What is 3-MMC, the synthetic drug sold as the new cheaper cocaine?

3-MMC. A number and three letters to designate the synthetic drug that is emerging as the new queen of parties: 3-methylmethcathinone. Appeared in the early 2010s, it is presented as the new cheaper 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 exploding? Why are European health authorities so worried about it? 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 which attempt 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 cathinones, making it the second largest category of NPS (after synthetic cannabinoids) under monitoring”.

The French Observatory of Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT), has noted in recent years “a diversification of the proposed forms” of 3-MMC: “previously powder, then crystal and now tablets”. It can thus be “ingested, most often in the form of a parachute (in a ball of cigarette paper), diluted in a drink, snorted, injected or plugged (inserted into the anus using a needleless syringe )”, details Drugs Info Service.

What effects are its consumers looking for?

“Cathinones are generally used for their stimulating, entactogenic (they promote contact) and empathogenic (they increase 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 provides a feeling of power”, continues Drogues Info Service, which also describes “an intensification of sensations and, in a sexual context, an increase in sensuality and endurance”. 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 their adaptation to festive sociability”, reports the OFDT. The purpose of 3-MMC is thus “to remove inhibitions, to increase pleasure”, continues the French Observatory. Since the beginning of the 2010s, its consumption has been observed “almost exclusively among men who have sex with other men (MSM) in contexts combining sexuality, most often in a group, and consumption of synthetic psychoactive products”. or chemsex. Cathinones are also among the most used products for chemsex.

How to explain the explosion of its consumption?

In recent years, the consumption of 3-MMC has gone beyond chemsex to spread more widely in the nightlife and outside MSM communities. In question, ease of access which promotes its democratization. “The 3-MMC is the subject, since the mid-2010s, of a sale in home delivery to chemsexers, by sellers who offer it via certain gay dating applications, underlines the OFDT. Since 2019, structured and hierarchical networks, usually selling cannabis, cocaine, MDMA and addressing a larger and more diversified clientele, occasionally offer 3-MMC”.

A drug that is all the easier to obtain as it costs much less than cocaine: from “less than 10 euros per gram”, according to the OFDT, i.e. “well below cocaine [dont le prix oscille entre 70 et 80 euros le gramme]. A number of users questioned thus highlight the financial attractiveness of 3-MMC, the latter being sometimes presented in this respect 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”, points out the EMCDDA. Powders that “now seem to be made in India and imported into Europe” on an industrial scale, he adds. A worrying finding for the OFDT, for whom “the spread of the uses of 3-MMC is a significant phenomenon of 2020”, yet characterized by 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 high anxiety that follows the doses cause a strong craving (irrepressible desire to consume again), which promotes compulsive consumption, Drugs Info Service alert. Regular consumption of cathinones causes the user to increase the doses consumed to obtain the same effects. And when stopped, the user feels significant depressive disorders that can last several weeks. »

In addition, the consumption of this synthetic drug can in particular cause “headaches, nausea and vomiting”, adds Drugs Info Service. As well as a feeling of “burning and runny nose (related to sniffing), cold and bluish extremities, erectile dysfunction and convulsions”. The descent phase “can be very unpleasant, it results in a state of exhaustion due to insomnia, significant anxiety, even paranoia, tingling” or even “an increased heart rate”.

But consuming 3-MMC can also be fatal. Cases of myocardial infarction, organ failure and overdoses leading to death have been reported. In total, the EMCDDA has identified 27 deaths linked to the consumption of 3-MMC in Europe.

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