Cool for MCATs

Drugs these days are all about what’s new, cheap and legal. But with many legal highs outlawed, what’s the danger of throwing worming agents down your gob and plant food up your hooter?
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Oi Grandad, forget coke and E, the days of spending a month's wage on a raving binge of Class A's may well be over. You've probably seen 'herbal highs' at festivals and psychadelic Head shops, but these drugs aren't just for middle class folk after a 'Ruddy good time at Glaston-berry', oh no. They are the newest craze to sweep clubbers and libertines alike, can (or at least could) be purchased from all manner of shops and websites and are often a fraction of the cost of your run-of-the-mill pill.

But with the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) banning a whole host of legal highs at the tail end of 2009, you might be wondering what you can and can't still purchase without getting nicked, and whether the term 'legal' actually means it's safe for you to pop these things like paracetemol.

So, with that in mind...

Meow-Meow (Mephedrone)

Mephedrone, known as MCAT, meph or the feline friendly meow-meow, has become the latest drug of choice amongst clubbers. The powder is seen as a cheaper and safer alternative to coke or ecstasy, costing around a tenner for a gram and is normally snorted or bombed in a rizla.

Meow-Meow gives a euphoric buzz of alertness which lasts about an hour, but the list of dangers is pretty long. Some people have reported their hands turning blue from the effect the drug has on your circulation, and it can cause heart palpitations, anxiety, fits and paranoia.

It may have slipped through the net originally, but the government have been swift to put this cat to sleep, as it is reported to have led to over 25 deaths in the UK already, with even school kids taking it. Home Secretary Alan Johnson promised to make it a Class B drug before the election, and it was officially made illegal in the UK on April 16.

However, the problem with banning legal highs is that the crazy chemists can tinker with the chemical compounds to create new strains. And of course in criminalising the drug, the government will be putting the power in the hands of the dealer, so partygoers after a cheap thrill may soon be treated to mephedrone with a side of chalk and brick dust with their next hit, which is just lovely.

Salvia (Salvia Divinorum)

Salvia is a plant in the mint family which has been used by the Mazetec Indians for hundreds of years to cure all manner of ailments. The leaves can be chewed or more often smoked in a spliff or bong, and can give deep, psychedelic trips similar to dropping acid. Hallucinations can range from hilarious to horrifying, and is known by many as the ‘Youtube drug’ with users posting their trips online.

Salvia is still freely sold in Head stores as ‘plant food’, and the leaves are sold in concentrations from 5x to 50x. The long term effects are unknown, but the ACMD are keeping an eye out, so don’t be surprised if it’s up for the chop fairly soon.

"Partygoers may soon be treated to mephedrone with a side of chalk and brick dust with their next hit."

NRG-1 (Naphyrone)

Energy-1, or Rave, is already being tipped to be the successor of the departing pussycat that is mephedrone. The tabloids have been quick to jump on the bandwagon in condemning the 'horror drug', claiming it could potentially be as destructive here as crystal meth in America.

What is worrying is that the powder is said to be up to 13 times stronger than cocaine, more addictive than heroin and could be available for as little as 25pence a hit. The substance has the potential to make you feel Godlike for up to 12 hours, but the comedown is a killer.

So if you fancy a cheap hit of Energy-1 instead of buying a newspaper, expect memory loss (sometimes permanent), chronic insomnia for up to three days and even the desire to throw in the towel and kill yourself. That, or you could save the hassle and just buy the paper instead...

Although still legal at present and seen by many as the 'next mephedrone', don't expect Rave to be around for long, Number 10's drugs chiefs are already looking into the effects of NRG-1 and will want to stamp it out as soon as possible.

GBL (Gamma Butyrolactone)

GBL is a colourless liquid used by clubbers, but started life as industrial paint stripper. Its chemical formation is very similar to GHB (AKA the date rape drug) which was banned in 2003. When ingested, GBL converts into GHB and gives the same feelings of euphoria and drowsiness. But the downside of your slumber is that it might be a long one, as GBL has been nicknamed ‘coma in a bottle’, linked to a number of student deaths.

GBL is now a Class C drug alongside GHB, with a punishment of up to two years in prison if caught with the substance.

BZP (Benzylpiperazine)

BZP is a chemical compound that was first used as cattle worming treatment, and if that doesn’t sound tasty enough it’s not even used too widely for that as it causes many animals to fit.  BZP is mostly sold as pills but also can be taken as a powder or liquid, giving a similar buzz to MDMA for a fraction of the price. Before it was banned, BZP was sold freely at festivals and Head shops with names like Fast Lane, Silver Bullet or Charge. Medical research is sketchy at best so the long term side effects BZP are still unknown, but it can induce vomiting, seizures and fits. Maybe those cows were right in not wanting it.

As with GBL, BZP is now sporting a Class C classification.

"Fancy a hit of Energy-1? Expect memory loss, chronic insomnia and the desire to kill yourself."

Spice (Synthetic Cannabinoids)

Spice is a smoking mixture which although billed as ‘herbal’, is completely artificial. It’s sprayed with synthetic cannabinoid chemical JWH-018 and mimics the effects of THC (the main intoxicant in cannabis). The effects of Spice are identical to cannabis, so cue the giggles, a chilled out feeling and a trip to the nearest all night garage for snacks. But with this come the all too familiar risks of paranoia, panic attacks and memory loss.

Spice is now Class B alongside cannabis, which ruffled many feathers at the time as it isn’t known to have caused death or serious health defects through usage.