Use of Mephedrone—a popular party drug—can lead to permanent brain damage, research shows

September 19, 2012
Craig Motbey preparing tissue from a rat's brain.

(Medical Xpress)—The party drug mephedrone can cause lasting damage to the brain, according to new research led by the University of Sydney.

"Mephedrone is highly addictive in the worst possible way. Users tend to binge on massive doses of the drug over short time spans," said Craig Motbey, a PhD candidate in the University's School of Psychology and lead author of the research published in PLOS ONE, the journal, today.

"Combined with the fact mephedrone is skyrocketing in popularity worldwide, with Australia following that trend, our finding that high doses can cause ongoing spells a significant risk for users."

Also known as 'meow meow' and 'MCAT', mephedrone's immediate effect on the brain is similar to a combination of ecstasy and methamphetamine.

"You get the and touchy-feeliness of together with the intense addictiveness of or cocaine," said Motbey.

The current results, based upon experiments with , provide evidence of mephedrone's ability to damage memory.

Rats were given an injection of mephedrone once a day for 10 days. The brains from one group of rats were examined an hour after their final dose. Another group of rats had several more weeks of drug-free living and were then given behavioural tests to find signs of long-term cognitive impairment, before their brains were also analysed.

"With this second group that lived drug free for an extended period we found a substantial in animals that had been given the higher dose of the drug. This is concerning because it confirms earlier hints of in human mephedrone users. The fact the impairment was still there many weeks after the end of the drug treatment suggests that this damage may be permanent," said Motbey.

"So at this stage we know there is a significant, persistent impact with this drug which is relevant to humans, but we don't know why.

"There were no lasting changes to be seen when we studied the brain's chemistry, but all that means is that the cause of the memory problem may be rather subtle. Hopefully continuing research on mephedrone at this University and elsewhere will help solve that mystery."

While memory impairment was only observed with rats in the higher-dosed group, this does not mean that mephedrone is safe at lower doses.

"We really don't know enough about this drug to say whether there is any such thing as a safe dose. It's quite possible that any damage from mephedrone is cumulative, and that even relatively mild doses could eventually build up to cause serious harm," said Motbey.

The research also provided a better idea of how mephedrone functions in the brain.

"The data from the brains of the first group of rats, who were examined only an hour after taking mephedrone, suggests it causes an immediate surge in serotonin, associated with feelings of euphoria, while slowing down the metabolism of dopamine, associated with addiction and stimulation. Serotonin and dopamine are both neurotransmitters - chemicals that help transmit signals in the .

"So the serotonin disappears very quickly while the dopamine remains in the system longer. The result is a user who is highly motivated, thanks to the addiction-related properties of dopamine, to recreate the intense but short-lived serotonin rush."

This may help to explain the behaviour of users who frequently re-dose throughout a mephedrone session, often continuing until supplies of the drug are exhausted.

Explore further: Party drug's brain tricks explained for first time

Related Stories

Party drug's brain tricks explained for first time

October 31, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- A researcher at the University of Sydney has discovered how the increasingly common street drug mephedrone affects the brain, helping to explain why it is potentially such an addictive substance.

Despite the risks, mephedrone users in the UK are ready to try the next legal high

January 18, 2012
Since mephedrone was made illegal in the UK in 2010, the street price of the drug has risen while the quality has degraded, which in turn may have reduced use of the drug. New research published online today reveals that ...

Synthetic stimulants called 'bath salts' act in the brain like cocaine: study

July 23, 2012
The use of the synthetic stimulants collectively known as "bath salts" have gained popularity among recreational drug users over the last five years, largely because they were readily available and unrestricted via the Internet ...

Drug study shows clubbers have little interest in new wave legal highs

June 21, 2012
Clubbers show little interest in the subsequent wave of legal highs that have become available since mephedrone was banned, according to a new study published this week in QJ Medical Journal.

Recommended for you

Should I stay or should I leave? Untangling what goes on when a relationship is being questioned

August 17, 2017
Knowing whether to stay in or leave a romantic relationship is often an agonizing experience and that ambivalence can have negative consequences for health and well-being.

Kids learn moral lessons more effectively from stories with humans than human-like animals

August 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto found that four to six-year-olds shared more after listening to books with human characters than books with anthropomorphic ...

History of stress increases miscarriage risk, says new review

August 17, 2017
A history of exposure to psychological stress can increase the risk of miscarriage by upto 42 per cent, according to a new review.

Study finds children pay close attention to potentially threatening information, avoid eye contact when anxious

August 17, 2017
We spend a lot of time looking at the eyes of others for social cues – it helps us understand a person's emotions, and make decisions about how to respond to them. We also know that adults avoid eye contact when anxious. ...

Communicating in a foreign language takes emotion out of decision making

August 16, 2017
If you could save the lives of five people by pushing another bystander in front of a train to his death, would you do it? And should it make any difference if that choice is presented in a language you speak, but isn't your ...

Precision medicine opens the door to scientific wellness preventive approaches to suicide

August 15, 2017
Researchers have developed a more precise way of diagnosing suicide risk, by developing blood tests that work in everybody, as well as more personalized blood tests for different subtypes of suicidality that they have newly ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

VendicarD
3 / 5 (2) Sep 19, 2012
Oh come now. It hasn't damaged ParkerTard's brain has it?

His sock puppet UbVonTard insist's it hasn't.

Shootist
1.5 / 5 (4) Sep 19, 2012
Oh come now. It hasn't damaged ParkerTard's brain has it?



Perdition! I thought you banned.

Editors, We need penicillin for the first post!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.