UNDERSTAND IT ALL – What is 3-MMC, the drug touted as the “new cocaine”?

This product is one of the substances which “cause concern in Europe”, according to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs.

Its full name is 3-methylmethcathinone, but it is mostly referred to as 3-MMC. The consumption of this drug, known since the beginning of the 2010s, has spread among the population in recent years, and is sometimes presented as a cheaper alternative to cocaine. “It’s the new coke”, declares in The Parisian a recent consumer, who first tried this product a few months ago.

In its latest report, the French Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction speaks of a “significant phenomenon” and this drug is one of the substances which “cause concern in Europe”, wrote the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA ) last March.

• What is 3-MMC made of?

This drug is part of what is called synthetic cathinones. It is a “family of synthetic substances derived from natural cathinone”, derived from the khat plant (Catha edulis), explains the Drugs Info Service website. “They more or less mimic the effects of cocaine, MDMA/ecstasy and amphetamines.”

3-MMC was officially identified and categorized as a new psychoactive substance by the EMCDDA in September 2012, after “a customs seizure of 51.1 grams of powder made on June 27, 2012 in Gothenburg”, explains the European organization. The circulation of this substance has since been monitored, and seizures of this drug are reported from time to time.

This product can be in the form of powder, crystal but also tablets. It is “ingested, snorted, more rarely injected (slam) or consumed rectally”, writes the OFDT. It is “snorted or ingested, but injection is also reported in high-risk settings, such as ‘chemsex’ parties,” says the EMCDDA.

• What are its effects?

3-MMC “aims to remove inhibitions, increase pleasure” and was until then “almost exclusively ‘consumed’ among men who have sex with men (MSM) in contexts involving sexuality , most often in a group, and consumption of synthetic psychoactive products”, which is called chemsex, explains the OFDT.

3-MMC is “both stimulating, euphoric and empathogenic”, continues the French organization. Users define its effects “as a combination of those of cocaine, MDMA and amphetamines”, products already known in the party environment.

• Why has it been spreading more lately?

In recent years, this drug has spread to other groups and is used by other people, homosexual or heterosexual, in festive contexts. “We observe a non-negligible extension of the uses of 3-MMC outside of a sexual context, showing signs of diffusion outside the gay and MSM communities”, can we read in a March 2022 report on the Chemsex, bound for the Ministry of Health.

While the quantities of cathinone powders had been decreasing since 2016, “in 2020, there was a significant increase, with around 3,300 kg of powders seized”, compared to around 1,800 kg in 2016, writes the EMCDDA.

“It appears that at least in part this increase was due to 3-MMC which accounted for almost a quarter of the amount of powders seized in 2020.”

Its diffusion could be partly due to its cost, lower than that of cocaine. According to the EMCDDA report, prices vary from 8 to 37.5 euros per gram, with a majority of purchases on the web, against 70/80 euros for a gram of cocaine.

• What risks?

Like any drug, there are serious risks associated with its use. The EMCDDA writes that 27 deaths due to taking this substance have been reported in Europe. Overall, “most reports have noted that the negative health impact from consuming [de 3-MMC] was considerable,” writes the World Health Organization in a 2017 report.

“Adverse effects following its use have included tachycardia, restlessness, reduced level of consciousness, dilated pupils, hallucinations, diaphoresis [forte transpiration, ndlr]convulsions and hyperthermia,” says the WHO.

“Users have also reported insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and tingling in the arms and legs. Hospitalizations have been reported, including a few due to 3-MMC use alone.”

Salome Vincendon BFMTV journalist

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