01 April 2010
Jersey’s health authorities have issued a new warning about the dangers of the banned drug, mephedrone, after a number of young people received treatment at the hospital’s accident and emergency department after taking the substance in the last week alone. They were suffering side effects including anxiety, panic attacks, palpitations, seizures and hallucinations.
Mephedrone has been a controlled drug in Jersey since November 2009. It will soon become illegal in the UK, following recent bans in Germany, Sweden and Denmark after it was linked to a series of deaths.
Jersey’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr Rosemary Geller, said "We moved quickly last year and sent out a clear message about the health threat from mephedrone by making it a controlled drug. The number of deaths in young people in the UK believed to be caused by this drug – 3 in recent weeks - is alarming and shows we are right to take this threat seriously.”
Mephedrone is a stimulant drug similar to both ecstasy and amphetamines (speed). It is being sold in the UK and online as a ‘legal high’ or even ‘plant food’ and has many street names including Meow-Meow and Meph.
On 30 March 2010, the UK’s Department of Health issued an alert to doctors saying that mephedrone users face the combined risks of both ecstasy-like drugs and amphetamine-like drugs. Side effects include abnormal heart rhythms, fits, agitation and paranoia, hallucinations, severe nosebleeds, vomiting, rashes and overheating. It is believed to be very compulsive and can create psychological dependence. Its 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: “The UK alert and the recent Jersey cases show that the mephedrone threat is real. We’re concerned that some people believe that if a drug isn’t yet banned everywhere, it must be a safer option than drugs that are already illegal. The mounting death toll and evidence of a growing local problem, shows just how unsafe it is. Our Misuse of Drugs Advisory Council will shortly be considering whether to recommend re-classifying the drug into a higher category.”
Jersey Police Detective Chief Inspector, David Minty, said: “Anyone importing, selling, possessing or using this Class C controlled drug in Jersey should be aware that they are not only risking their health, but also may be facing a criminal prosecution. Given the UK position and media coverage, it may not yet be widely appreciated that it is already illegal in Jersey.
“It is right that we do all in our power to protect the people from dangerous substances like this and that includes effective enforcement. Students returning home from the UK where mephedrone is not yet illegal may need to be reminded that they will be committing an offence if they bring it into Jersey, and use – or even worse - sell it here.”
Health Minister, Deputy Anne Pryke, said: “I am pleased that we have been doing as much as possible in Jersey to protect our young people from this new danger. We do not want to see any young Jersey lives lost to mephedrone. We will continue to tackle the problem, working across Health and Social Services and with Police colleagues. Our GPs have been informed so they know what health problems to look out for and how to deal with them.
“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.