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.