Where do synthetic cathinones comes from?
Cathinone is a psychoactive compound that comes from the Khat Plant, native to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
Synthetic cathinones are much stronger and dangerous than the natural compound found in the leaves of Khat.
They are ofter referred as “bath salts”, due to being originally marketed as such to avoid regulatory controls.
Synthetic cathinones and MDMA
Synthetic cathinones have been called the “natural amphetamine”, due to sharing similar chemical structures and behavioral effects. Because of this, synthetic cathinones have been claimed to be a safer option to other popular stimulants, like MDMA and cocaine, but this is false.
What have I been taking all this time?
Kalasinsky et al analyzed hair samples of self-reported MDMA takers, to verify if what they’ve been taking is actually MDMA.
Their results showed the presence of various synthetic cathinones in almost 30% of hair samples from club/festival goers who thought they had taken MDMA only. In some hair samples, there was no MDMA at all.
Bath salts make an “excellent” cut for MDMA, they are cheaper to manufacture and they provide similar cognitive and behavioral effects.
Most common synthetic cathinones found in MDMA / sold as MDMA*:
- MDPV (monkey dust)
- Mephedrone (4-MMC)
- Methylone (bk-MDMA)
Why are synthetic cathinones dangerous?
The risks associated with synthetic cathonines are similar to those associated to amphetamines and cocaine. However, as with other substances, what enhances their risks is taking it unknowingly.
Research has suggested that synthetic cathinones have a reduced potential for neurotoxicity (compared to MDMA or Meth), however, they may present a greater threat of overdose.
Why could synthetic cathinones have a greater risk of overdose?
There are many synthetic cathinones available, and new versions are being found in different substances. This leads to a lack of research and misinformation.
Here is one example: MDPV
MDPV, a common synthetic cathinones, interacts with the brain in a similar to cocaine. However, MDPV is 10 times stronger. MDPV is the most common synthetic cathinone found in the blood and urine of patients admitted to emergency departments after taking bath salts.
Main risks of synthetic cathinones
In short, their main risks are based on the fact that most people don’t take bath salts deliberately. Increasing the risk of:
- Unexpected stronger doses
- Unexpected effects due to the combination of different substances
In extremely rare cases, bath salts can lead to a condition called excited delirium: A state of extreme agitation, aggression, acute distress and sudden death. It usually involves: taking combination of drugs, driving under the influence and pre-existing mental health conditions.
Tips to help stay safe
- Don’t take any substance unintentionally.
- Know your dosage.
- Know the risk.
- Test your drugs. The Marquis test is good for differentiating cathinones from MDMA.
*Most commonly, but not exclusively an MDMA cut. Cathinones can also be found in cocaine and meth.