THE dangers of illegal drug meow meow will be the focus of a new Welsh Government campaign.
South West Wales has seen a huge increase in the amount of people using the drug in the past 12 months due to its availability and low cost.
The drug, officially known as mephedrone, is described as a mix between amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy, and can cause heart palpitations, paranoia, vomiting, agitation, fits, suicidal thoughts and depression.
The campaign, which will highlight the dangers of the drug as well as other new and emerging drugs and the damage they can cause, was launched by Health Minister Lesley Griffiths today and will run until March 2.
An all-Wales conference hosted by Swansea Drugs Project will then take place on March 7 focusing on new and emerging drugs.
Mrs Griffiths said: "The dramatic rise in the use of mephedrone is concerning given the serious mental and physical harm the drug can cause both in the short and long term.
"As a Class B drug mephedrone carries a penalty of up to five years for possession and 14 years for supply.
"One of the aims of our campaign is to educate people about the dangers of the drug and the damage it can cause.
"The campaign also points users and their families to the Wales Drug and Alcohol Helpline, also known as DAN 24/7, for further information about mephedrone and where they can go to get help."
Latest figures from the British Crime Survey indicate that mephedrone remains the fourth most prevalent drug in the UK, after cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy.
The survey also estimates that around 300,000 or 3.4 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds used mephedrone during 2011/12.
The Welsh Government campaign "Do you know the score" will link with the Six Nations rugby tournament and will run in the form of radio, leaflet and poster advertising, as well as in local press.
Beer mats also using the strapline will be distributed to every Wetherspoons pub in Wales during the course of the campaign. Among those speaking at the Swansea conference will be Morriston Hospital A&E consultant Mike McCabe, founder of the Global Drug Survey Dr Adam Winstock and Dr Russell Newcombe, one of the leading drug advisers based in the north west of England.
In November Mr McCabe warned in the Evening Post that meow meow users were violently lashing out at hospital staff as the drug had made them so agitated.
Swansea Drugs Project director Ifor Glyn, who has previously warned of the damage the drug can do, said: "The effects we have seen in Swansea during the past year have been shocking.
"You can see the difference it makes to someone's appearance in a matter of weeks, for example. It is more destructive for someone's appearance than heroin.
"It is about raising the issues. It is not just drug agencies which will be coming across this. Schools, youth services, the police will all be too."