Is the recent emergence of mephedrone injecting in the United Kingdom associated with elevated risk behaviours and blood borne virus infection?

Euro Surveill. 2016 May 12;21(19). doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2016.21.19.30225.


The recent, and rapid, emergence of injection of the short-acting stimulant mephedrone (4-methylmethcathione) has resulted in concerns about increased infection risks among people who inject drugs (PWID). Data from the bio-behavioural surveillance of PWID in the United Kingdom were analysed to examine the impact of mephedrone injection on infections among PWID. During the year preceding the survey, 8.0% of PWID (163/2,047) had injected mephedrone. In multivariable analyses, those injecting mephedrone were younger, less likely to have injected opiates, and more likely to have injected cocaine or amphetamines, used needle/syringe programmes or sexual health clinics, been recruited in Wales and Northern Ireland or shared needles/syringes. There were no differences in sexual risks. Those injecting mephedrone more often had hepatitis C antibodies (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 1.51; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.08-2.12), human immunodeficiency virus (AOR = 5.43; 95% CI: 1.90-15.5) and overdosed (AOR = 1.70; 95% CI: 1.12-2.57). There were no differences in the frequency of injecting site infections or prevalence of hepatitis B. The elevated levels of risk and infections are a concern considering its recent emergence. Mephedrone injection may currently be focused among higher-risk or more vulnerable groups. Targeted responses are needed to prevent an increase in harm.

Keywords: Hepatitis C; Mephedrone; People who inject drugs; human immunodeficiency virus - HIV; risk behaviours.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Blood-Borne Pathogens*
  • Causality
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants / administration & dosage
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / epidemiology*
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / virology
  • Comorbidity
  • Drug Users / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Injections, Intravenous / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine / administration & dosage
  • Methamphetamine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Needle Sharing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / virology
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Viremia / epidemiology*
  • Viremia / virology
  • Vulnerable Populations / statistics & numerical data


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Methamphetamine
  • mephedrone