MXE Drug Abuse
Methoxetamine, also known as MXE, is a drug similar to ketamine and known for its hallucinogenic and dissociative properties 1. MXE (sometimes called “Mexxy,” “M-ket,” “Special M,” or “legal ketamine”) is commonly sold on the internet as a “research chemical” and labeled as “not for human consumption,” in order to avoid federal regulations 2.
It is often falsely marketed as a safer alternative to the synthetic drug ketamine; however, it has been shown to cause numerous physical and mental health problems at high doses—including psychotic reactions and cerebellar toxicity—and is shown to have a high addictive potential 1,2.
Between 2011 and 2013 there were 20 deaths involving MXE, as well as 120 non-fatal overdoses reported in Europe 4. Many of these reports involved mixing MXE with other drugs, thereby increasing the risk for complications.
MXE abuse is a growing problem worldwide. A global survey revealed that usage increased considerably in the United States between 2011 and 2012 3. It may be appealing not only because of its ability to cause pleasurable and euphoric sensations in the user 2 but because of its affordability, easy accessibility, and perceived safety as compared to other drugs like ketamine. MXE has especially grown in popularity among club goers 2. This may be due, in part, to the fact that MXE offers a slower onset time and longer duration of peak effects compared to ketamine 3.
MXE can be found in powder, tablet, capsule, or liquid form, and may be inhaled, injected, or taken orally 2. Users may also combine it with other drugs—often benzodiazepines, opioids, amphetamines, cannabis, and synthetic drugs 2.
While it is often marketed as a safe alternative to ketamine, it can cause numerous mental and physical health problems from anxiety and fear to vomiting and respiratory depression. Even one-time use can cause serious symptoms that may lead to death.
Signs and Symptoms
Someone who is intoxicated by MXE may experience the following 2:
- Intense feelings of happiness (euphoria).
- Reduced feelings of depression.
- Increased empathy.
- Increased introspection.
- A sense of peacefulness and calm.
- Feeling out of one’s body.
- Enhanced sensory experiences.
- Dissociation (referred to as the “M-hole”).
- Spiritual and transcendent experiences.
They may also experience distressing symptoms such as 2:
- Anxiety and panic.
- Impaired coordination.
- Trouble speaking.
- Increased heart rate.
- High blood pressure.
- Respiratory depression.
Signs of MXE Addiction
People who frequently abuse MXE may eventually develop a substance use disorder—a condition diagnosed by professionals to indicate problems related to drug abuse. A substance use disorder involves continuing to use a drug despite significant problems that result from continued use.
- Family and friends may notice the following signs and behaviors in a loved one with a substance use disorder 5
- Using MXE for longer periods of time or in larger amounts than intended.
- Unsuccessfully trying to cut down.
- Spending long amounts of time obtaining, using, or recovering from MXE.
- Strong cravings or urges to use.
- Impaired relationships because of drug use.
- Continuing to use it despite problems at work or school.
- Giving up important activities because of drug use.
- Repeatedly using in dangerous situations.
- Continuing to use MXE despite physical and mental health problems.
- Tolerance, a need for more of the drug to feel the same effects or less of an effect with the same amount of the drug.
- Unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that arise after abruptly stopping the drug. MXE withdrawal symptoms may include depression, cognitive impairment, and sleep disturbances 2.
You or someone you know may have a problem with MXE if at least two symptoms of a substance use disorder are present 5. If you need help, don't hesitate to call 1-888-744-0069Who Answers? to speak to a treatment placement advisor today.
Effects of Abuse
MXE is a risky drug that poses dangers to users. Abuse may lead to physical health problems such as those listed above. In addition, however, MXE has been found to cause 2:
- Kidney damage, including tubular necrosis.
- Ulcerative cystitis leading to severe bladder damage.
MXE abuse may also lead to negative life consequences. Possible long-term effects include:
- Isolation from family and friends.
- Problems in relationships.
- Legal issues.
- Inability to perform at work or school.
- Financial problems.
- Higher risk of accidents.
An overdose can occur when a person consumes too much of a drug, or more than his or her body can handle. In some cases, high doses of MXE can be fatal 2. The risk for death increases when it is combined with other drugs. Many reported cases of fatal intoxication involved other substances, making it extremely difficult to isolate which drug caused which symptom. For example, one case of a man intoxicated by MXE and amphetamine suffered from respiratory failure, hyperthermia, rhabdomyalsis, and seizures, dying 4 weeks after his initial presentation at the emergency department 2. Any use of MXE—especially in combination with other drugs—may cause dangerous and sometimes fatal symptoms.
- MXE use increased significantly in the United States between 2011 and 2012, just 2 years after the drug emerged on the market 3.
- During the same years, MXE use decreased in the United Kingdom, which may be related to laws passed in 2012 banning the drug 3.
- There continue to be no federal regulations on MXE in the United States, but a handful of states have enacted laws criminalizing the drug 3.
- As of 2015, a reported 126 nonfatal overdoses and 22 deaths involved use of MXE 6.
The lack of federal restrictions on the sale of MXE in the United States means that it is easily accessible by teens and may even be purchased over the internet 3.
Abuse of drugs like MXE in adolescents and teens can have a negative impact on brain functioning and the ability to learn, memorize, exercise judgment, and control his behavior. 7 Early drug use can also increase a teen’s risk for developing an addiction.
Teens of all ages may be at risk of abusing drugs like MXE 8. Taking steps to prevent teen drug abuse may minimize the risk of addiction and long-term physical and mental health problems. Parents, teachers, and community members may help reduce teen MXE abuse by taking the following steps:
- Provide reliable information on the risks of drug abuse and addiction.
- Encourage teens to participate in hobbies and become more involved in the community. Teens who participate in enjoyable activities, like sports, music, and volunteering, may be less interested in using drugs to cope with the stresses of adolescence.
- Teach assertiveness skills so that teens are prepared to say no to drugs. Assertiveness involves instilling skills and confidence in a teen to make healthy decisions when faced with pressure.
- Seek support when necessary. Parents who learn that a teen is abusing drugs may feel unsure of what to do. Consider reaching out to a professional for help or seek the guidance of a support group.
Taking preventative steps can help reduce the number of teens who abuse MXE and the long-term risks for addiction. In some cases, treatment may be necessary for teens and adults who are already abusing MXE and finding it difficult to quit.
Resources, Articles, and More Information
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) provides in-depth information on hallucinogen and dissociative drug abuse, why people use drugs, and the effects on the brain and body in the Research Report Series: Hallucinogens and Dissociative Drugs.
NIDA also provides information in Mind Over Matter: Hallucinogens, a resource for teens and children on the effects of hallucinogens.
You may also check our related pages:
- Overview on the Effects of MXE Use
- Overview on Ketamine Use and Abuse
- Addiction Treatment Types and Programs
Join the conversation about drug abuse and recovery today at our Forum.
- Pompei, P., Micioni Di Bonaventura, M. V., & Cifani, C. (2016). The" legal highs" of novel drugs of abuse. Journal of Drug Abuse, 2(2), 1-8.
- Zanda, M. T., Fadda, P., Chiamulera, C., Fratta, W., & Fattore, L. (2016). Methoxetamine, a novel psychoactive substance with serious adverse pharmacological effects: A review of case reports and preclinical findings. Behavioural Pharmacology, 1-8.
- Lawn, W., Borschmann, R., Cottrell, A., & Winstock, A. (2016). Methoxetamine: Prevalence of use in the USA and UK and associated urinary problems. Journal of Substance Use, 21(2), 115-120.
- European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. (2014). Report on the risk assessment of 2-(3-methoxyphenyl)-2(ethylamino)cyclohexanone (methoxetamine) in the framework of the council decision on new psychoactive substances. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.
- American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
- World Health Organization. (2015). Methoxetamine (MXE): Critical review report.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Drugs, brains, and behavior: The science of addiction. NIH Pub No. 14-5605.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2003). Preventing drug use among children and adolescents: A research-based guide for parents, educators, and community leaders. NIH Publication No. 04-4212(A).