POSTED: Saturday, January 11, 2014 - 7:00am
UPDATED: Saturday, January 11, 2014 - 7:04am
Baton Rouge, LA (NBC33) — A new drug is making its way into Baton Rouge. It is nicknamed "meow meow," but it is nothing to play with.
The scientific name is mephedrone, and it dates back to the 1920's.
"Of course, with the access through the internet, and access to libraries of information around the world today, a lot of that old information is being thoroughly examined and implemented," said Dr. Steven Barker.
Barker, who teaches at LSU , is the official chemist of the Louisiana Racing Commission. He knows mephedrone from his role analyzing drug tests of race horses . As a stimulant, trainers give it to their horses to make them run faster.
But it became a party drug of choice just in the last couple of years, and he understands that aspect of the drug through his research in analytical toxicology and hallucinogens.
"It does have the properties of both amphetamine and the cathinones," he stated. "It's said to be similar to MDMA, or ecstasy."
Mephedrone was rediscovered in the last decade, and was introduced through nightclubs in Europe. It quickly became one of the most common and popular drugs around. 
While the drug gains in popularity, little is know about its long-term effects.
"There have been some cases of mephedrone overdose, but those are very few compared to MDMA, for example, or certainly cocaine or amphetamine," Dr. Barker said. "But that's probably because those compounds have been abused more.
"Unfortunately, there are not a lot of studies that have yet to be done on mephedrone to determine whether or not there's any neurotoxicity or any of the other real complications."
Users are learning how dangerous a drug with a silly nickname can be. Earlier this week, a teenager in England stabbed his mother and cut off his penis while he was high on mephedrone.
"Mephedrone and the other cathinones that are related to this have been in bath salts, and we know what the effects of some bath salts are," Dr. Barker said. "Whether or not mephedrone is specifically responsible for some of that, we don't know for sure in every case."
The Baton Rouge Police Department says it has seen mephedrone here in town. But ecstasy has been around a lot longer, and is much more common.