Cheap killer showing up at NZ parties

By Alanah Eriksen, Alanah May Eriksen

Customs has intercepted 15 consignments of party drug mephedrone.
Customs has intercepted 15 consignments of party drug mephedrone.

A new party drug linked to deaths in Europe has made its way to New Zealand.

Customs Service staff have made 15 interceptions of mephedrone, totalling 816g, since November.

The drug can bought legally over the internet in Britain for as little as £4 ($8.70) a gram because of its use in plant food but is illegal here.

There are no recorded interceptions before last year.

Police say they have been aware for some time of the availability of mephedrone, which is classified in New Zealand as a Class-C drug.

The maximum penalty for possession is three months' jail and/or a $500 fine. The maximum penalty for importing, cultivating and/or supplying is eight years' imprisonment.

The drug, also called plant food, meow meow or white magic, is reportedly manufactured in China and comes in powder or pill form.

It is often taken or sold as a substitute for Ecstasy and has been reported to have caused fits, blood circulation problems, vomiting, nausea, nose bleeds, nose burns, hallucinations, rashes and paranoia.

Last month, English 20-year-old Steph Howard died after taking mephedrone while on a night out with friends.

And in November, 14-year-old Brighton resident Gabrielle Price died of a suspected heart attack after taking a combination of mephedrone and ketamine.

The drug was also linked to the 2008 death of a Swedish 18-year-old, who apparently took mephedrone with cannabis two days before.

The UK's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is expected to advise the Government this month whether mephedrone should be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

New Zealand National Drug Intelligence Bureau co-ordinator Stuart Mills says the drug is banned in Norway, Finland, Denmark, Israel and Sweden.

"Concerns have been raised about the strength of mephedrone available in New Zealand and it is believed that some drug users take mephedrone as a substitute for Ecstasy [MDMA]," he said. "There is also a risk that tablets which people believe to be MDMA may in fact contain mephedrone."

Customs spokesman Aaron Hailwood said that in all 15 interceptions, mephedrone was in its powder form. Fourteen were made at the International Mail Centre in Auckland, the other at a fast-freight base.

In 13 of the cases, the mephedrone had come from Britain and in the other two, China.

Ross Bell, executive director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation, said mephedrone wasn't yet at a scale in New Zealand where "people were turning up in hospital".

"You crack down on mephedrone and the next week they'll be something else ... It shows New Zealanders have an appetite for getting their hands on these sorts of things."


* Class-C drug mephedrone.
* Also known as plant food, meow meow or white magic.
* Used as a substitute for Ecstasy (MDMA).
* Rapidly grown in popularity in Europe and now arriving here.
* Blamed for fits, vomiting, nausea, nose bleeds, hallucinations, and paranoia.
* Linked to at least three deaths.

- NZ Herald

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