Street Drug ‘Bath Salts’ Acts By Mimicking Cocaine And Methamphetamine
The so-called bath salts, the new drug used more and more in the United States and available for purchase on the Internet, has an effect that mimics two strong narcotics, amphetamines and cocaine. This new drug is included on the list of illegal synthetic drugs.
Dr. Louis J. De Felice of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine in Richmond, said that a drug like ‘bath salts’ with this type of combined effects was never encountered before. Methamphetamine and cocaine act in the brain in two opposite ways. Theoretically, the existence of a drug that combines the effects of these drugs would be impossible, but with so-called bath salts, the effect is surprisingly possible.
The research will be presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society (BPS), held in February. 25-29 in San Diego, California.
Amphetamine is a psychostimulant synthetic drug, which speeds the body’s response. Physical effects of amphetamine include hyperactivity, headache, tachycardia, diaphoresis, diarrhea, dilated pupils, vasoconstriction, blurred vision, insomnia, arrhythmias, tremors, convulsions, heart attack and even death. As for the psychological aspect, the most important effects are euphoria, concentration, and psychomotor agitation, irritability, paranoia. Moreover, amphetamine produces addiction and depression.
Amphetamine acts in the brain by modulating neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine. Particularly, amphetamine increases the concentration of dopamine in the synaptic space. Cocaine is another central nervous system stimulant, that draws its effects from coca leaves. Like amphetamine, cocaine increases the concentration of dopamine in the synaptic cleft by blocking the binding protein of this neurotransmitter. In other words, cocaine is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor.
According to the study, the so-called bath salts contain two similar chemical structures that produce different effects on the dopamine transport system.
The two components are MEPH (Mephedrone), an agent that, like amphetamine, stimulates dopamine release. The other component is methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV), which, like cocaine, is a dopamine reuptake inhibitor. Both components increase the concentration of dopamine in the synaptic gap and induce feelings of euphoria, but by different mechanisms. The study shows that the two mechanisms are not mutually exclusive, they actually enhance one another.
This study is part of a larger project, whose purpose was to study how METH and amphetamine affect the dopamine transporter system. Thus, it was found that both chemicals have an effect that persists for more than 30 minutes after drug removal. It was also found that the drugs found in bath salts (MEPH and MDPV) are synthetic derivatives of Cath, khat shrub (Catha edulis).
However, researchers still do not know the mechanism underlying the persistent effects of these drugs. It also remains a mystery how two different mechanisms cause the same effect. According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, the number of bath salts used in 2011 increased 10 times compared to 2010.