even cute—but its sudden resurgence in popularity in the UK has many health experts concerned. According to a new study by the charity organization DrugScope, the rates of marijuana, heroin, speed and cocaine use are all decreasing, but mephedrone use is on the rise. A few years ago, the stimulant (then known as “meow-meow”) was a cheap alternative to cocaine and ecstasy, and was easily available online, making it popular among young people. It gained some attention in the US as one half of the compound "Bath Salts"—which was initially blamed for the infamous face-eating zombie incident. After being classified as a class B drug back in 2010, meow-meow disappeared for a while; it has since resurfaced as a powder, under the moniker “M-smack,” that is mixed with water and injected. The drug is reportedly so addictive that some users inject up to 40 times a day. "It has become really prolific in the past 12 months; we have young people from 13-years-old taking it," says Lucy Hulin, a substance misuse worker in Gloucester. She adds that the drug service in Gloucester has dealt with over 50 new cases of problematic mephedrone use in just nine months.

The drug's rapid resurgence on the scene has many experts worried about a potential epidemic. "It happened very quickly and we didn't see it coming," says Mike Brown, a case manager at drug charity Inroads. "Virtually all our heroin and speed injectors suddenly began injecting mephedrone instead. It's a close community, so habits spread quickly.” Like other popular synthetic drugs—such as Smiles and Annihilation—the effects and origins of Mephedrone are largely unknown, making it particularly hazardous due to its unpredictability. "The health risks associated with excessive use of club drugs are underestimated by many people," says Dr. Owen Bowden-Jones, founder of the Club Drug Clinic. "Little is known about the potential problems of the newer drugs."

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Chrisanne Grise is a multimedia journalist specializing in health/fitness, lifestyle, travel, bridal, and music. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Parents, FitnessMagazine, Fisher Price, Bridal Guide, Scholastic's Choices, AbsolutePunk.net, Chorus.fm, and more. She is the Senior Editor at The New York Times Upfront. Follow her on Linkedin and Twitter.