'Bath Salts' Ingredient More Powerful, Dangerous Than Cocaine
A synthetic chemical commonly found in illicit drugs known as "bath salts" is potentially more powerful and dangerous than cocaine, new research suggests.
An animal study conducted by Michael Baumann, PhD, a senior scientist at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), showed that the chemical methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV) prolonged the effects of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine by blocking reuptake at brain nerve cells, resulting in hyperactivity, rapid heart rate, and increased blood pressure.
The researchers note that although the study was conducted in rodents, the findings may explain the highly addictive and dangerous nature of bath salts in humans, because MDPV is the chief substance found in the blood and urine of emergency department patients who have overdosed on this drug.
"Our preclinical findings may have important implications for people who take bath salts products for recreational purposes. The potent blockade of dopamine uptake caused by MDPV predicts that the drug has a high risk for abuse, whereas the potent blockade of norepinephrine uptake portends dangerous cardiovascular stimulation," the authors write.
"Patients admitted to emergency departments for bath salts overdose who have toxicological verification of MDPV consumption, display symptoms, including agitation, psychosis, violent behavior, hypothermia, and tachycardia," they add.
The study was published online October 17 in Neuropsychopharmacology.
According to the study, the abuse of psychoactive bath salts is a growing public health concern. Yet, the researchers note that little is known about their pharmacology.
The investigators assessed MDPV and related drugs with respect to neurochemistry, locomotor activity, and cardiovascular parameters in rats.
They found that MDPV blocks the uptake of dopamine and norepinephrine. They also found that, like cocaine, MDPV inhibits the clearance of endogenous dopamine but that MDPV has a more potent effect.
The investigators also report that MDPV is "at least 10 times more potent than cocaine at producing locomotor activation, tachycardia, and hypertension in rats."
"The robust stimulation of dopamine transmission by MDPV predicts serious potential for abuse and may provide a mechanism to explain the adverse effects observed in humans taking high doses of 'bath salts' preparations," they add.
The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
Neuropsychopharmacology. Published online October 17, 2012.