One of the earliest synthetic cathinones to become a popular recreational drug was mephedrone in the UK. In the mid-2000s, mephedrone was legal and cheap to produce, import, and sell. Mephedrone’s rise in popularity was due to its availability and similar effects to MDMA. People may use synthetic cathinones accidentally, when something sold as “molly” contains synthetic cathinones rather than MDMA.

People may use synthetic cathinones because they can more easily avoid detection, rather than due to preference over other substances. Standard drug tests for cocaine, MDMA and other amphetamines will not trigger a positive result for synthetic cathinones. This can appeal to active military personnel, professional athletes, people on parole, people in treatment for substance misuse, and anyone under surveillance for drug use. 

See the fact sheet for more information and sources.