“We observed that rats will press a lever more often to get a single infusion of MPDV than they will for meth, across a fairly wide dose range,” The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) Associate Professor Michael A. Taffe, who was the principal investigator of the study, said.
MDPV (3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone) and other “bath salts” drugs are actually derived from cathinone, the principal active ingredient in khat, a leaf chewed for its stimulant effects throughout northeast Africa and the Arabian peninsula.
Synthesized by pharmaceutical companies decades ago but never used, cathinone derivatives were rediscovered by underground chemists in the early 2000s.
The drugs have been sold as “bath salts” or “plant food” to skirt laws against marketing them for internal use, but in the US, UK, Canada and many other countries, their sale for any purpose is now banned.
Cathinone derivatives inhibit the normal removal of the neurotransmitters dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin from synapses (the small gap separating neurons that enables cell-to-cell communication).
In this way, the derivatives disturb the activity of brain networks that mediate desire, pleasure, muscle movements and cognition.
Users have described classic stimulant effects such as an initial euphoria, increased physical activity, an inability to sleep and a lack of desire for food or water—plus almost irresistible cravings to take more of the drug.
Higher doses bring a strong risk of paranoid psychoses, violence and suicide.
The findings are published online in the journal Neuropharmacology.