This story is over 5 years old.


Mephedrone: The Phantom Menace

There has been a lot of inexcusably moronic meowmix said about mephedrone. So much meowmix, in fact, that I decided it would be best to ignore the entire phenomenon completely, because it was making me lose faith in both drugs and humanity.

There has been a lot of inexcusably moronic meowmix said about mephedrone. So much meowmix, in fact, that I decided it would be best to ignore the entire phenomenon completely, because it was making me lose faith in both drugs and humanity. But then again, most people in the US have never even heard of mephedrone, or they think that you’re just saying “methadone” with a speech impediment, so I have changed my mind and will now fill you in. Mephedrone (pronounced with a labiodental fricative feh) is a synthetic stimulant that has become a media sensation of almost unparalleled stupidity in the UK. Vice’s British editor, Andy Capper, was actually the first to report on the drug in April 2009 on the Vice blog. “There was a paralyzing mania. I felt totally insane,” he wrote. The BBC picked up on it after that. By the end of 2009, new mephedrone horror stories were appearing daily in British tabloids, with bold statements such as “A legal drug known as ‘meow meow’ led one lad to rip off his own scrotum, police said today.” Those enticed to read on find that he ripped off his scrotum because the “meow meow” made him think he was covered in centipedes. After much research and several frenzied calls to the County Durham police department attempting to find said mephedrone eunuch, I have come to the firm conclusion that this supposed “lad” never existed. Making up an autocastration story like that is simply unacceptable, and if for no other reason I now feel obligated to set the record straight. The first reported synthesis of mephedrone came from an underground chemist working under the pseudonym “Kinetic” on April 5, 2003. Of the effects he wrote, “50 mg didn’t do too much. I thought I’d wasted my time until I snorted another 100 mg about 30 minutes later, and then it hit me. Intense rushes… I had another 100 mg about an hour later, then 100 mg an hour or so after that. Each time I could feel the rushes of energy coming across me, and after that, a fantastic sense of well-being that I haven’t got from any drug before except my beloved Ecstasy. I’m still feeling the effects now, since I only completed the synthesis six hours ago.” It was only a few years later that the drug began being mass-produced by an Israeli party-pill manufacturer, first in pale yellow capsules and then as a pure crystalline powder that found its way through coiled £20 notes into the mucus membranes of thousands of British noses. Many lads considered the drug very “morish” and felt compelled to rail multiple grams of it in a single night until their meph snot was recrystallizing on their sleeves and they could not speak due to the severity of their “meph mouf.” Then came meph addiction, meph overdose, perforated septa, malignant hypertension, and the dreaded “purple-knee syndrome”—a condition where the fingers, feet, and knees lose blood circulation as the vascular system constricts, and you turn purple. Although there have been no studies done on mephedrone’s pharmacology, I don’t think anyone is going to be super-surprised if it’s found to be neurotoxic. Its cardiovascular toxicity is almost certain. Although it does feel (breathtakingly) good for two hours, in the following weeks your heart beats like a djembe every time you ascend a single stair. Mephedrone is a great candidate for being flushed down the toilet, and if you’ve never flushed a drug down a toilet you should really try it—it’s surprisingly cathartic. In the case of mephedrone, the toilet will actually sigh and pat you on the back. Anyway, British tabloids ran more and more articles adorned with “BAN MEOW MEOW NOW” badges, which ironically only served as free advertising for the mephedrone vendors, whose sales increased exponentially. With knowledge that the impending ban would cause prices to quadruple and quality to plummet, mephedrone users began buying in bulk and railing the drug with a newfound fervor. The government felt so pressured by hysterical tabloid articles that they made the drug illegal before any toxicological data had been published. The ruling was idiotic, and seven members of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs resigned in protest. Anticipating the ban, drug vendors had already been testing a smorgasbord of nonmephedrone alternatives including methedrone (with an interdental fricative th), flephedrone, brephedrone, clephedrone, iodefedrone, myriad aminoindanes, and tetrains of all shapes and sizes. As expected, the ban has not eliminated mephedrone but raised prices—in addition to ushering in a period of punctuated equilibrium in the evolution of designer drugs. 2010 is to Ecstasy what the Cambrian Period was to arthropods. Since the ban, rumors of toxic batches of “bathtub meph” have already begun to circulate. I had my doubts about this so I called up my pal Uncle Fester, author of Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture and the self-proclaimed father of home-cooked meth, to talk about independent meph synthesis. Vice: So what have you heard about mephedrone?
Uncle Fester: I’ve been getting emails here for, oh, about the past month or so. Ever since they made it illegal in Britain there, people have been inquiring as to how to go about cookin’ it… yup. By weight, mephedrone is much less potent than methamphetamine—it seems like small-scale production would be impractical.
Well, impractical here in the US… People have been contacting me from all over the world. Lord knows where the hell they’re from. When you first published Secrets of Methamphetamine Manufacture it allowed laymen to make their own meth and free themselves from dependence on gangs and drug dealers. I find the do-it-yourself ethos of the meth cook very empowering.
Well, you know China, man. You talk to the right people over there, toss them a couple dollars, and they’ll mislabel drums for you. That’s where a lot of raw materials come from now for large-scale production—they go to China. Who’s going to sit there extracting nasal decongestants when you can get something unscheduled whipped up by the Chinese? The drums they ship out have labels that… well… the labels don’t match the contents! [maniacal laughter] But how do you feel about clandestine—
The industrialization of the field? Yes, exactly.
I preferred it when it was mom-and-pop. Back in the heyday in the mid-90s you could walk down to the grocery store and the pharmacy and everything you needed was 1-2-3, oh, hey, you’re all set and ready to go make some meth. But now, the absolute strongest iodine tincture you can find on the shelf is 1 percent. Well, that’s not very useful now! You have to show ID in order to get these pseudo-ephedrine pills, you know, and it’s become a very troublesome process to do here in the US on a mom-and-pop scale. And that’s what you got to account for the industrialization there… We’ve come to a point where buying home-cooked methamphetamine is essentially a patriotic act.
It should have a sticker: “Made in the USA.” Despite the fact that mephedrone is almost certainly cardiotoxic and impractical for small-scale manufacture, how would one go about cooking up a batch?
If one cooks benzaldehyde with xylene rather than toluene, then methyl substitution on the benzene ring will be assured. Both are hardware-store paint solvents and very easily available at dirt-cheap prices. The method I would choose is given in my book and detailed on a one-gallon scale using a car-battery charger and some lead metal sheet plus some hardware-store permanganate— Purrrrrrmanganate?
What was that there? Sorry, meow-meow joke.
Oh, OK. So you’ve got the permanganate along with some hardware-store sulfuric-acid drain opener. The added ingredient is homebrew-beer-shop sodium metabisulfite, which is used to disinfect brew kettles before making a batch of beer or wine. I’ll spare all the details, but it is just as simple as that to produce para-methyl-benzaldehyde. Using an excess of the xylene would assure that only one of the methyl groups on the xylene gets oxidized to benzaldehyde. Production of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine from the made benzaldehyde is a bit more complex, both equally filled with hardware-store supplies. That would give the ephedrine or pseudoephedrine starting material that one could then oxidize to mephedrone, and all from scratch off the store shelf. Bravo.
Where there’s a will there’s a way—to cook up speed! Disclaimer: Don’t do any of this, obviously.