Effects & Dangers Of Synthetic Cathinones Sold As MDMA

MDMA sold on the street is often adulterated using fillers and other substances. While all of these additives add to the risks of using MDMA, synthetic cathinones, sometimes called "bath salts," are especially dangerous.

New psychoactive substances (NPS) is an umbrella term for a wide range of different synthetic drugs with varying intensive mental and physical effects.

However, these diverse substances have one thing in common: they are new or unusual enough to not be explicitly regulated under existing international drug laws.

Synthetic cathinones, more commonly referred to as bath salts, are a prime example. And the increasing presence of these dangerous stimulant drugs alongside or in place of the party drug MDMA offers evidence of the increasing risks that come with modern street drug use.

Effects Of MDMA

MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine), commonly known as ecstasy or XTC in tablet form and molly or molecular in powder form, is a Schedule I synthetic party drug with no valid medical use that is often taken by young adults at festivals, raves, and nightclubs to alter a person’s mood and perceptions.

Use of MDMA increases feelings of energy, empathy, and pleasure due to significant increases in serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain, along with a somewhat smaller increase in dopamine levels.

MDMA Adulterants & Counterfeits

As an illicit street drug, MDMA is frequently tampered with and faked, regardless of its form.

In some studies, 40% of MDMA tablets studied did not actually contain MDMA.

And of those that did, MDMA only comprises 30-40% of the drug by weight, with the remainder made up of inert filler substances or other psychoactive substances.

Psychoactive substances are often cut or laced into MDMA to either change the experience of using the drug, or to mask how dilute the authentic MDMA is if it is present at all.

Molly, on the other hand, is often believed to be the purest form of MDMA, and it is occasionally sold with near 100% purity. However, this form of the drug can also be adulterated and laced with a number of different substances.

Researchers who study street drugs have found:

  • synthetic cathinones like butylone, ethylone, pentylone, methylone, alpha-PVP, MDPV, mephedrone, and pyrovalerone
  • MDA (methylenedioxyamphetamine)
  • NPS stimulants like 4-FA, 5/6-APB
  • NPS dissociative drugs like methoxetamine, diphenidine
  • methamphetamine
  • amphetamines like PMA
  • cocaine
  • ketamine
  • LSD
  • fentanyl or other opioids

All of the above substances are controlled by the FDA and DEA, and recreational ingestion of them is both illegal and potentially dangerous.

Effects & Dangers Of Synthetic Cathinones

Bath salts are a group of man-made stimulant drugs that physically resemble actual bath salt crystals. But, on a chemical level, these drugs are similar to a natural drug found in the khat plant, which is native to Africa.

As phenethylamines, they also share some similarities with the chemical structure of MDMA and methamphetamine.

These synthetic drugs are significantly stronger and are constantly evolving, with new, more potent, and unpredictable variations of the drugs appearing over time.

Some doses of MDMA and bath salts do have similar effects that may include:

  • euphoria and pleasure
  • increased energy and concentration
  • reduced inhibition
  • elevated sex drive
  • hallucinations
  • talkativeness
  • feelings of empathy or connection

But the effects of these unregulated bath salts can also be extremely unpredictable, intense, and dangerous when taken at moderate to high doses or in combination with other drugs of abuse.

Synthetic Cathinone Side-Effects

Acute side-effects associated with use of bath salt drugs may include:

  • elevated heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure
  • hyperthermia (increased body temperature)
  • chest pain
  • sweating
  • pupil dilation
  • blood vessel constriction
  • reduced appetite
  • muscle spasms and tremors
  • sleep problems

Synthetic Cathinone Overdose

An overdose is any adverse reaction that occurs in response to an excessive dose of a particular drug. And in high doses, bath salts have been known to cause long-lasting overdose effects.

A synthetic cathinone overdose can cause lasting results, such as:

  • confusion and mental impairment
  • agitation
  • panic attacks
  • psychosis (paranoia, hallucinations, and delusions)
  • seizures
  • erratic and violent behavior
  • breakdown of muscle tissue
  • kidney failure
  • coma
  • death

Long-Term Health Effects Of Using Synthetic Cathinones

Unlike most hallucinogens, which typically have a low potential for life-threatening overdose, addiction, or for the development of physical dependence, bath salts have a very high potential for all three.

As with methamphetamine, use of MDMA that includes bath salts can build an internal urge and compulsion to take the drug again and in higher doses.

This can lead to a degenerating cycle of drug abuse and the development of physical dependence and severe withdrawal symptoms which can occur when a person stops taking the drug.

Other long-term effects include internal organ damage, worsening mental health, sleep dysfunction, dental decay, self-harm, frequent infection, and premature aging.

Find Addiction Treatment

If you or a loved one struggles with MDMA use, contact us today to learn how we can help.

Written by
Northeast Addition Editorial Team

Published on

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This page does not provide medical advice.

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