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DrugFacts—Synthetic Cathinones (“Bath Salts”)

Submitted by on November 27, 2016 – 9:12 pm

DrugFacts—Synthetic Cathinones ("Bath Salts")

What are synthetic cathinones?

Synthetic cathinones, more commonly known as "bath salts," are synthetic (human-made) drugs chemically related to cathinone, a stimulant found in the khat plant. Khat is a shrub grown in East Africa and southern Arabia, and people sometimes chew its leaves for their mild stimulant effects. Synthetic variants of cathinone can be much stronger than the natural product and, in some cases, very dangerous (Baumann, 2014).

Synthetic cathinones are included in a group of drugs that concern public health officials called "new psychoactive substances" (NPS). NPS are unregulated psychoactive (mind-altering) substances that have become newly available on the market and are intended to copy the effects of illegal drugs. Some of these substances may have been around for years but have reentered the market in altered chemical forms or due to renewed popularity.

Synthetic cathinones are marketed as cheap substitutes for other stimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine, and products sold as Molly (MDMA) often contain synthetic cathinones instead

Synthetic cathinones usually take the form of a white or brown crystal-like powder and are sold in small plastic or foil packages labeled "not for human consumption." Also sometimes labeled as "plant food," "jewelry cleaner," or "phone screen cleaner," people can buy them online and in drug paraphernalia stores under a variety of brand names, which include:

  • Flakka
  • Bloom
  • Cloud Nine
  • Lunar Wave
  • Vanilla Sky
  • White Lightning
  • Scarface

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 amphetamines, cocaine, and MDMA. These drugs can cause a range of effects including lowered inhibition, anxiety, and depression. Read more about amphetamines, cocaine, and MDMA:

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