KUALA LUMPUR: A new party drug that is still legal may have caused the death of six youths at the recent Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) concert.
Dr Mahmud Mazlan (pic), who runs 10 clinics specialising in drug abuse treatment, said he felt the deaths were not due to drug overdose as widely reported.
It was more likely caused by mephedrone, a party drug used recently in the West, which caught on in Jakarta since last year, he said.
Dr Mahmud also said his patients had confirmed to him that the drug, reported to have caused several deaths in the West, had already reached Malaysian shores and was being freely marketed online.
An online search found a number of Kuala Lumpur-based advertisements selling the substance. Peddlers and users are also believed to be actively promoting it via social media.
It is also learned that both mephedrone and Eramin-5 have overtaken ecstasy as the two most popular drugs at rave parties as these have a stronger effect.
“More than a dozen countries have banned this party drug because of the fatalities it caused. What happened at the festival appeared to be similar to mephedrone-related deaths reported in the West,” he said.
Mephedrone is still legal in Malaysia because it has not been gazetted under the Dangerous Drugs Act despite the number of fatalities reported overseas.
“Urine and blood tests currently used by authorities are not able to detect mephedrone precursors. So, authorities tend to mistake it for methamphetamine.
“Mephedrone and other designer drugs can also go undetected in urine tests if they are taken with synthetic cannabis,” said Dr Mahmud.
On March 14, six people died after taking drugs during the FMFA.
It was also reported that the deaths could be due to one of the many new deadly “imported” designer drugs, one of which – “Tab” – only takes 10 minutes to knock out someone’s vital systems.
Dr Mahmud said his sources also confirmed blood tests did not show high drug dosage.
“Different people react differently to mephedrone. Most users will experience the normal effects but depending on their susceptibility, instant death can happen. The user may collapse and die even with a low dosage.
“They can be novices taking the drug for the first time, ” he said, adding that most deaths occurred when mephedrone was taken with either ketamine, cannabis or alcohol.
“One quarter of the fatalities happen on site while the rest occur after they leave the party. In a case in Britain, the user died 12 hours later,” he said, adding that the likelihood of brain death was high.
Street names for mephedrone include MMCAT, Meow Meow, 4MMC, plant food, drone and meph while the websites selling it in Kuala Lumpur call it Bath Salt or Fertiliser.
It gives cocaine-like effects, including a euphoric, “loved up” feeling, highly energised sensation and moderately increased sex drive.
Easier and cheaper to make than methamphetamine, it can come in the form of a capsule or powder to be taken orally or snorted. As of last year, it was being sold at about RM75 for 20gm.