'Designer drug' mephedrone on the rise among teens and young adults on the rise in Gloucestershire
ILLEGAL use of a drug which wrecks lives is on the rise in Gloucestershire.
Frontline drug rehabilitation workers are seeing more evidence of mephedrone – aka MCat or meow meow.
With cocaine, it's the second most taken by those aged 16 to 24 with 4.4 per cent of that age group trying it – three times higher than all others.
And the percentage of people who take it in the south west puts the region at the second highest in the country, behind only the north east, at 1.7 per cent.
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Last month, Gloucester Crown Court judge Jamie Tabor QC said a "raging epidemic" of mephedrone use has hit Gloucestershire's streets. Initially used as plant food, it was made illegal in 2010 and now costs £10 per gram on the streets.
Now, users who have suffered its devastating effects say Gloucester must pull back from its deadly link with the latest designer substance. People can experience an intense rush as they snort, inject or 'bomb' the fine white powder by gulping it down with water. Leanne Smith, 32, has come through her own personal battle with heroin and crack cocaine, a drug she describes as the 'destroyer of all destroyers'.
She insists MCat is worse and is leading to a spike in knife crime as users turn to crime to pay for their next hit.
"I was 20 when I first took heroin," she said. "All these people were buzzing about and it was exciting. I wanted to try it for myself.
"This new world looked appealing because I was on my own. I felt I would fit in and I could gain some kind of life. I was in a hostel and lonely.
"Injecting was something I never thought I would do. But I did it. Then two years after I got into crack cocaine. That is the destroyer of all destroyers.
"Heroin numbs you, strips you of feelings and emotions. The crack makes you chatty and more alive, but brings more long term problems.
"Mephedrone is even more dangerous. Young people have no idea what they are doing. This drug is hugely damaging. We have a serious knife crime problem in Gloucester. This drug has brought knife crime back to the surface."
Andy Symons, area operations manager for rehabilitation experts Turning Point, in Gloucestershire, said: "We have noticed an increase in the use of MCat in Gloucestershire. MCat or mephedrone can have a dramatic impact on users, with prolonged use causing significant harm."
A Gloucestershire police spokesman said: "Some may view these as softer substances but, particularly in the case of mephedrone, where the make-up of the ingredients can vary with each batch, users are gambling with their health whenever they take it."