Overview: Methcathinone or “cat” is
a synthetic stimulant similar to the natural drug plant khat,
which has been used for centuries in east Africa. “Cooked”
by bathtub chemists from the legal stimulant ephedrine and such
easily-obtained (and highly-toxic) industrial chemicals as battery
acid, lye, and paint thinner, “cat” first appeared
as a street drug in the Midwest during the 1990’s.
Street Names: Cat, goob, star.
Appearance: White or off-white powder which can
be snorted, injected, or swallowed.
Actions/Effects: Like methamphetamine and other central
nervous system stimulants, methcathinone can reduce fatigue and
block hunger. And just like other stimulants, the drug can also
trigger impulsive, erratic behavior by increasing the action
and supply of two main neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and
dopamine. At higher dosages, or with chronic use, feelings of
heightened confidence and arousal can quickly spin off into paranoia,
irritability, and severe depression.
Medical Uses: None. First synthesized in 1928 and
tested as both a diet drug and antidepressant, methcathinone’s
dangers were thought to outweigh its potential value and it was
never distributed commercially in the United States.
Risks/Side Effects: Physical side effects include loss of
appetite, profuse sweating, dehydration, elevated heart rate
and body temperature, and uncontrolled shaking. Psychological
effects include anxiety and irritability. Tolerance often develops
rapidly as does dependence. Early withdrawal symptoms of anxiety
and profuse sweating can precede convulsions, hallucinations,
and severe depression.
Duration: Four to six hours. Cat users, like users
of crystal and other stimulants, often stay on “runs”
for days at a time, then sleep for a day or more before starting
Legal Status: Unrestricted when it first appeared,
methcathinone was designated a Schedule I controlled substance
by the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1993. Since then, hundreds
of cat labs have been seized throughout the Midwest.
Trends: Still largely a regional phenomenon, methcathinone
has expanded beyond its Midwestern base in recent years, mostly
due to ease of manufacture and the continuing demand for stimulant