How meow meow got its name

New stimulant street drug mephedrone has been nicknamed ‘meow meow’ to the point where the name is appearing in scientific articles on the compound. What is less known, is that the ‘street name’ was largely an invention of journalists.

The drug was originally legal in the UK before it was quickly outlawed after it hit the headlines. Although first known by its chemical name 4-methylmethcathinone, it seems the media needed something more catchy.

The British satirical investigative magazine Private Eye tracked how the M-CAT got its name back in April 2010.

WAY BACK in January 2009 , not long after mephedrone first began to be sold online, members of the web forum attached to the now-defunct “headshop” Champagne Legals discussed what brand name they might attach to the new product, which has the chemical identity dimethylmethcathinone, or MM-CAT.

“What shall we call this drug? It’s called MM-CAT, so why not Miaow?” suggested one. The name did not catch on – unimaginative users tended to call it Meph, or Drone, instead. But on 1st November 2009, someone did add the name “meow” to the wikipedia entry for mephedrone at the head of a list of “street names.”

Three weeks later a 14-year-old girl died after taking the drug (although the cause of her death was later determined to be broncho-pneumonia following a bacterial infection), and The Sun declared the arrival of “a new party favourite called ‘meow meow'” and the world went cat-call crazy.

Among a host of recent headlines the Sunday Times has reported on “the rise of Meow” The Times has heralded “Meow Meow Arrests”, The Sun shrieked about a “Harman Snub for Meow Meow Ban” and The Telegraph took a long hard look at the “Meow Meow Menace in Europe”.

“No one ever called it Meow seriously till the papers picked up on the Wikipedia entry,” one drugs expert tells the Eye. Had hacks checked the site on 17 November, when the entry claimed for the drug claimed it was commonly referred to as as “Mugabe”, or 31 October, when a user claimed “on the street is sometimes referred to as ‘The Chinese'”, we could be seeing some very different headlines indeed.

5 Comments

  1. Posted January 30, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    The cat may be out of the bag with ‘meow-meow’ but for chemists who understand that MeO- as shorthand for a chemical substituent on a ring structure i.e. a methyl-oxy group, ‘meow-meow’ is a complete misnomer as N-methyl-4-methyl-cathinone contains no methyl-oxy groups but three Methyls: one on the nitrogen in the ‘tail’, one on the alpha carbon in the tail, akin to methyl-amphetamine, and then one at the four position on the phenyl ring.

    For more information on this chemical nomenclature see Phenethylamines i Have Know and Loved by Sasha and Ann Shulgin at:

    http://www.erowid.org/library/books_online/pihkal/pihkal.shtml

    or see the ACMD’s report ‘Consideration of the Cathinones’ at:

    http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/drugs/acmd1/acmd-cathinodes-report-2010

  2. Posted January 30, 2011 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Nice piece just one small point, a correction for private eye really.

    Mephedrone was available on the internet waaaay before 2009. Right back in 2007 it was broadly experimented with and promptly dropped by users due unanimous reports of it’s “dirty high” and harsh “comedown”.

    The only people interested in it were coke dealers for whom it was an incredibly cheap cutting agent/substitute. It was one of the least popular research chems among users, a last resort. Methylone was at that point broadly judged to be more akin to MDMA, with far less potential for addiction and far more enactogenic qualitites.

    Anyway my point is that the “meow” boom was completely manufactured by the media in 2009.

    Considering there was an almost year long UK wide MDMA drought at this time and a bottomless supply of coke on the streets it’s fair to say that without the free online promo of the red tops Mephedrone would never have got off the ground.

  3. Posted January 30, 2011 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Cool stuff! All we need is a wiki article to influence the world.

  4. Posted February 1, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    What I want to know is how mephedrone turned into “methedrone”… Infuriating!

    • Frankie
      Posted September 1, 2011 at 7:06 am | Permalink

      Synchromium. Methedrone is a differant and more toxic drug intended as a replacement for illegal mephedrone.


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