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Understanding new drug trends: exploring the nature of mephedrone use

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Background: New psychoactive substances (NPS) have emerged to become common features of the recreational and club drug markets in the UK. They have led to a number of challenges for public health, harm reduction, treatment, and drug policy fields. Mephedrone (4-Methylmethcathinone) may be considered a prototypic NPS that has transitioned into established drug markets in the UK. Aim: The primary aim of this thesis is to examine the reasons influencing the use of NPS. This will be addressed by limiting the focus of the research to the key characteristics of mephedrone use. The research also aims to explore how new drug trends are adopted by users, as well as user demographic characteristics, patterns of use, subjective experience and relative harms associated with use. Methodology: The aims of this thesis were addressed through five interlinked studies, adopting a mixed methods approach: (1) A systematic review of users self-reported reasons for mephedrone use (2) The thematic analysis of online historical self-report data (3) The thematic analysis of online drug discussion forum data (4) An online survey and follow-up of mephedrone users (5) Semi-structured interviews with NPS specialists. Results: Factors associated with the emergence of mephedrone were explored. Profiles of subjective mephedrone effects (Main Negative, Main Positive, Rare Negative, Physiological, Cognitive, ROA), and reasons for use (Negative, Positive, Market Factors, Psychonaut) were developed. Associations between use behaviours, effects and reasons for use, and outcomes of use (dependence and adverse events) were examined. Conclusion: Mephedrone is an MDMA (Ecstasy) – like stimulant drug, which is predominantly used ‘recreationally’ within dynamic drug repertoires. Problematic mephedrone use exhibits symptoms of dependence, and may be associated with negative drug effects, negative reasons for use, and lifetime frequency of use.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Sep 2019

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