Mephedrone ban blamed for rise in cocaine deaths

Banning the "dance drug" mephedrone may have cost lives rather than saving them – by driving users back to cocaine, an expert said yesterday.

Latest figures show deaths from cocaine and ecstasy fell during the first six months of 2009 at a time when the popularity of mephedrone, then still a "legal high", was rising. Separate evidence suggests that many drug users may have substituted it for cocaine, which could account for a decline in cocaine-related deaths.

Although mephedrone itself has been linked with several deaths, subsequent investigations have cast doubt on how dangerous it really is.

The ban on the drug was announced last March by former home secretary Alan Johnson after he received a recommendation from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). The decision followed a public outcry over the deaths of two teenagers – Louis Wainwright, 18, and Nicholas Smith, 19, from Scunthorpe – although toxicology tests later showed they had not taken the drug.

Professor Sheila Bird, of the Medical Research Council's Biostatistics Unit in Cambridge, said yesterday that after rising for four years, deaths from cocaine fell in the first six months of 2009 to 66, a statistically significant drop from 95 in the same period of 2008. Delays in reporting drug-related deaths mean the figures have only now become available.

Writing on the website Straight Statistics, Professor Bird said mandatory drug tests carried out on soldiers by the army showed a sharp fall in cocaine use during 2008 which continued into 2009. "I speculated that this decline might be the result of soldiers' shifting to mephedrone, then a 'legal high'. If that were true among the wider drug-using population, then the decision in April 2010 to make mephedrone illegal may have had the unintended consequence of reversing a notable decrease in cocaine-related deaths," she wrote.

But Professor Leslie Iversen, chairman of the ACMD, dismissed the suggestion as "purely speculative". "There is also evidence that mephedrone was being used by young people who had never used drugs before. The poor quality of cocaine in the UK may have led people to mephedrone – but that is also speculation. There isn't any hard data," he said.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower