Objective: Synthetic cathinones are an emerging class of designer drugs abused of due to their psychostimulant and hallucinogenic effects, similar to those of cocaine, methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), amphetamines and methamphetamines. Mephedrone is a cathinone analogue (4-methyl aromatic analogue of methcathinone) that was reported to be implicated in several fatalities in the media across Europe, but only a few have actually resulted in mephedrone cited as the cause of death. In this paper, we aim to systematically review analytically confirmed cases of mephedrone-related fatalities.
Materials and methods: Relevant scientific articles were identified from Medline, Cochrane Central, Scopus, Web of Science, Science Direct, EMBASE and Google Scholar, through May 2015 using the following keywords: "Mephedrone", "fatal intoxication," "fatalities", "acute intoxication" and "death".
Results: In total, 10 citations met the criteria for inclusion, representing 18 fatal cases with analytically confirmed mephedrone in biological sample/s of the deceased. The death was attributed to mephedrone intoxication in 9 cases (range of post-mortem blood mephedrone concentration: 1.33-22 mg/L), whereas multiple drug toxicity, involving mephedrone was cited as cause of death in 6 cases (range of post-mortem blood mephedrone concentration: 0.04-1.3 mg/L).
Conclusions: Data suggest that the abuse of mephedrone remains to be a public health issue. Mephedrone appears to have a rather narrow therapeutic window that makes its use dangerous. Dosages which supposedly fall within recreational use limits could also lead to death when combined with other drugs in certain circumstances. Forensic Toxicology laboratories must assess their testing procedures to ensure they can achieve both an appropriate screening regime and targeted quantitative analysis for the detection of mephedrone in various biological matrices.