Synthetic Cathinones (Bath Salts)

What are synthetic cathinones?

bath salts

Synthetic cathinones, often known as bath salts, are synthetic stimulants that are chemically similar to cathinone, a compound found in the khat plant. Khat is a plant native to East Africa and southern Arabia, where its leaves are chewed for their moderate stimulant properties. Human-made cathinone can be significantly stronger than natural cathinone and, in certain situations, quite deadly. Synthetic cathinones are typically sold in smaller plastic or foil packaging labeled “not for human consumption,” although they can also be branded as bath salts, plant food, jewelry cleaning, or phone screen cleaner. Synthetic cathinones are advertised as low-cost alternatives to existing stimulants like amphetamines and cocaine. Synthetic cathinones are frequently used in place of MDMA in items marketed as Molly. They are generally consumed orally, snorted, smoked, or injected.

New psychoactive substances are a class of pharmaceuticals that public health professionals are concerned about, including synthetic cathinones (NPS). NPS is an uncontrolled psychoactive, mind-altering compound designed to mimic the effects of controlled drugs but without any accepted medical application. To evade or obstruct law enforcement efforts to address their creation and sale, they are swiftly reintroduced into the market.

Also Read: Designer Drugs and Their Effects

What effects do Synthetic Cathinones have on the brain?

The effects of synthetic cathinones on human brain function remain mostly unclear. Synthetic cathinones are known to have chemical properties with stimulants like MDMA, cocaine, and amphetamines, according to researchers.

According to research, the ubiquitous synthetic cathinone 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), which is at least ten times more potent than cocaine, has effects on the brain that are comparable to those of cocaine. In the blood and urine of individuals treated in emergency rooms after consuming bath salts, MDPV is the most often detected synthetic cathinone.2

Synthetic cathinones can produce effects that include:

  • paranoia—extreme and unreasonable distrust of others
  • hallucinations—experiencing sensations and images that seem real but are not
  • increased friendliness
  • increased sex drive
  • panic attacks
  • excited delirium—extreme agitation and violent behavior

Other negative health consequences of synthetic cathinones include increased heart rate, blood pressure, and chest discomfort. Dehydration, skeletal muscle degeneration, and renal failure are common symptoms in delirium sufferers.

Snorting and needle injection produce the worst results. Synthetic cathinone intoxication has led to fatalities.

Also Read: Barbiturates

Addiction to synthetic cathinones is possible.

Human users have reported acute, uncontrolled cravings to consume the substances again. Synthetic cathinone usage can result in severe withdrawal symptoms, such as:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • tremors
  • difficulty sleeping
  • paranoia

Treatment of Synthetic Cathinones

There are presently no treatments for synthetic cathinone addiction.

The use of behavioural therapy to treat synthetic cathinone addiction is possible. Some examples are:

  • cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • contingency management, or motivational incentives—providing rewards to patients who remain substance free
  • motivational enhancement therapy
  • behavioral treatments geared to teens
  1. Baumann MH. Awash in a sea of “bath salts”: implications for biomedical research and public health. Addict Abingdon Engl. 2014;109(10):1577-1579. doi:10.1111/add.12601.
  2. Baumann MH, Partilla JS, Lehner KR, et al. Powerful Cocaine-Like Actions of 3,4-Methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), a Principal Constituent of Psychoactive “Bath Salts” Products. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2013;38(4):552-562. doi:10.1038/npp.2012.204.
  3. NIDA. Synthetic Cathinones (“Bath Salts”) DrugFacts. National Institute on Drug Abuse website. July 6, 2020 Accessed September 10, 2022.

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