What is monkey dust? The drug causing violent episodes in users

What is monkey dust? The drug causing violent episodes in users
Epidemic of psychotic patients hooked on monkey dust

A new drug that has reportedly led people to jump off buildings or eat glass and has been banned in the US is hitting the headlines in the UK.

The drug, monkey dust, has been linked to a range of problems and the UK government is considering whether to make it a Class A drug.

Here's everything we know about it.

What is monkey dust?

Monkey dust is a synthetic - or manmade - cathinone. Cathinones are a naturally occurring stimulant drug found in the plant, khat.

It is also sometimes called Butylone M1, Magic Crystals, Mdpv, Methylone or Pyrovalerone and comes in a powder form, usually white, off-white, yellowish or brown and a dose can cost as little as £2, according to an MP.

Cathinones were originally sold over the internet as ‘legal’ alternative to drugs like speed, ecstasy and cocaine, the Talk to Frank website explains.

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To avoid trouble with the police, sellers marked the cathinones they were selling as not for human consumption, and sold them as plant food or bath salts.

But the government cottoned on and later banned the substance.

What are its effects?

It is broadly similar to speed or MDMA, according to experts. But reported effects of the drug have included hallucinations, psychosis and involuntary body movements.

According to reports, some users have jumped off buildings or tried to eat glass.

The building jumper landed on a car, jumped up and began grappling with police officers, apparently unable to feel any pain, according to reports.

What are other risks associated with monkey dust?

According to addiction specialist and psychiatrist Dr Catherine Carney, from Delamere rehabilitation clinic, the drug is linked to a number of issues including, cardiovascular problems which can lead to heart attacks, strokes or other long-term health complications, breathing problems, including chest pain or shortness of breath, kidney damage, and gastric distress.

Speaking to Cosmopolitan, she said: "While these are just some of the physical risks that come with using monkey dust, it is important to note that the severity of these can vary hugely depending on a number of factors.

"These include the health of the user, how the substance is taken and what dosage is used."

She also said it was linked to mental health issues including anxiety and depression, memory loss, suicidal thoughts and psychosis.

"As well as physical risks, consuming monkey dust can carry extreme mental risks, which can last long after the drug has worn off," she said.

"When it comes to monkey dust, the mental risks associated with the substance can be extremely severe.

"This is because, when consumed, it can produce a very pronounced euphoric high that interferes with the brain's natural system that regulates motivation and our emotions. When this happens, it can cause the user to act aggressively and violently, or causes them to have no control over their behaviour. This is why we have seen cases of people acting erratically in recent months."

She also said it could be addictive.

How is it taken?

Monkey dust is usually snorted. It can also be found as capsules and pills and can be smoked or, in rare cases, injected.

Where is it used?

In the UK, the drug has been particularly problematic in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, according to reports.

What are the rules surrounding its use?

It was banned in the US in 2012 and has Class B status in the UK. But government officials have asked drug experts to review the substance, which could potentially be upgraded to Class A.

If monkey dust is reclassified from a Class B to Class A drug, those caught supplying it would face a life sentence, while possession would carry a penalty of up to seven years in prison. Currently, as a Class B drug, those caught supplying monkey dust face a custodial sentence of 14 years, while those in possession of it could land five years in prison.

What have people said about it?

Jack Brereton, the Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent South, said he was glad the government is reviewing the drug.

"Many people’s lives have been completely destroyed as a result of taking this drug,” he said.

"There is no treatment for those who become addicted - and it is very addictive. For those who succumb to it, it’s very profound."

He added: "It’s so cheaply available, it’s cheaper than the price of alcohol and people are able to just pick it up readily.

“We need to see reclassification and put the consequences up for those who are pushing this drug."

Chris Philp, the minister for crime and policing, said the government was committed to “tackling the supply and demand for illegal substances” to reduce antisocial behaviour and crime.

Chief Inspector and operational lead on drugs at Staffordshire Police, Rob Hessell said:

"We are supportive of exploring the reclassification of synthetic cathinones, which includes monkey dust, from Class B to A, which will protect people from the harm of these drugs.

"The reclassification would make the drugs harder to access and introduce tougher penalties for possession."

Speaking to the BBC, an anonymous addict who has been taking the drug for five years said the drug was "soul-destroying".

While he described it as "euphoric" he also said it was "so mentally disabling". It come with "dancing with the devil", he said.

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