3-MMC. A number and three letters to designate the synthetic drug that is emerging as the new party queen: 3-methyl methcathinone. Appearing in the early 2010s, it is presented as the cheapest new cocaine, and “causes growing concern in Europe,” reports the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
Why is the consumption of this drug skyrocketing? Why are European health authorities so concerned? 20 minutes provides an update on this new addictive and dangerous substance.
What is 3-MMC made of and what forms does it come in?
3-MMC belongs to the family of synthetic cathinones, “a group of stimulant substances chemically related to cathinone, the main psychoactive substance of the khat plant (Catha edulis)”, describes the EMCDDA. It is part of the “NPS”, the new synthetic products, “psychoactive substances that try to reproduce the effects of existing illicit products such as ecstasy / MDMA, amphetamines, cocaine, cannabis, LSD”, explains Drugs Info Service.
Chemically, “cathinone is similar to amphetamine, indicates the European Observatory. At the end of 2021, the EMCDDA was monitoring 162 synthetic cathinone, making them the second-largest category of NSPs (after synthetic cannabinoids) under monitoring.”
The French Observatory for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), has confirmed in recent years “a diversification of the proposed forms” of 3-MMC: “before powder, then glass and now tablets”. Therefore, it can be “ingested, most often in the form of a parachute (in a ball of cigarette paper), diluted in a drink, inhaled, injected, or plugged (inserted into the anus with a syringe without a needle)”, details Drugs Info Service.
What effects are your consumers looking for?
“Cathinones are generally used for their stimulant, entactogenic (promoting contact), and empathogenic (increasing empathy) effects,” notes Drugs Info Service. 3-MMC thus provides “a feeling of euphoria, with a feeling of energy, an attenuation of the feeling of fatigue, an uncontrollable need to talk and a feeling of being closer to others. It increases self-confidence and gives a feeling of power,” continues Drug Info Service, which also describes “a heightened sensation and, in a sexual context, increased sensuality and stamina.” Effects that appear very quickly after taking.
“These users define the effects of 3-MMC as a combination of those of cocaine, MDMA, and amphetamines and underline its adaptation to festive sociability,” reports OFDT. The purpose of 3-MMC is therefore to “remove inhibitions, increase pleasure”, continues the French Observatory. Since the early 2010s, its use has been observed “almost exclusively among men who have sex with men (MSM) in contexts that combine sexuality, most often in a group, and the use of synthetic psychoactive products” or chem-sex. Cathinones are also among the most commonly used products for chemsex.
How do explain the explosion of its consumption?
In recent years, 3-MMC use has moved beyond chemsex to spread more widely into nightlife and outside of MSM communities. In question, is the ease of access that favors its democratization. “3-MMC has been the subject, since the mid-2010s, of door-to-door sales to chemsexers by vendors who offer it through certain gay dating apps, OFDT stresses. Since 2019, structured and hierarchical networks, which generally sell cannabis, cocaine, MDMA and target a larger and more diversified clientele, occasionally offer 3-MMC.”
A drug that is all the easier to get because it costs much less than cocaine: from “less than 10 euros per gram”, according to the OFDT, that is, “well below the price of cocaine [dont le Prix oscille entre 70 et 80 euros le gram]. Thus, several consulted users highlight the economic attractiveness of 3-MMC, which is sometimes presented as an alternative to cocaine or, more rarely, to amphetamines”.
As a result, this synthetic drug is flooding the European market: “In total, 3,300 kg of these cathinone powders were seized in 2020, including 750 kg of 3-MMC,” notes the EMCDDA. Powders that “now appear to be made in India and imported into Europe” on an industrial scale, he adds. A worrying finding for OFDT, for whom “the spread of 3-MMC uses is a significant phenomenon of 2020”, but characterized by the confinement linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.
What are the risks associated with this synthetic drug?
Like other psychoactive substances, 3-MMC is associated with a high risk of addiction: “The short duration of the effects and the strong anxiety after ingestion cause a strong craving (irrepressible desire to consume again), which promotes compulsive consumption, Drugs Info Service alert. Regular consumption of cathinone causes the user to increase the doses consumed to obtain the same effects. And when it is stopped, the user feels significant depressive disorders that can last for several weeks. »
In addition, the consumption of this synthetic drug can cause, in particular, “headaches, nausea, and vomiting,” adds Drugs Info Service. As well as a sensation of “burning and runny nose (related to sniffing), cold and bluish extremities, erectile dysfunction and seizures.” The descent phase “can be very unpleasant, resulting in a state of exhaustion due to insomnia, significant anxiety, even paranoia, tingling” or even “an increase in heart rate”.
But consuming 3-MMC can also be fatal. Cases of myocardial infarction, organ failure, and overdose leading to death have been reported. In total, the EMCDDA has identified 27 deaths linked to the use of 3-MMC in Europe.
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