Mephedrone is a monoamine releasing agent. It is a chiral compound and both of its enantiomers display similar potency as substrates at dopamine transporters. R-Mephedrone is much less potent than S-mephedrone as a substrate at serotonin transporters.
The keto oxygen renders 4-MMC more hydrophilic than the corresponding methylamphetamines, which may account for the higher doses required to achieve a similar effect, because 4-MMC is less able to cross the blood–brain barrier.
4-MMCe is often consumed with alcohol. A study in mice investigated the interrelation between these two substances, focusing on the psychostimulant and rewarding properties of 4-MMC. It found that at low (non stimulant) doses alcohol significantly enhanced the psychostimulant effects of 4-MMC. This effect was mediated by an increase in synaptic dopamine, as haloperidol, but not ketanserin, was able to block the potentiation by alcohol. Similarly, the rewarding properties of 4-MMC were enhanced by a low non-rewarding dose of alcohol.
Mephedrone is one of hundreds of designer drugs or legal highs that have been reported in recent years, including artificial chemicals such as synthetic cannabis and semisynthetic substances such as methylhexanamine. These drugs are primarily developed to avoid being controlled by laws against illegal drugs, thus giving them the label of designer drugs. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the synthesis of mephedrone was first reported in 1929 by Saem de Burnaga Sanchez in the Bulletin de la Société Chimique de France, under the name “toluyl-alpha-monomethylaminoethylcetone”, but the compound remained an obscure product of academia until 2003, when it was “re-discovered” and publicised by an underground chemist on The Hive website, working under the pseudonym “Kinetic”. Kinetic posted on the site, “I’ve been bored over the last couple of days and had a few fun reagents lying around, so I thought I’d try and make some 1-(4-methylphenyl)-2-methylaminopropanone hydrochloride, or 4-methylmethcathinone.” before going on to describe that after taking it, the user had a “fantastic sense of well-being that I haven’t got from any drug before except my beloved Ecstasy.” In interviews Kinetic was described as “a mathematician who used to design sleeping pills for a major pharmaceutical company” and he stated that he was based in Israel when he rediscovered mephedrone