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Cathinones group to be Class B controlled drugs

23 June 2010

On 21 June, the Health Minister endorsed a recommendation from the Misuse of Drugs Advisory Council to place currently known, and possible future ‘cathinone group’ drugs under Class B controlled drug status. 

This group includes the drug mephedrone (4-methylmethcathinone) which was individually placed under Class B control recently, pending urgent work to agree a robust, wider generic group definition that should be maximally future-proof.  The generic definition is worded so as to cover currently known cathinone compounds, and other variations that could be developed. This is in recognition of the dangers to users of this new group of ‘designer drugs’. As well as mephedrone, cathinones include methcathinone (similar to amphetamine), and butylone and methylone (similar to ecstasy). Legislation will now be drafted to bring these changes into effect.

Mephedrone has been a controlled drug in Jersey since November 2009 when it was originally placed in Class C. Growing evidence of its dangers led to its reclassification to Class B on 2 June 2010. Now that the entire cathinone group is to be controlled, mephedrone will no longer be specified by name in the law but will be no less illegal.    

Cathinones are stimulant drugs similar to ecstasy, amphetamines (speed) or a combination of both. Mephedrone was the first to attract public attention because of its rapid rise in use, coupled with considerable health risks, originally marketed as a ‘legal high’ – as have the other cathinones - until its dangers were recognised and urgent action taken to place it under legal controls. 

There may be other new cathinones in development while manufacturers seek to exploit any ongoing legal loopholes – this new generic definition recognises the evolving nature of the industry, and should help reduce the threat to public health. Users of cathinones (including mephedrone) face typical side effects such as abnormal heart rhythms, fits, agitation and paranoia, hallucinations, severe nosebleeds, vomiting, rashes and overheating. They are believed to be very compulsive and can create psychological dependence. The risks are even greater if used with alcohol or other drugs.  

Deputy Medical Officer of Health, Dr Susan Turnbull, who is a member of Jersey’s Misuse of Drugs Advisory Council, said “It is right that the legal penalties are now to be consistent across the whole group of cathinone-type drugs, and proportionate to the harm they cause. 

“Unfortunately, the industry will continue to devise new compounds, trying to keep ahead of the law and profit from some people’s gullibility that if something is technically legal, then that means it must be safe to use. My advice to anyone considering taking any new substances marketed as ‘legal highs’, is this:

  • don’t be a human guinea pig
  • new ‘legal high’ designer substances that are even more dangerous than mephedrone and the other cathinones could be with us soon
  • the simple message is that if you don’t know what’s in it, then don’t take it
  • never believe that if something is ‘legal’ then it must be safer than substances that are not. You could be the next statistic.”  

Health and Social Services Minister, Deputy Anne Pryke, said “I am pleased that we have been doing as much as possible in Jersey to protect Islanders from these new dangers. We do not want to see any young Jersey lives lost to cathinone drugs, or to any new substance that may arrive next on our shores. We will continue to tackle the problem, working across Health and Social Services and with our Police colleagues. Getting the information young people need to protect themselves from danger is a key element of our approach.”

Further information and advice is available from the Youth Enquiry Service on 766628 and the Alcohol and Drug Service on 445000.

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