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Forensic Sci Int. 2005 Oct 4;153(1):99-101.

Methcathinone: a new postindustrial drug.

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Groupe Santé Recherche, 35 rue Bernard de Ventadour, 31300 Toulouse, France.


Methcathinone, a methyl derivative of cathinone, is an illicit drug also known as ephedrone. It is a stimulant found in the "khat" plant, Catha edulis, which can easily be synthesized from pseudoephedrine. Its intoxication is difficult to diagnose and cure properly for two reasons: (i) target consumers are usually "well-educated people" aware of the risks and precautionary measures and (ii) intoxication by cathinone derivatives of synthetic or natural (derived from the khat) origin induce misleading symptoms. As a result, documented reports of methcathinone intoxication that are based on reliable analyses are rare. This paper describes a case of reiterated coma due to an overdose of methcathinone dissolved in alcohol that was taken with bromazepam. A 29-year-old woman was admitted to an emergency department for a coma of toxic origin. Medical files showed that it was her second such episode to occur that month. Moreover, the family indicated signs of depression, incoherent behaviour and intake of "amphetamine-like" drugs. Clinical examination revealed a Glasgow coma score of 9, symmetrical reactive pupils with mydriasis and no convulsions. The patient presented with rapid respirations and her blood pressure was 93/53 mmHg. The ionogram and the blood gas analyses were normal, while the blood alcohol level was 0.167 g/dL. Urinalysis revealed the presence of benzodiazepines and a high concentration of amphetamines (methcathinone: 17.24 mg/L, ephedrine: 11.60 mg/L and methylephedrine: 11.10 mg/L). In addition, serum analysis revealed bromazepam (8.89 mg/L), methcathinone (0.50 mg/L) and methylephedrine (0.19 mg/L). This case showed that the consumption of bromazepam and alcohol altered the typical clinical symptoms of cathinone derivative intoxication, namely hypertension and convulsions. Methylephedrine, an impurity resulting from the alkylation of a primary amine, can be considered a chemical tag indicating fraudulent synthetic origin of the drug. This case describes a documented example of new addictive behaviour of "well-educated" people involving the intake of methcathinone, a postindustrial psychostimulant intentionally combined with an anticonvulsant benzodiazepine. However, this specific case suggests that in spite of a very high bromazepam concentration in presence of the potentiator alcohol, the vital respiratory function would be probably maintained, thanks to the association with methcathinone.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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