Mar 162010

The media (I’ve picked the BBC but they are not the only ones) have come up with a news story about two teenagers who died after apparently taking mephedrone (apparently a legal recreational drug). The story is horribly slanted towards the point of view of those who want to make mephedrone illegal. That is not to say that the drug is in any way safe, but if you look beyond the headlines, it gets a little more interesting.

The BBC (see the above) reported that the two teenagers had been drinking until the early hours before taking mephedrone, before (in a TV news report) also taking methadone. And then died. According to the report “post-mortems are being carried out”, but despite the fact that the cause of death is unknown (otherwise why bother with a post-mortem ?), the headlines imply that the cause of death was mephedrone.

Why? It is perfectly possible to die from an overdose of alcohol alone, and when you combine it with another two recreational drugs, well who is to say which one is responsible ? Taking one recreational drug increases the risk of something nasty happening; taking three does not just increase the risk additionally – there may be poor interactions between the drugs to dramatically increase the risk.

It may be that mephedrone killed these two teenagers. It may be that alcohol killed these two teenagers. It may even be that methadone killed these two teenagers.

Or it could be the combination of two or even all three drugs was particularly dangerous and killed these two teenagers.

Whilst mephedrone itself may be harmful and there may well be a case for making it a controlled substance, inaccurate reporting such as this does not help anyone make an informed decision about the risks of this “legal high”.

This post originally referred to the drug in question as “methadrone” – a common mistake amongst those who have heard the drug’s name rather than seen it written; the correct spelling is “mephedrone”.