Monkey dust drug: what is it, and why have there been calls to reclassify it as a Class A drug in UK

Speaking at a debate about reclassifying monkey dust as a Class A drug MP Jack Brereton told of an incident where one user ‘ate through’ a glass window

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Calls have been made for “horrific” drug monkey dust - which can be bought for as “little as £2”, to be upgraded to a Class A drug. A debate at Westminster Hall heard of the devastating impact the drug can have - with a MP giving an example of how one user “ate through” a glass shop window.

There have been rising concerns over the use of the drug which can wide range of effects on those who use it, sometimes leading to violent behaviour, deaths from its use have also been reported.

Introducing the debate, MP for Stoke-on-Trent South Jack Brereton said the city had been hit with “an unenviable reputation” as the centre for monkey dust abuse.

The debate heard the government has a statutory obligation to consult with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) about the classification of drugs, and that discussions would take place with Home Office officials about if an updated evaluation was needed.

It also comes after calls for cannabis to be reclassified as Class A. But what exactly is monkey dust, why do people want it reclassified, and what is the difference between Class A and Class B drugs? This is what you need to know.

What is monkey dust?

The drug is is a new psychoactive substance (NPS).  It is a synthetic drug, a type of cathinone, which comes in powder form. Cathinones are said to be cousins of the amphetimine drug family.

In the US it is known as “zombie dust” or “cannibal dust” - the latter name came from reports of several “face-eating” attacks linked to the drug in the US. The drug became illegal in the country in 2012

Among the effects the drug can have is to make the users feel euphoric and impervious to pain. They can lose control of their body and suffer from high body temperature, paranoia, agitation and hallucinations. Often users have no recollection of their behaviour while under the influence of the drug.

There have been calls to reclassify the drug known as Monkey Dust from Class B to Class A.There have been calls to reclassify the drug known as Monkey Dust from Class B to Class A.
There have been calls to reclassify the drug known as Monkey Dust from Class B to Class A.

There have been reports that heavy users of the drug have developed the appearance of lesions on the skin and a smell of prawns or vinegar from their sweat. Those who use it can show irrational or extremely violent behaviour.

Why do people want it reclassified?

Speaking during the debate Stoke-on-Trent South MP Jack Brereton said he believed there were “compelling reasons” to reclassify the drug. He went on to say that up to two thirds of monkey dust related incidents are reported to have taken place in Stoke-on-Trent.

The MP has a petition running on his website calling for the reclassification of the drug. The debate heard of the dangers the drug poses not only to those who use it, but to members of the public in communities affected by the drug.

Bereton said the drug, known as fluff, tan or dust in the city, cost very little for a hit, with the effects lasting for days, voicing his concerns he told the debate: “Hits can cost as little as £2 on the street - making it cheaper than alcohol.”

“It’s very sad to see that a lot of the people who are addicted and taking this drug are very young. That is one of the biggest tragedies.” Users will endure great indignities to consume it never mind acquire it. There is scant dignities in the effects either.” He added: “Police officers have described trying to tackle those under the influence as trying to wrestle the Incredible Hulk.”

Use of the drug has previously been described as an “epidemic” in Stoke-on-Trent, and describing the impact it had had on one user in the city Brereton said: “ In my constituency, a user actively ate through a glass window of a local shop. Tragically Stoke-on-Trent has been hit with an unenviable reputation as the centre for monkey dust abuse. The human cost of this awful drug and the gangs pushing it is a continuing problem.”

MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, Jonathan Gullis said: “ In 2018, it was described as an epidemic in Stoke-on-Trent and, sadly, we are back there again. The drug takes advantage of vulnerable people and creates severe mental health issues.”

Also highlighting the issues caused by the drug in his constituency was MP for Newcastle-under-lyme, Aaron Bell who said: “We have had a number of deaths associated with monkey dust, we’ve also had a number of intimidatory behaviours - people climbing onto buildings, breaking into people’s houses naked at 3am.”

What is the difference between Class A and B drugs?

The possession and supply of Class A drugs has tougher penalties than those in Class B or C. Class A drugs include crack cocaine, cocaine, ecstasy (MDMA), heroin and LSD. While examples of Class B drugs as well as cathinones are amphetamines, barbiturates, cannabis, codeine.

For possession of Class A drugs the maximum penalty is seven years in jail or an unlimited fine or both. While for supply a sentence of up to life in jail can be given, or an unlimited fine or both.

While possession of Class B drugs can see a jail sentence of up to five years as well as an unlimited fine, while for supply the jail time can be up to 14 years. However, for both classes of drugs these sentences are the maximum and often the courts impose lesser terms.

Will monkey dust be reclassified?

The government has a statutory obligation to consult with the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) about the classification of drugs. However, minister of state for the Home Department, Chris Philp, told the debate he would begin discussions with Home Office officials about if a submission should be made to the ACMD for reclassification of the drug.

He also told the debate that the classification of cathinones was last looked at in 2010 when the ACMD advised the government to keep the class B status for the drug group.

He said: “From what I have heard from my hon. Friends the Members for Stoke-on-Trent South, for Stoke-on-Trent North, and for Newcastle-under-Lyme, what has been happening in those places since 2010 represents a significant escalation, or deterioration, in what has been happening on the ground. Indeed, it sounds like a phenomenon that has been happening in the last three, four or five years.

“In response to the debate, I intend to commission Home Office officials to advise on whether we should submit the cathinone family of drugs to the ACMD for an updated evaluation to see whether reclassification is needed. We need to make sure that does not displace some other drug from the pipeline, but I will ask for that advice today.”

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