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What Are Synthetic Cathinones (“Bath Salts”)?
Synthetic cathinones, more commonly known as “bath salts,” are human
-made stimulants chemically related to cathinone, a substance found in
the khat plant. Khat is a shrub grown in East Africa and southern Arabia,
where some people chew its leaves for their mild stimulant effects.
Human-made versions of cathinone can be much stronger than the
natural product and, in some cases, very dangerous.
Usually taking the form of a white or brown crystal-like powder,
synthetic cathinones are sold in small plastic or foil packages labeled
“not for human consumption.” They can be labeled as “bath salts,”
“plant food,” “jewelry cleaner,” or “phone screen cleaner. “Synthetic
cathinones are marketed as cheap substitutes for other stimulants such
as methamphetamine and cocaine. Products sold as Molly (MDMA)
often contain synthetic cathinones instead.
People can buy synthetic cathinones online and in drug paraphernalia
stores under a variety of brand names, which include:
• Bliss
• Cloud Nine
• Lunar Wave
• Vanilla Sky
• White Lightning
Synthetic cathinones are part of a group of drugs that concern public
health officials called “new psychoactive substance” (NPS). NPS’s are
unregulated psychoactive mind-altering substances with no legitimate
medical use and are made to copy the effects of controlled substances.
They are introduced and reintroduced into the market in quick
succession to dodge or hinder law enforcement efforts to address their
manufacture and sale.
People typically swallow, snort, smoke, or inject synthetic cathinones.
How Do Synthetic Cathinones Affect The Brain?
Much is still unknown about how synthetic cathinones affect the human brain. Researchers do know that synthetic
cathinones are chemically similar to drugs like amphetamines, cocaine, and MDMA.
A study found that 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), a common synthetic cathinone, affects the brain in a
manner similar to cocaine, but is at least 10 times more powerful. MDPV is the most common synthetic cathinone
found in the blood and urine of patients admitted to emergency departments after taking “bath salts.”

Synthetic cathionones 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
What Are Other Health Effects Of Synthetic Cathinones?
Raised heart rate, blood pressure, and chest pain are some other health effects
of synthetic cathinones. People who experience delirium often suffer from
dehydration, breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue, and kidney failure.
The worst outcomes are associated with snorting or needle injection, and
intoxication from synthetic cathinones has resulted in death.
Are Synthetic Cathinones Addictive?
Yes, synthetic cathinones can be addictive. Animal studies show that rats will
compulsively self-administer synthetic cathinones. Human users have reported
that the drugs trigger intense, uncontrollable urges to use the drug again.
Taking synthetic cathinones can cause strong withdrawal symptoms that
include:
• Depression
• Anxiety
• Tremors
• Problems sleeping
How Can People Get Treatment For Addiction To Synthetic Cathinones?
Behavioral therapy can be used to treat addiction to synthetic cathinones. Examples include:
•Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
•Contingency management, or motivational incentives—providing rewards to patients who remain substance
free
•Motivational enhancement therapy
•Behavioral treatments geared to teens
As with all addictions, health care providers should screen for co-occurring mental health conditions. While there are
no FDA-approved medicines for synthetic cathinone addiction, there are medicines available for common
co-occurring conditions.

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