Home' Australian Pharmacist : December 2011 Contents Vol. 30 -- December #12, 2011
some suburban Perth gardens. Its
origins are probably unknown to the
present owner, but now attract quite
significant attention from Sudanese
and other immigrants who happen
to pass by and recognise the plant!
Garden owners have complained of
unwanted visitors stripping leaves
from their khat tree. The relatively
large bushy plant or small tree has
characteristic elliptical leaves with
serrated edges, red-tinted new
growth and clusters of attractive small
white flowers, all of which are easily
recognised by the khat user.
Khat also has traditional medicinal
uses in the Afro-Arabian countries of
origin, to treat malaria, fever, cough and
asthma.2 Perhaps not surprisingly, khat
has found its way into European herbal
uses as an appetite suppressant, and
as a recreational drug used by American
soldiers returned from military duties
in Somalia. On the negative side,
khat may induce severe side effects.
Excessive or prolonged usage has
elicited warnings about induced
hypertension, dependency, aggressive
behaviour and personality disorders.
Apparently khat also 'suppresses
the sexual drive, (as) evidenced by a
high degree of bachelors among khat
chewers'.2 I must admit I found this
latter argument a bit convoluted, for
maybe, having no success in achieving
sexual fulfilment with the opposite sex,
and having time on their hands, these
so-called bachelors resort to khat as
a cheap alternative stimulant? Or is
this the 'khat of nine tales', when the
Mephedrone has a long history. It
was first discovered in 1929, and as
is often the case with illegal or fringe
recreational drugs, there is a quite
fascinating history of the etymology of
alias names used for it. Alternative to
'bath salts' we have the names Ivory
Wave, White Lightning and Vanilla
Sky (mephedrone may have a vanilla
odour), to name but a few.1
One interesting way of marketing
mephedrone, presumably to users in
the know, is to call it a plant food, a
fertiliser!9 It has been claimed to be 'one
of the widely used plant food resource
(sic) all over the world', promoting lush
growth in plants, which is quite a claim
and seems an obvious furphy or fanciful
tale constructed in an attempt to
mislead authorities. However, it seems
to be surviving as a legal ploy. The
suppliers remind prospective purchasers
that the product, which is 99.94% pure
mephedrone, is also known as meow
meow, miaow and MCAT, and that:
'These products are sold strictly for
botanical use and research purposes
only. If you suggest that they are for
any other use, particularly for human
consumption, we will refuse to sell
them to you!'. I may add that one of
their websites10 notes that they also
supply various related 'reserch (sic)
chemicals and herbals such as cannabis
seeds, varieties of Sumatran and
Bornean Mitragyna speciosa varieties
and also Salvia divinorum'. These
herbals all have mind-altering properties
in their repertoire -- enough said!
Thankfully, one available online
blog11 does question the ethics and
merits of selling Mephedrone Plant
Feed as a 'research chemical' which
works by infinitely diluting the 'active
molecules', promoting spiritual growth
in plants! Other quoted related
gobbledygook is no better grounded.
As the quoted blog notes, this
Mephedrone Plant Feed is marketed
as a research chemical which differs
from the general run of plant fertilisers
by its very high purity, quite unlike
most plant fertilisers which are
generally of only industrial quality.
The well-founded worry of the blog
author is that mephedrone is an
increasingly popular recreational
drug used by young people, some
'as young as 12', and that deaths had
resulted from its use.11 It is noted
that new psychoactive substances
'currently being made (mainly in Asia)'
are flooding Europe and America (and
presumably Australia). The problems
of unregulated and 'unratified' new
synthetic drugs are immense and pose
massive ongoing problems in society.
In December 2010, the Council of the
European Union banned mephedrone
throughout Europe, a move mirrored
to a great extent in the USA.1 My
understanding is that importation,
possession and use of mephedrone
is illegal in Australia, as it is in a
number countries including Denmark,
Germany, New Zealand and Sweden.12
No doubt the federal authorities are
struggling to put a cap on this drug
before it gets totally out of hand.
Sarah Melton has provided an
informative listing1 of the clinical
effects of snorting or orally ingesting
mephedrone, which are those generally
expected with amphetamine-like
substances, and notes the incidence
of emergency department cases being
seen in her neighbouring US States. A
significant phenomenon which may be
catalysing the adoption of mephedrone
within the popular drug culture is,
as stated by Fiona Measham,13 a
criminologist at the University of
Lancaster (UK), the markedly declining
purity of ecstasy and cocaine on sale
(in the UK), and even the absence of
MDMA in some ecstasy pills.14
In conclusion, the 'breakout' of
mephedrone as a popular recreational
drug is an interesting aspect of the
use of semi-synthetic derivatives of
plant constituents in an attempt to
circumvent all the various legalities
and illegalities of this area. There is
no doubt that such cases will provide
a continual headache to authorities
but there is the advantage that going
global in the various networkings
between countries and drug agencies
does increase the efficiency of
receiving up-to-date information.
1. Melton ST. Bath salts: an 'Ivory Wave' epidemic?
Through Medscape Pharmacists [online]. At: www.
2. van Wyk B-E, Wink M. Medicinal Plants of the World.
Pretoria, South Africa: Briza Publications; 2004. p 84.
3. Harborne JB, Baxter H, eds. D-Cathinone.
Phytochemical Dictionary -- a Handbook of Bioactive
Compounds from Plants. London: Taylor & Francis;
1993. p 77 (PD274).
4. Wikipedia. Cahn--Ingold--Prelog priority rules [online].
5. Cahn-Ingold-Prelog notation tutorial [online]. At: www.
6. Khat. The Review of Natural Products. 3rd ed. St Louis,
Missouri: Facts and Comparisons; 2002. p 406--10.
7. Evans WC. Trease and Evans' Pharmacognosy. 14th ed.
London: WB Saunders; 1996. p 366.
8. Wikipedia. Cathinone [online]. At: http://en.wikipedia.
9. Mephedrone Suppliers [online]. At: www.
blog&itemid=62 and links contained therein.
10. Plantfeedshop [online]. At: www.plantfeedshop.com
11. Plant food or drug -- IB Chemistry [online]. At: www.
or-drug.htm and references contained therein.
12. Shaman Australis Botanicals. The Corroboree
[online]. At: www.shaman-australis.com/forum/index.
13. Measham F, Moore K, Newcombe R, et al. Tweaking,
bombing, dabbing and stockpiling: the emergence of
mephedrone and the perversity of prohibition. Drugs
and Alcohol Today. Mar 2010; 10(1):14--21.
14. Wikipedia. Mephedrone [online].. At: http://
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mephedrone and references
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