What are cathinones? The chemical ‘cathinone’ is a naturally occurring stimulant drug found in the plant, Khat.
Cathinones are the family of related chemicals, including cathinone and many synthetically produced chemicals, like mephedrone, methylone (M1) and MDPV. Cathinones are ‘cousins’ of the amphetamine family of drugs, which includes amphetamine itself (speed) and MDMA (ecstasy), and which have similar effects. Cathinones were sold online and in headshops as so called ‘legal highs’ until they became Class B drugs in April 2010.
- Cathinones can cause feelings of euphoria and empathy as well as increasing alertness and talkativeness. In a situation of only recently-emerging evidence on what are the exact effects and risks each of the different cathinones, it is accepted that they broadly have a balance of effects similar to amphetamines (speed) and to MDMA (ecstasy).
What do cathinones look like?
Cathinones were originally sold over the internet as ‘legal’ alternative to drugs like speed, ecstasy and cocaine. To avoid trouble with the police, sellers marked the cathinones they were selling as not for human consumption, and sold them as plant food or bath salts.
Most cathinones are found as either a fine white, off-white or yellowish powder, but some can be brown in colour. The cost varies depending on the individual cathinone, but mephedrone, the most well know cathinone, is on average £20 - £30 a gram.
How are cathinones taken?
Cathinones are usually snorted like cocaine or wrapped in paper and swallowed (‘bombed’). They can also be found as capsules and pills and can be smoked.
In rare cases, cathinones have been injected. Injecting, or sharing injecting paraphernalia, runs the risk of the person injecting catching or spreading a blood-borne virus, such as HIV or hepatitis C. There is also the risk that veins may be damaged and an abscess or clot may develop.
The cathinones’ effects are similar to amphetamines (speed) and MDMA (ecstasy), producing feelings of euphoria and empathy as well as increasing alertness and talkativeness.
The negative effects of the cathinone family are also therefore considered to be similar to those of amphetamines and MDMA.
What are the risks of cathinones?
Taking cathinones does involve risks. Here’s what they could do to you:
- They risk overstimulating the heart and circulation and damaging the heart
- They risk overstimulating the nervous system and causing fits.
- They can make you anxious and paranoid.
- They can reduced inhibitions, which can lead to risky behaviours such as unsafe sex, and accidents.
- You increase the risk if you combine alcohol with any substance that causes a 'high', including cathinones, and this includes the risk of coma and death.
- Many cathinones are still new and little is known about them, so the risks from using them are unpredictable.
As with all drugs you can never be sure of what you’re buying and how pure it is. Sometimes one cathinone is mixed with another cathinone and/or caffeine.
Can you get addicted to cathinones?
Yes. Reports suggest that cathinones can create a state of psychological dependence and can be compulsive to use. This compulsive re-dosing may itself lead to increased health harms.
The most well know cathinone is mephedrone and users have reported that once they have started a session, they can find it very difficult to stop until they’ve used their entire supply - known as ‘fiending’.
Cathinones and the law
- Cathinones are classified as Class B drugs which means that it's illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell.
- Possession can get you up to five years in prison and/or an unlimited fine.
- Supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you 14 years in jail and/or an unlimited fine.
What if you’re caught?
If the Police catch you with a cathinone, they’ll always take some action. This could be a formal caution, or arrest and possible conviction.
A conviction for a drug-related offence could have a serious impact. It can stop you visiting certain countries – for example the United States – and limit the types of jobs you can apply for.
Did you know?
- Like drinking and driving, driving while high is illegal – and you can still be unfit to drive the day after using cathinones. You can get a heavy fine, be disqualified from driving or even go to prison.
- Allowing other people to supply drugs in your house or any other premises is illegal. If the police catch people supplying illegal drugs in a club they can potentially prosecute the landlord, club owner or any person concerned in the management of the premises.