A Preference for Mephedrone: Drug Markets, Drugs of Choice, and the Emerging “Legal High” Scene

Karen McElrath, Marie Claire Van Hout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


This study focuses on individuals' preferences for mephedrone, a new psychoactive substance that has emerged in several countries. We examine the reasons for mephedrone preferences, and describe the positive and negative effects of the drug experience, route of administration and consumers' views about the legality of mephedrone. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with 45 adults who had used mephedrone since January 2010. Respondents resided in one of two jurisdictions that were characterized by different legislative controls over mephedrone. The findings suggest the importance of macro-level drug market factors that shaped people's preferences for mephedrone. Additionally, respondents' preferences were guided by pharmacological properties that helped them conceal the effects of mephedrone in public and semi-public spaces. Respondents were not deterred by the (impending) change from legal to illicit drug. The findings have implications for the study of localized drug markets, and in particular, legislative controls over emerging legal highs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-507
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Drug Issues
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health(social science)


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