Synthetic cathinones are human-made stimulating substances chemically related to the alkaloid derived from khat plant native to the African Horn and the Arabian Peninsula, specifically Saudi Arabia. In the U.S., these substances are more commonly referred to as “bath salts” as they are marketed in this way in an attempt to evade drug laws.
What Are Synthetic Cathinones?
Traditionally, khat leaves are chewed and ingested orally and induce mildly stimulating effects. However, synthetic cathinones are typically much more potent than their all-natural counterparts, and in most cases, much more dangerous. Synthetic cathinones are often sold in plastic or foil packages labeled as “not for human consumption.” They may be marketed as bath salts, plant food, jewelry cleaner, or any number of inedible products.
While, as noted, synthetic cathinones are most often referred to as “bath salts,” NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) has stressed that such a reference is in name only. These substances should never be compared to genuine bathing products, such as Epsom salts, which do not produce intoxicating effects when ingested.
Moreover, synthetic cathinones have no real purpose for bathing. They are solely used for recreational drug abuse, as a less expensive alternative to other stimulants, such as cocaine and meth. Cathinones can often be found online, behind the counter in convenience stores, gas stations, and tobacco or “head” shops.
Synthetic cathinones are commonly sold in 200-500 mg packages under brand names such as Bloom, Red Dove, Snow Day, Vanilla Sky, and many more. Synthetic cathinones range from a white-brown crystal-like powder and can come in capsule or tablet form. They are most often ingested orally but can also be crushed and snorted, smoked, or most dangerously, injected.
Bath salts typically contain the chemicals mephedrone, methylone, MDPV, or MDPK. NIDA reports that MDPV is at least ten times more potent than cocaine. In addition to mephedrone, it is commonly found in patients’ blood and urine admitted to emergency rooms after synthetic cathinone consumption.
Synthetic Cathinone Abuse And Effects
Due to its stimulating effects, synthetic cathinones may be abused by persons across all demographics, looking for a new or more intense high to which they are accustomed. The use of these drugs occurs despite the tremendous dangers and unpredictable and unwanted consequences.
The use of bath salts reached its peak around 2011, and due to high rates of abuse and adverse outcomes, Congress counteracted by passing the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012. Currently, only MDPV and mephedrone are permanently illegalized chemicals. Although this law is useful, drug makers continue to substitute comparable, unregulated, and uncontrolled chemicals to circumvent this fact.
Many individuals who abuse bath salts do so because they can still be readily purchased through a number of avenues. Also, synthetic cathinones are generally much more potent than many stimulant drugs they are meant to mirror, such as cocaine.
Despite the extraordinarily dangerous and unpredictable effects, new legislation and warnings from federal agencies such as NIDA and the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) bath salts abuse has endured. As noted, manufacturers of these drugs bypass legal implications by slightly altering their chemical makeup. They then continue to label synthetic cathinones as numerous different products, all of which are marked as “not for human consumption.”
Effects Of Synthetic Cathinones
Cathinones are potent drugs intended to mimic the effects of other stimulating substances, such as cocaine and meth. Moreso than even these, however, bath salts tend to have random and bizarre effects on users. In many cases, using these substances can lead to erratic, violent, and even psychotic behavior.
Effects of synthetic cathinones may include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Increased sociability
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Severe paranoia
- Visual hallucinations
- Tactile hallucinations
- Increased sex drive
- Aggressive/violent behavior
- Extreme agitation
- Elevated heart rate
- Chest pain
- High blood pressure
Reports have shown that some of the worst consequences of cathinone abuse are related to snorting or injecting them, and in some instances, death has occurred as a result. There have also been many reports of individuals who have exhibited psychosis, engaged in harmful and bizarre behavior, or attempted or committed suicide or homicide after using excessive amounts of bath salts.
Federal laws have banned the manufacture, sale, and use of bath salts of all forms. However, those who seek to use it may still find these drugs in gas stations, head shops, and the like.
Are Synthetic Cathinones Addictive?
Synthetic cathinones are considered to have a high potential for abuse and addiction. However, scant research investigates whether they exhibit the same addictive qualities as other illicit drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, or meth.
Despite little evidence of potential for dependence and addiction, many have reported experience some level of withdrawal and drug cravings when they attempt to discontinue the use of synthetic cathinones and may encounter other unwanted symptoms, including the following:
- Suicidal thoughts
There is not enough evidence gathered to determine a distinct timeline of withdrawal associated with synthetic cathinones. It should be noted that there are no reports of the symptoms of withdrawal being life-threatening. That said, there can be a wide variety of toxic ingredients in bath salts. Therefore, there can be no guarantee that detox from these substances will not become dangerous.
Also, synthetic cathinones are sometimes mixed together with other substances that may be addictive and dangerous. For example, sources have reported that Molly (MDMA) capsules may contain synthetic cathinones.
Getting Help for Synthetic Cathinones Abuse or Addiction
Fortunately, recovery for those abusing synthetic cathinones is possible. Recovery can be effectively accomplished through behavior therapy and counseling in a multifaceted addiction treatment program.
Many individuals who abuse synthetic cathinones are also polysubstance abusers, meaning that they abuse or are addicted to more than one substance. Synthetic cathinones are rarely the first substance of abuse for new drug users. They are most often sought by people who cannot access illicit drugs, such as cocaine, or who seek a more intense high.
To recover from addiction to bath salts or any substance, individuals must address the underlying causes of substance abuse through intensive behavior therapy and counseling. One of the key benefits of a treatment program is to adjust a person’s life and behavior and alter them to be more favorable to a healthy and fruitful lifestyle that does not include substance abuse of any kind.
Moreover, the purpose of addiction treatment is not solely to be free from the abuse of drugs or alcohol. It is also to adopt healthy coping skills and live a more functional and fulfilling life without engaging in harmful behaviors to cope with stress.
Just Believe Detox and Just Believe Recovery centers work to customize recovery plans for each individual. We understand that everyone is unique, and the road to recovery will not be the same for everyone.