Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Students test mephedrone drug

Mephedrone is often described as a mix between ecstasy and cocaine

Fifty students who use mephedrone are being recruited in Liverpool for a study into the effects of the drug.

Psychologists at Liverpool John Moores University hope to find out more about the sensations experienced by users.

Mephedrone, also known as "bubbles" or "meow meow", is a readily available legal substance popular among clubbers.

The government's chief drugs adviser Professor Les Iversen said using these students as guinea pigs in the research was "pretty unethical".

Prof Iversen has also indicated the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) will recommend that mephedrone be banned.

Mood tests

Dr Cathy Montgomery, senior lecturer in psychology at Liverpool John Moores University, said she hoped up to 50 students would take part in the planned research.

We don't advertise and say 'Have you taken this drug'. We don't want to be seen to be encouraging the use of it
Dr Cathy Montgomery

Tests will study their thoughts and ability to think coherently after taking the drug.

They will also be asked to describe how they feel, with "sad" or "depressed" at the bottom and "euphoric" or "very happy" at the top.

Dr Montgomery said researchers would work with students known to them as mephedrone users.

"We don't advertise and say 'Have you taken this drug'. We don't want to be seen to be encouraging the use of it," she said.

Mephedrone is a recreational drug, which is usually snorted by users. It is often described as a mix between ecstasy and cocaine.

Users say they feel more alert, confident and talkative. Like cocaine, the affects appear to last around an hour before wearing off.

Prof Iversen said on Tuesday he expected the panel the ACMD to make a recommendation to the home secretary on the drug's legality next week.

He said he believed mephedrone was "harmful" and hinted it should be categorised as a Class B drug.

He was giving evidence to the Home Affairs committee after the deaths of at least two people who took it.

Louis Wainwright, 18, and Nicholas Smith, 19, died in Scunthorpe last week after taking the drug.

On Friday, Schools Minister Vernon Coaker wrote to every school in England telling them they could seize the drug under existing rules, even though it is not illegal.

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