Amid much controversy, the compound mephedrone has been banned in the United Kingdom. A derivative of the Khat plant, mephedrone gives users a euphoric feeling similar to those experienced by users of cocaine, ecstasy, and methamphetamine. Scientists had barely begun their investigations into the substance when politicians and members of a drug advisory board pushed successfully for the ban. Two members of the council quit as a result of the rushed and incomplete conclusion reached by the other members of the committee. Whether acting on good faith or participating in a witch hunt, the drug will not legally be sold in the U.K. after June 2011.
Individuals who use the drug also known as Meow report experiencing dramatic effects. While some users likened the drug’s effects to those of cocaine, others related to the ‘rolling’ feeling experienced when on ecstasy. More commonly, however, is the claim that mephedrone recreates the sensation of being high on meth. Before the ban, this drug was readily available for purchase to minors and adults alike that may or may not have abused the substance. Several deaths have been related to mephedrone, but no investigation has proven that the drug was directly responsible. Oftentimes the youth of today are consuming cocktails of myriad drugs, each interacting differently to each. The definitive answer is not always available.
The typical process of criminalizing a substance involves in-depth research into the known reactions and side effects, as well as short and long term residual effects the drug may exhibit in users. In the case of the Parliament’s decision to ban mephedrone, scientists assigned to investigate this substance were not finished with their observations and testing. This impulse maddened the scientific community who claims the act demonstrates a downward spiral taking place within an institution of power. When governments and politicians act without scientific fact they take steps backwards through evolution and jeopardize the progress humankind has made.
Two prominent members of the ACMD, the council that was responsible for discussing and finally voting on a recommendation, quit and abandoned their posts during this so-called scandal. One former council member, a doctor, was upset that the majority consensus was to advise without all of the facts rather than wait until they were available. The direction of the voting was taking such a turn that another member quit shortly after the first. She claimed that banning the substance was not as important as discovering the logic taking place in the minds of the young people who largely took part in the drug’s use. This woman further pressed that the recommendation should favor a focus on the children’s need to use drugs, rehabilitation methods and their longevity.
The status of the legality of the popular laboratory-produced drug is no longer in debate: it is illegal to sell or possess. By no means is the subject moot, however, as lobbyists and researchers continue to pursue legal means to extract and apply the active ingredients of the Khat plant. Conservative citizens and left-wing demonstrators will continue to dispute the U.K.’s decision although the fact that the U.S. has already banned the drug will only offer weight to the right’s argument. Some conventional wisdom has it that to ban everything that comes along without justification, scientific or moral, is impulsive and possibly counter-productive to the furtherance of medical research and forward-directed thought.