Dangers of MCAT: Calderdale drug workers say it is impacting on people’s mental health

The team at Lifeline Calderdale, Ward's End, Halifax.
The team at Lifeline Calderdale, Ward's End, Halifax.

The long-term health implications of MCAT are starting to become evident, say the team at substance misuse service Lifeline Branching Out.

The experts there, who help people across Calderdale with different substance problems, say they are seeing effects on people’s mental health, including depression, anxiety and low moods and self-esteem.

Because the drug is relatively new, it is only now that these side-effects are starting to appear.

Katy Hetherington, operations manager from Lifeline Branching Out, said: “We have seen an increase in young people seeking support for methcathinones use and stimulants in general, but as with all drug users, we know they are the tip of a much bigger iceberg.

“Fortunately Lifeline has been active – and successful – across Calderdale, so there’s high awareness of the services we offer and as a result of that we are working with a greater number of young drug users to help them change their lives,”

She said the people the service are seeing with MCAT problems are usually aged 15 or 16.

She added alcohol is often the gateway substance to teenagers using MCAT and other drugs. The team at Lifeline Branching Out offer a range of help to young people and their families including one-to-one support, counselling, complementary therapies, diversionary activities, clinical treatment, advocacy and signposting.

They have a worker based in each area of Calderdale and can see young people at their convenience.

They also run a GP clinic in the town centre on Wednesday afternoons for young people who may require substitute prescribing or detoxification, or have health concerns connected to their substance use. They also provide hepatitis A and B vaccinations, sexual health screening and advice.

The service has a dedicated family worker providing information, advice and support to parents affected by substance use, children of substance-using parents and teenage parents.

And the team deliver training to frontline professionals around current trends such as MCAT and ketamine.

Katy added: “ One of the tools we use is a ‘Legal Highs’ film produced in partnership and with the pupils of  Ryburn Valley High School.

“It’s imperative that we are able to keep the preventative message going to help keep Calderdale’s young people safe now and in the future.

“Our approach appears to be working for Calderdale and while we have a long way to go, we are starting to see positive results for our young people.”

Donna Green, programme manager for young people at NHS Calderdale, said: “While it is disturbing news that we have seen increases in the use of methcathinones, the good news in Calderdale is that we have good support services and treatment so that our young people can be helped to stop use quickly,

“We know that the majority of young people who seek help manage to stop or reduce their substance use which is better for them, their families and the community in general. 

“NHS Calderdale funds substance misuse prevention and treatment services for young people because we are keen to prevent the harm of drugs and alcohol.

“It’s not only good for health, wellbeing and future prospects of young people, it is money well spent in terms of future savings to the health and criminal justice.”

Anyone concerned about drug or alcohol use can get free, confidential advice by contacting Lifeline Branching Out on 01422 510000 or visit their office at Wards End in Halifax town centre.

Mephedrone, also known as MCAT and Meow Meow, is a powerful stimulant and is part of the cathinone family - a group of drugs closely related to amphetamines.

The main effects and risks include euphoria, alertness and feelings of affection and feelings of anxiety and paranoia. It can also overstimulate the heart, circulation and nervous system, with risk of fits.

Other effects that people have reported include heart palpitations, insomnia, loss of short-term memory, vertigo, grinding of teeth, sweating and uncomfortable changes in temperature.

Users have reported blue or cold fingers as well as severe nosebleeds after snorting mephedrone.

Police first warned that the drug had hit Calderdale at the beginning of 2010. They said use of the drug, which used to be marketed as plant food before it became illegal, emerged after several arrests for violent crimes.

Mephedrone is a Class B drug. Anyone found possessing it can be jailed for up to five years and for supplying, up to 14 years in jail.