3‑MMC (3‑Methylmethcathinone), also known as metahedrone, is a synthetic drug of the cathinone family. It’s a “structural analog” of mephedrone, which means that it’s pretty much the same thing but without the unmistakable stench of cat piss. It’s not new, first appearing in Sweden a decade ago. But it’s been having a bit of a moment across Europe recently.
Reports suggest that the nocturnal club kids in Berlin are going wild for it at the moment. That does make sense given their need for serotonin suckers that will keep you going in a world where the peak of a club night can be taking place at the same time Brits are padding to work on a comedown. The Netherlands are bang on it, too.
In terms of effect, it’s pretty similar to mephedrone. Think: the stimulant effects of MDMA but minus the rushy empathy, the horniness of cocaine without the ego, and the longevity of speed but with a worse comedown. It feels like halfway between ecstasy and coke but it lasts a lot longer. With clean MDMA, you can expect to sleep when you get home from a club. With 3‑MMC, you’re not going to sleep for a while. This is a drug that’ll keep you in the club until that traumatic moment when they turn the house lights on and it feels like your brain is dribbling out of your eyeballs.
People are smashing 3‑MMC in the UK, too. It’s just that the British ravers don’t actually know what they are taking. It was one of the most popular drugs at English summer festivals last year, with research finding that 45 per cent of substances sold as “MDMA” last year in fact contained cathinones. One of the most prevalent cathinones was 3‑MMC. The Loop published an alert for it at Lost Village Festival where it was being mis-sold as ecstasy in the form of Louis Vuitton pills. “3‑MMC is a cathinone,” they said. “Similar to mephedrone with stimulants and euphoric effects.” The reason it was so big last year was due to Brexit-related road haulage issues and Covid-19 lockdowns which disrupted traditional supplies of MDMA. The demand for MDMA outstripped supply, and cathinones masquerading as ecstasy filled the gap.
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) released research this year revealing a “marked increase in the supply of cathinone powders in Europe”. Originally, the “overwhelming majority” of cathinones were manufactured in China, but they banned them a few years ago. “Following controls on these substances in China, they now appear to be manufactured in India and imported into Europe ‘on an industrial scale’,” reported the EMCDDA this year. On top of that, you’ve got smaller domestic operations popping off inside Europe, too. “A growing number of production sites have been seized since 2019,” they added.
“The appearance of 3‑MMC on the drug market coincided with the control of mephedrone [that’s also known as “4‑MMC”, in case you’re not confused yet] in Europe, after the latter spread rapidly between 2009 and 2010 when it was produced, distributed, and sold openly as a ‘legal’ stimulant,” Dr Ana Gallegos of the EMCDDA tells THE FACE. “At least in part, it appears that 3‑MMC is being used as a ‘legal’ replacement to mephedrone.”
While 3‑MMC is not as dangerous as drugs like G and heroin, where there’s only a hamster’s eyelash in between the dose that will give you the desired effect and the dose that will kill you, there are still serious risks if you overdose. “The same harm-reduction advice for substances such as mephedrone or MDMA can also be applied to 3‑MMC as well,” Dr Gallegos says. So – start low, go slow. Don’t redose for at least 90 minutes until you are feeling the full effects of the first dose. You don’t want to be redosing all night.
According to research group DrugScience, if you re-dose too frequently you could end up suffering from “hyperstimulation, anxiety, insomnia and potentially even psychosis”. The Loop suggests seeking medical attention if you or your mates have “a significantly raised temperature, muscle rigidity, non-responsiveness, agitation or seizure”.
When is a good time to call an ambulance? “Based on the available information,” Dr Gallegos says that “the clinical features of poisoning with 3‑MMC are similar to those observed with other synthetic cathinones like mephedrone. Adverse effects from overdosing 3‑MMC might include neurological (hallucinations, seizures, agitation, anxiety, psychosis), cardiovascular (like hypertension, chest pain, cardiac arrest) and respiratory clinical features.”
Many countries in the EU are just banning 3‑MMC now, so this has become part of the bizarre game of whack-a-mole between the law-makers and underground chemists. One substance gets banned, another pops up in its place like an unelected Tory prime minister. Yesterday’s 4‑MMC is today’s 3‑MMC and tomorrow it’ll be something else. It’s all a futile effort. According to the UN, “As of mid-June 2022, 183 unique synthetic cathinones were reported by 41 European countries.”
We’re on about the twenty-fifth generation of “legal highs” now. But this process still powers on like a drug policy merry-go-round. Until it’s regulated, every new incarnation of cathinones it spits out increases the harm to users.