Methcathinone (also known as mephedrone) is an addictive psychoactive substance, and abuse of this drug is rapidly increasing in South Africa. A common street name for Methcathinone is ‘Kat’, and its use is mostly associated with the club and rave scenes. There is no medical or pharmaceutical use for this substance’ and it is mainly produced in illicit ‘Kat labs’, for recreational purposes. According to reports there has been increase in use of Kat since 2010.
It is often used as a substitute for other stimulants such as cocaine and ecstasy. Cat is not to be confused with the khat plant, the leaves of which are chewed as a central nervous system stimulant.
Methcathinone or cat/kat can be very costly to the user. Tolerance develops quickly, and the user may develop psychological dependence with frequent use.
Methods of use
Methcathinone is taken into the body by snorting or inhaling. It is water-soluble, and can be taken orally when mixed with a liquid, and can also be injected into the veins.
Effects on the user
The effect of Cat/Kat has been described as being very similar to that of cocaine. Unlike cocaine, the ‘high’ effect can last up to six hours, making this a very popular recreational drug. The user may experience:
- Intense feelings of euphoria
- Increased energy
- Increased confidence
- Loss of appetite
- Dilated pupils
- Feelings of love or empathy towards others
- Sociability and talkativeness
Adverse effects of cat/kat include:
- Damage to the nasal cavities
- Involuntary teeth grinding
- Blurred vision
- Loss of appetite
- Mental confusion
- Muddled speech
- Liver, kidney, lung and cardiovascular damage with prolonged use
- The loss of the ability to make rational decisions
- Memory loss
- Amphetamine psychosis
- Paranoid delusions
- Violent behaviour
- Symptoms similar to those of Parkinson’s disease from injecting the drug
- Greater risk of stroke, coma or death resulting from a blood pressure increase and an irregular cardiac rate
Withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of cocaine, lasting from two to three weeks or longer depending on the extent of use. Symptoms include:
- Hypersomnia (excessive sleeping)
- Increased appetite
- Agitation and aggression from extreme psychological cravings for the drug
Overdose can occur with any quantity of drug used, and the user is always at risk. Overdose causes seizures, an increase in body temperature, respiratory failure, coma, and/or death.
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