Dangerous new drug 'meow meow' haunts Mumbai youth

Updated: Dec 13, 2014, 10:02 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

It costs one-twentieth the price of cocaine, is not banned and can be home delivered. No wonder then that mephedrone or ‘meow meow’ is wreaking havoc in the lives of city youth

Youngsters in the city are high on ‘Meow Meow’, a new drug in the city. Mumbai’s rave scene is getting hooked to the new drug, and the city’s bands are said to be heavily into it. Why the drug is fast gaining popularity is that it can be ordered online and will be delivered to your doorstep. The drug is not in the list of banned drugs under the Narcotics, Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (NCB) Act, 1958.

Meow meow looks just like cocaine, and is usually snorted or taken orally. Representation Pic/Thinkstock

In the last two months, Drug Abuse Information, Rehabilitation and Research Centre (DAIRRC) has received 30 cases of meow meow addiction, of the total 40 cases received.

Dr Yusuf Merchant, the president of DAIRRC, said that most cases were in the age group of 16-26 years, with twelve of them being women.

According to Dr Merchant, meow meow is mephedrone, a powerful recreational drug that addicts take for effects similar to amphetamines and ecstasy. Mephedrone also has medicinal value and is used as an anaesthetic.

“If not controlled immediately, meow meow will hit an epidemic proportion, as it is legally sold in India. This drug (meow) is terrible, and probably the worst in my 33 years of experience in running a drug rehabilitation centre. The government should immediately put this dangerous chemical under the NDPS Act and law-enforcing agencies must call in for a crackdown,” said Merchant.

Cheap and easy to get
The drug costs Rs 150 per gram, which is much cheaper than cocaine, which costs at least Rs 3,000 per gram. Unlike other drugs which are bought from peddlers and dealers, meow meow can be ordered online via Internet pharmacy websites (see box). Once payment is received, it is supplied at the customer’s address. It is also sold in few grams as plant fertilisers, to avoid scrutiny from law enforcers.

“Mephedrone users enjoy increased energy, self-confidence and talkativeness, euphoria, mental and physical stimulation, an enhanced sense of touch and empathy and a bit of sensory distortion. They also frequently enjoy a strong craving for more of the drug. It appears as a white or off-white powder, which is primarily either snorted or swallowed. It is usually mistaken for cocaine,” explained Dr Merchant.

When mephedrone (meow meow) is snorted, it only takes a few minutes to take effect. When swallowed, its effects can take more than half an hour to show up. Dr Merchant added, “Israel banned the usage of mephedrone in 2008, while Europe banned it in 2010. It is a new drug in India, where it is still being sold legally.”

Side effects
Like other drugs, even mephedrone has side effects like loss of appetite, muscle clenching and tremors, headache, anxiety, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, fast/irregular heartbeat, difficulty in urinating, changes in body temperature and blue/cold fingers, explained Dr Merchant.

Addicts also report a come down period after use of meow, which can be compared to the come down period experienced after cocaine or ecstasy.

Addicts are tempted to have more and more of it again and again, to keep the high going and prevent the come down. When addicts come from the high, they also tend to become depressed. Some feel like they’re zombies and experience hallucination of being amidst dead people and devils. Others turn abusive and violent and such a situation can only lead to a law and order problem for the police, said Dr Merchant.

Officials say

Kishor Jadhav, deputy commissioner of police (anti-narcotics cell), Mumbai Crime Branch, said, “Since the said drug (mephedrone) is not covered under the NDPS Act, we are not able to take any legal action. However, our department will be shortly writing a letter to the director general (Narcotics Control Bureau), requesting them to include mephedrone under the Act. Until then, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is empowered to take action against such drugs.” Sanjay Kale, joint commissioner, FDA (Vigilance), said, “I am in a meeting and do not wish to comment on this issue.” Mahesh Zagade, the FDA commissioner, did not respond to calls even after repeated attempts.

Where meow meow is banned
>> Israel (2008)
>> Europe (2010)
>> In Australia and New Zealand, it is not directly banned but is illegal, as it is similar to controlled substances
>> In the US, it is a controlled drug under the Controlled Substances Act

Confession of an ex-addict: It has by far the worst come down of all the drugs I have ever taken. It is unbearable — the mental trauma, the depression, no motivation to do anything in life, the loneliness. I was very suicidal at that stage in my life. I thank God every day that I could come out of it and live life to its fullest. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

How meow meow is bought
According to the Narcotics Control Bureau, Internet pharmacy is nothing but an extension of e-commerce in the pharmacy industry, whereby pharmaceutical products i.e. medicines are sold via the Internet instead of conventional pharmacies. The modus operandi is simple – a number of websites offer an entire range of medicines, ranging from over-the-counter drugs to prescription drugs falling in the category of narcotic drugs & psychotropic substances to their prospective customers.
In some cases, the suppliers themselves host these websites. In other cases, these websites act as a sort of intermediary i.e. they collect orders from prospective customers and then pass it on to the suppliers, collecting their commission in the sales so effected in the process. Once these orders are received online, they are downloaded and passed on to the suppliers, who might be based in a different country. Suppliers then source the drugs and execute the orders, usually through courier parcels, and pass on the tracking number of the individual parcels to the website operators. Thereafter, the websites operator makes payments to the supplier after deducting the usual service charges. These are standard practices of e-commerce and are not unique to Internet pharmacies. Senior officials say that though e-commerce is legal, Internet pharmacies are illegal in the Indian context.

Code words for drugs
>> Mephedrone: Known as meow meow, MCAT. For a purchase, the buyer sends this message to the dealer:   ‘My Cat is feeling much better’ or ‘My cat unwell, not coming for party today’
>> Cocaine: Known as coke, Charlie, CDs, Charles, snow etc. An addict sends a text message to tell a dealer he wants to purchase: ‘Uncle Charlie is coming out tonight’ or ‘Can you please burn 3 CDs for me this evening?’
>> MDMA: Known as ‘Mom n Dad’. The coded text message here is: ‘Mom n Dad are also coming today’

Addicted student slashed penis, stabbed mother
On January 9 this year, UK’s Daily Mirror reported that a student in West Sussex, UK, high on meow meow stabbed his mother before cutting off his penis. The 19-year-old, otherwise described as a lovely lad, was high on the drug and pierced a knife into his mother. After this, he proceeded to cut off his penis. The injured woman called the emergency 999 number and when police arrived, they found the boy hanging from the bedroom window with blood flowing from his wound. Both were rushed to hospital.

A former addict confesses
Rahul Mehrotra (29) (name changed), a resident of Pali Hill, Bandra, is undergoing rehabilitation at DAIRRC, and spoke to exclusively to mid-day about his encounter with meow meow Like all other addicts out there in the world, I, too, didn’t know that, what started as a simple case of teenage curiosity, would turn out to be a complex case of drug addiction for the next 13 years. Growing up, I was brilliant academically, a great athlete, had a wonderful family, and lots of friends. But somehow, somewhere deep down I wasn’t happy. There began the search for finding my true self (the best excuse for trying that first hit).

I smoked grass for the first two or three years, and it seemed greener than it really was. I enjoyed it and let myself believe I was experimenting just as anyone else at my age would. I grew fonder of my ‘friends’ and further away from family. As the ‘snow’ (cocaine) went up my nose, I came tumbling down the slopes of life. What started as a skiing holiday in the Himalayas, ended up as a permanent residency on the foothills of Hotel Rock Bottom. I started with hashish and would spend R1,500 a month, which gradually went up to R5 lakh a month on drugs.

The legitimate income from my creative work in an advertising agency was untouched and remained as savings in my bank account. But soon, I got into cricket/horse betting and gambling. At times, I even became a supplier to meet my requirements. I played all tricks to hide these from my parents, even changed my urine samples with the drivers and paid bribes to the urine collecting staffer of a private laboratory to ensure that the test reports came negative. But I was only cheating myself doing all that.

Failed relationships, intense bouts of paranoia, numerous suicidal attempts, blackouts to broken bones and finally, above all, the discomfort of that self-consumed life led me to try and salvage my former self through rehabilitation. And thank God I did. Because, it led me to be happy with life, confident about myself, focused about my work, empathetic towards others. It has made me realise the importance of healthy relationships, and taught me how to nurture them. I’ve learned to have better control over my emotions and make rational decisions. Gratitude and prayer is now an integral part of my loving and forgiving mode of life. I am not the burden I used to be, but the support that holds my family together. I am not one who wants to only take, but live to give as well.

I still love getting high every day … the only difference being that now it’s on this treasure we call life.

Using meow meow
The first time I took meow meow was a complete accident. I thought I was snorting cocaine and was completely taken by shock. I started feeling very nauseous. Very soon, I figured out it wasn’t cocaine, but something else. A phone conversation with the dealer made me realise he probably gave me the wrong packet.

Soon after, I started getting very weird thoughts. My teeth were grinding, I got into an intense state of paranoia and felt I was going to die. My friends who were with me claim that I was talking like I was the devil. I generally am a very tolerant and soft-spoken chap, but I had a total outburst with the dealer. My behaviour was so erratic that some of my friends from that night still get scared and remind me of that incident from time to time.

Soon, I was pretty addicted to meow meow and started using it on a daily basis, as it gave me a similar high to cocaine but the effect lasted longer. When I did take the drug, I felt my confidence go up. I enjoyed listening and dancing to music much more and I could not stop talking. I have had some very emotional conversations, which I probably never would have had if I were not on that drug. There were times when my heart rate has raced faster than the fastest trance beats you have ever heard.

Over time, everything started to go downhill. I was a completely changed person, started having road rage incidents, irrational sleep patterns, insomnia, immense bouts of paranoia, visual and auditory hallucinations of the scariest kind.

At one point of time, I was talking to a supposed person hiding in my petrol tank telling him to stop following me and to come out from there or that I would burn him with the car. Luckily, the police came and salvaged the situation. It is by far the worst come down of all the drugs I have ever taken, and trust me, I’ve taken a lot. It is unbearable – the mental trauma, the depression, no motivation to do anything in life, the loneliness. It is this come down that made me want to be in that constant state of high all the time. I was very suicidal at that stage in my life. I thank God everyday that I could come out of it and live life to its fullest.

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