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.
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 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:
- Cloud Nine
- Lunar Wave
- Vanilla Sky
- White Lightning
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 cravings—uncontrollable urges to use the drug again. Taking synthetic cathinones often may cause strong withdrawal symptoms that include:
- problems sleeping
What are other health effects of synthetic cathinones?
Nosebleeds, sweating, and nausea are some other health effects of synthetic cathinones. People who experience excited delirium often suffer from dehydration, breakdown of skeletal muscle tissue, and kidney failure. Intoxication from synthetic cathinones has resulted in death. The worst outcomes are associated with snorting or needle injection.
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